Polls: Ireland’s two party system dead as four blocks slip into their electoral trenches

So, two Irish polls this weekend. Not sure what to make of either of them to be honest, since there’s a divergence between them in FG’s rating of some 9%. The B&A poll in the Sunday Times has Fine Gael dropping like stone from 30% to 21%, whilst Sindo/Millward Brown has them on 29% (no change).

Here’s the adjusted figures:

  • Sunday Times/B&A poll: FG 21 (-9 since end Feb), FF 20 (+1), SF 20 (+2), Lab 9 (unchanged), Greens 4 (+1), Inds/others 26 (+5). Poll 6-16 April
  • Sindo/Millward Brown: FG 29 (-2 since end Feb), Lab 6 (-2), FF 22 (+1), SF 20 (-1), Inds/ors 23 (+1).

Core support in the B&A poll is a few points lower in each case with FG and Independents both on 18, Fianna Fail on 17 and Sinn Fein 16 (a virtual three way tie). Undecideds account for 24%.

It’s hard to know what to make of the anomaly other than there’s a softness in FG’s vote after a nightmare run in to next month’s local elections. B&A don’t measure as often as Red C who had them on 26% at the end of March.

Arguably the party in biggest trouble remains Labour, not least in its Dublin stronghold, where SF is poised to make substantial gains from that quarter:

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 01.57.49

In Dublin the independent figure comprises strong preferences for parties of the left. The number of Dublin councillors of the 2009 intake who left to take up seats in the Dail or the Seanad indicates how important these elections are for seeding new talent.

One of the things to look out for on the day are the changes to Dublin City Council, and the region more broadly. As Adrian Kavanagh noted last September:

There currently are 130 councillors in the four different local authorities covering the Dublin region, with Dublin City (52 councillors) being the largest of these followed by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (28), South Dublin (26) and Fingal (24). The number of councillors in this region will increase significantly at the next local elections, with the number of councillors increasing by 16 in Fingal (a 67% increase), 14 in South Dublin (54%), 12 in Dun Laoghaire (43%) and 11 in Dublin City (21%).

This notable increase in overall councillor numbers (53) in the Dublin region does offer a “political opportunity space” to allow different candidates and political parties to make notable gains at the 2014 local elections.[emphasis added]

Looking at the overall results from five years ago you can see just how profoundly the political landscape changed both in 2011 general election and in the polling subsequent to that:

FG, then on the way up, polled 34.7% of the first preference vote (FPV), FF on the way down were at 25%, Labour pre Gilmore Gale got 14.2%, SF were squeezed a little at 7.8%. Independents took 15.6% in City and County councils with none of the left parties taking more than a full percentage point each.

If there was any doubt before the landscape of Irish politics has already changed, and changed profoundly. The two party system of old is gone, and there are now four blocks roughly of equal size all slugging it out in hundreds of contests across the country.

All we need now is an electoral poll to shake out all the speculation.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty