Ipsos/MRBI: Within the peloton Sinn Féin jostles strongly ahead of Fianna Fáil…

Irish Times poll Oct 14 So here we are. After a relatively quiet summer poll-wise, Sinn Fein will enjoy a significant bounce on the eve of a byelection in Dublin West where they are joint favourites to pick up a seat…

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…

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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.


  • Jag

    Water charges! Water charges! Water charges! Water charges
    every where, and not a government vote in sight.

    Water charges were introduced in the Republic on 1st
    October though the first bills fall due in three months. The introduction of
    water charges had been incompetent, and even today, there is still major
    confusion over charges.

    FF (with the Greens) agreed to introduce water charges in
    the bailout with the IMF in late 2010. So water charges were a FF innovation.

    FG/Labour have overseen the introduction of water charges,
    and they are getting it in the neck for that, particularly for not implementing
    an “ability to pay” scheme. Water charges will mean an average bill of around
    €20/month, though there’s genuine fear it will be double that.

    So, being hacked off with FF and the Greens for agreeing the
    charges and FG/Labour for implementing them, where do you turn? SF really, and
    perhaps Independents (am surprised Independents didn’t do better but the
    Other/Independents poll figs include Greens so maybe that might explain that).

    The fiasco of the FG machinations to get their man elected
    to the Seanad a week ago, have also pissed people off, and there is an element
    of slap-down for that.

    Joan Burton is
    regarded as a breath of fresh air for Labour and has yet to slip up. The Budget
    2015 being announced next Tuesday should be transformative for Labour ambitions
    – there will be giveaways and Labour can point to an improving economy, and
    legitimise tough decisions blah blah blah.

    Paddy Power is now almost certain the next general election
    will be in 2016. By then, water charges will have been bedded in and an ability
    to pay concessional scheme will, I predict, be in operation. The economy is
    growing at a rapid rate, consensus estimates for real GDP growth in 2014 are 5%,
    best in Europe, unemployment is falling 0.1% per month, and at that rate will
    be 9% in 2016. A neutral budget is in prospect.

    Will SF capitalise on their current showing in the general
    election? Who can tell, but they face far more sophisticated political
    machinery which are adept at electioneering around traditional issues of tax
    and spend, and now that the threat of imminent economic collapse has receded,
    these are the issues.

  • Jag

    As for polls reflecting reality: tomorrow, SF is nowhere in
    the Roscommon Leitrim by election despite having a decent candidate, PP puts
    them at 10/1 (behind the outfront favourite FF, and even behind Labour).

    In the other byelection being held tomorrow, there has been
    a late surge by the socialist Paul Murphy in Dublin South, and it really is a
    competition between the SFers on one hand and a rag tag of socialists on the
    other. I think SF’s Cathal King will get in, but it will be close. This will be
    the first of seven byelections since Feb 2011, that SF will have won, which is
    hardly phenomenal given the economic downturn and policy responses (Labour won
    one, FG won two, Socialists won one, FF is on course to win one)

  • Jag

    Oh, and lastly, as for the Irish Times claiming that SF is neck and neck with FG “for the first time”, they mean the first time in their polls presumably. SF and FG have been neck and neck before eg


  • Croiteir
  • Michael Henry

    Another two by-Elections in Ireland on Friday and no Irish SDLP on the ballot paper-( no dissidents either after the beating they got in the last elections )-

    Another two by-elections in Britain on Thursday and no British DUP UUP on the ballot paper-( no dissident TUV either after the beating they got in the last elections )-

    This weekend should tell a tale- Labour need a good showing in both the British and Irish by-elections or it could be curtains for Ed and Joan –

  • mickfealty

    When the voters are this volatile, then anything can happen. I’m not sure I completely agree Croiteir, though I have retrospectively ‘featured’ that post so it now sits at the top of that particular thread.

    They are getting FG votes back in Connacht/Ulster, it’s just that not all of them are coming back to FF.

    The problem they face in the one byelection they have a chance in is that the leader of the Roscommon Maquis (Luke Ming Flanagan) has committed himself to keeping both big parties off his land.

    The fight in Dublin West will be fascinating. There are now four parties scrumming for the votes of the urban poor in Dublin and FF are a long way out of the running jostling for last place with Labour.

    The word is now and will remain for some time to come, ‘pressure’ for FF. The pressure is on in RSL against a formidable local hero. Whereas, every election for SF is about building more democratic real estate.

