Even a look at the core figures confirms that they seem to be doing well at the expense of Fianna Fáil:
The core vote for the parties – before undecideds are excluded – compared with the last poll was: Fine Gael, 19 per cent (up one point); Labour, 7 per cent (up two); Fianna Fáil, 16 per cent (down three); Sinn Féin, 18 per cent (up three); Independents/Others, 17 per cent (down one) and undecided voters, 23 per cent (down two).
Fianna Fail does have a few bright point one being a consolidation (possibly at SF’s as well as FG’s expense) in Connacht Ulster, and the other a return of popularity amongst younger voters, where at 22% it comes second to, erm, Sinn Féin.
But the bigger picture, as Damian Loscher notes is still lacking in vigour and health for Ireland’s one time natural party of government..
A drop of five points (down to 20 per cent) for Fianna Fáil is significant, statistically and strategically. It raises questions about how the party will position itself with voters in a post-austerity world when some of the more obvious territories have been colonised by Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.
A more prosaic reading might be that Fianna Fail maxed its vote last May because the local elections played to its organisational strength at council level. Nonetheless the questioning of Fianna Fail’s general positioning are valid.
In this poll at least the party curves over time have been converged in a sort of political peloton for about 18 months since February 2013…
With the usual caveats lodged about transitory nature of the polls (and SF’s lag in the actual votes when they come), one thing to note is that unlike previous challenges in the Republic Sinn Fein is growing support amongst farmers.
In an informal survey taken at Agricultural shows for the Irish Examiner, 36% said they intend to vote for Fine Gael in the next election, down 27 percentage points from the general election vote in 2011. Fianna Fáil’s support among farmers has grown by five points to 23%, while Sinn Féin’s vote has doubled to 9%.
Though I normally pay little attention to party leader ratings (these are singular rather than comparative measures of popularity) it is worth noting that Joan Burton’s rating at 37% probably represents a massive boost in internal confidence more than voter confidence.
A useful trick nonetheless when it comes the far from uncomplicated feat of survival.
Interestingly this poll converges with two bellwether byelections (Dublin South West for the urban working class, the other Roscommon/South Leitrim a touchstone for rural dissatisfaction). In each case, the two main opposition parties, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail face stiff competition to bump up their Dail seat totals.
We’ll know a little more about the real state of play when the results come through on Friday. But if you look at the figures marked above for October 2007, all we can say with any certainty is that Ireland (politically at least) remains a very long way from Kansas.