  • Robin Keogh

    SF have just a sophisticated electioneering machine if their current growth trends are anything to go by. In terms of their success in by-elections, the system of PR does not favour small parties particularly those that are in the minority block such as SF. Moreover constituencies have different politcal dynamic in terms of the make up of their citizens. For example, South Dublin as a wealthy middle class area will always favour a candidate from a taditional neo liberal party, whilst Dublin South West with a large lower income population will favour the opposite.
    In many constituencies a party like SF will be more interested in the rate of growth in its support rather than the potential to win outright. This is particularly true of places like Rosc/Liet where there is no history of core support for SF where FF/FG have dominated in a predominantly rural area. in 2007 SF only manged 8% here, in 2011 this had risen to 10%. What SF will look at tomorrow is how it does in the absence of Ming and if they can get close to the 20 plus percent needed to take one of the three seats in the next Dail election. Moreover, SF ability to attract transfers has been improving steadily over recent elections resulting in the election of four MEPs across the country in the most recent Euro elections, thats one MEP in every region of the country.
    The tax and spend argument is all very well and will of course form the basis of the fight at the next GE. However people are slowly waking up to Bland and Lazy sweeping statements that accuse the Shinners of being economically illiterate without offering empirical evidence to back up their claims. As long as SF can fully cost their proposals on the basis of figures provided by the dept of finance and as long as they can point to examples of where their particular policy has worked in other jurisdictions; the other parties will have to do more than expect us to believe SF policy is nonsense and to simply take their word for it. They will eventually have to put up or shut up if they want to push back the rising tide.

  • Jag

    Robin, even with PR, I would have thought that the left wing vote (PBB, socialist party, WUAG, Independent lefties, SF, Labour) would have meant SF did better with the six by-elections.

    Agree, it will be interesting to see what share of the vote they attract in RSL, I predict it will be 12-16%.

    SF European performance was outstanding in Republic, no question. They could have taken another 1-2 seats if they had the candidates, but mid-term, and in the whirlwind of the recently announced water charges and the Garda debacle and really, before firm evidence the economy was improving, that was probably a high point.

    The SF meme at present is all about expansion, growth in supporter base – all positives, but remember it took a nice little kick in the backside and lost seats in the 2007 general election when the Irish economy was booming. If the economy does grow 5% this year and 4% next year and is growing at the same rate in 2016, with unemployment sub-10%, then SF may find it a challenge to even keep the seats it won in 2011.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Sinn Fein in the Republic will say whatever they think will get them votes.
    They are Fianna Fáil for the 21st Century.

  • Croiteir

    I may be more pessimistic about FF prospects than you are Mick but I do agree they need to set out their stall. I see O’Cuiv has fired a salvo in that direction. He wants to go down the republican route with a smattering of the party for the wee man. And I agree, but then that is probably no surprise to those here. But is it too late?

  • Bryan Magee

    Might we in NI benefit if SF have more power down south: because they have NI elections to fight they would be more likely to spend southern money on NI roads and rail etc?

  • Croiteir

    Why would they want to subsidise the British governments responsibility to the region by using the southern tax payers cash?

  • Croiteir

    Joan “expensive phones” Burton?

  • mickfealty

    FF are currently a very very small party that needs to get much bigger if it’s going to have any sort of future. It needs solid seat gains (and hopefully fresh talent) much more than national percentage points.

    Plus, as I think Piaras points out well at the moment, there is no prevailing wind of change they can credibly appeal to: http://goo.gl/t05zft.

    Sinn Fein on the other hand Sinn Fein has highest support in Ireland since 1918, apparently… They can grow of course, so long as they stay away from what remains their third rail long enough.

  • Bryan Magee

    They can win NI votes that way,a consideration absent for the other parties.

  • mickfealty

    Smart politics to build from where no one else is. Smart too to stay right out of Mings way and let him try to land FF a bloody nose. He’s quite unclubable, but a very useful ally.

  • Jag

    Indeed, Joan “Hollywood quality video cameras” Burton, criticising the very few protesters who have turned out to stop meter installers from doing their work.

    I guess she’s betting the constituency she’s insulting is the militant left wing/dissident (elements of SF, Eirigi, Irish Republican Voice) rather than traditional Labour supporters.

    Let’s see how the chips fall today, I think Labour will be relieved by its performance in RSL. Their performance in DSW will be fascinating.

  • Jag

    If that was SF’s dastardly plan for RSL, then why field a quality candidate, why get one of the better SFers, Pearse Doherty to be the election agent and why love bomb the constituency – locals have never seen such party electioneering generally, including by SF.

    PP predicts Labour will even pip SF in RSL.

    We’ll see tomorrow, but I think Labour will have a little bounce and the SF result will gainsay the 24% poll figures this week.

  • Croiteir

    Unfortunately not all people live in a NI bubble. Why would the tax payer in Ballybunion make up for the British not living up to their responsibilities by subsidising their failed policies in Ireland? Can see the syphoning off of money from the south to the north as a real vote winner in the south.

  • Bryan Magee

    Are you aware the taxpayer of the south has done this in recent times? So, the same arguments used then (you may wish to go and look them up – the current dualling work to Larne is being paid for in part by Dublin – could be attractive, and even more so with SF, which looks for votes in NI.

  • Bryan Magee

    What is surely interesting here is that the composition of SF changes. The membership, its interests, its competitive focus.

  • Tochais Siorai

    I’d say you’re on the money on all counts Jag, although Kelly (Labour RSL) will get a fair few votes as an individual rather than the party. He could even stay in the race longer than the FG candidate. Different story in DSW where they’ll get a tanking.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Because the boundaries change next time and SF have little chance in Roscommon East Galway where Ming’s man will be a shoe-in (he won’t be too far away today either). However, they’re keeping Kenny on the radar because they’ll be pushing hard for 2 seats in the new ‘Sligo-Leitrim’ (which includes West Cavan & he lives on Leitrim/Cavan border)

  • Croiteir

    That was argued as an investment in the peace process and also as an investment in the economy of the south.
    But those days are gone as the south has no longer got the cash they had when Bertie and Cowen committed to it and the peace process argument for supporting the wee Nort’ is long gone.
    And as a further note it did not gain FF, they did not even get off the ground in the north in spite of this largess.

  • Robin Keogh

    PR is only kind to parties like SF when there is a full contest. In a constituency with 3/4/5 seats a quota can be as low as just 15% meaning a seat is quite attainable. The situation is quite different when only one seat is up for grabs, the competition is fierce and transfers are deadly. As such, parties like labour, SF, Socialists et al are at a considerable disadvantage unless of course the political culture of the area favours that party brand.
    In rural Ireland and leafy urban suburbs, parties of the left have zip zero chance of winning a one seat contest, but it is an excellent opportunity to see where party support lies and the possibilities for improving same for the next general election. Personally speaking I was quite surprised that the shinners got a connacht seat in the Euros, i didnt think they would make it.
    Mick is also quite right; whether by design or accident, the Shinners are happy to see FF get a bloody nose wherever and whenever possible, its almost akin to a win.
    the 2007 GE was a bit of an anomoly, all small parties and independents got badly bruised as they were sandwiched between a pretty nasty contest involving Bertie and Enda. The general consensus at the time seems to back this up pretty strongly.
    But that was 7yrs ago and a lot has changed. Folk are more wiley when it comes to the so-called gaurdians of the economy and are far more suspicious of the traditional party parlance with the captains of business and industry. The public are also well aware that the countries finances are not necessarily safer in the hands of those percived to be responsible and experienced. SF itself is a different party, it is no longer at sea reagrding economic policy and it has an army of young, motivated, intelligent and articulate represntatives and members that are appealing to an audience anxious about the future.
    Politics like the economy has a cyclical stubborness that results with heros going to zero pretty quickly. SF will not always be on the rise and nobody seems to be sure where exactly their popularity ceiling might be. At some stage they will have to slump; such is the culture of these things, so it is important that the party are smart enough to capitalise when they are on the crest of the wave rather than capsize when they are on the way down.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well done, your prediction for roscommon was close, looks like SF got 17.5%. Higher than i expected but still have a good bit to go if they are to secure a seat in the general election. Not a bad performance at all.

  • Jag

    Final figures announced, and the SFers got 17.7% of first preference votes, 5906 out of 33310. That’s more than I thought they’d get, SFers will be neither happy nor unhappy.

    Labour polled just 6.1%, that’s a bad result for it. There’s no Burton bounce evident in that part of the country.

  • Jag

    On 1st count figures, looks like mini-Ming will take it (he’s at 6220 versus 7334 for FF). Mini-Ming will get nearly all John McDermott’s 2944 votes, and is overall far more transfer friendly than FF.

    How did Micheal Martin lose this one?

  • Croiteir

    At this stage it is a disaster for FF in DSW. Fallen before Kearns of the Labour Party. That is piss poor stuff.
    Great day for the independants, taking 2 and 3 place in first preferences. SF topping the polls, wonderful result, but will they gain enough transfers to hold the magnificent 30% odd first preferences? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but the point is made. Dublin is there for the taking.
    The top two Murphy (AAA) and King (SF) away out in the lead, on 27.2 and 30.3 per cent tells me the population of DSW no longer wants the established parties of any hue.
    The nearest after them is another independent at 8.9% and then a succession of FG, FF and LAB runners on 8.x%, basically nothing between them, and then you come to the also rans at 2.x% and below, one of which is the Green Party’s candidate. Boys are they on their political uppers.
    All in all – the voters are volatile, SF must make hay now while the sun shines, the independents are their greatest worry, time to steal some of their thunder, or even their candidates.

  • Croiteir

    Meanwhile in RSL.
    In spite of increasing FF share of first preferences since the last election, if FF can only get 22% in a rural setting, it is time for a good think about the way forward, or a severe adjustment of expectations. Gone are the days of majority govts. FF are now just one of the herd.
    Again the independents do well, the Ming candidate, Fitzmaurice doing well on 18.7%, SF doing great for them on 17.7% and the FG candidate on 16.8, after that single percentage points candidates. Labour down among the independents with a miserly 6.1%, but then who is really surprised.
    If I was Ivan Connaughton I would be worrying. There are 5 independents who are almost certainly to drop out with each count. They have roughly 6000 votes, and, in spite of the percentages of transfers, that makes the roughly 1100 gap between him and Fitzmaurice look very vulnerable, couple that with Lab sitting on 2037 votes which are also likely to be up for grabs I would say that Fitzmaurice should start packing the case for Dublin.
    However if those votes go to the SF candidate then Ivan may have a chance. Cannot see FG getting many of these votes, I interpret the independent vote as anti-establishment and therefor not happy hunting grounds for FG.
    I say Ming the Merciless has a new ally.

  • Croiteir

    Anti Austerity Alliance gets it in DSW (PS – what happened my post on DSW/)

  • Croiteir

    They went for a Burton