You are here: Irish Examiner Opinion Poll September 2006





Poll Shows Modest Gains for Government

By Roger Jupp, Managing Director, Lansdowne Market Research


Party Support

The latest Irish Examiner/Lansdowne poll shows relatively little change from a year ago, despite the recent major change in the leadership of the Progressive Democrats. Fianna Fail and the PDs could claim 45% of the votes if a general election were to be held tomorrow. Fine Gael and Labour could draw on the allegiance of a combined 34% of the electorate, and the Greens would add a further 6% to their total. Sinn Fein stands at 9%, while the Independents (usually understated until the exact names of the candidates are known) are at 6%. They could hold crucial bargaining chips after an election.

There are some striking features behind individual party support figures. Fianna Fail is suffering from a deficit in support among the under 35s, and gains in direct proportion to age: the older you are, the more likely you are to find Fianna Fail appealing. Fine Gael enjoys much steadier support across the age groups. Conversely, support for Sinn Fein and the Greens is strongest among the youngest would-be voters and declines in proportion to age. Indeed, Fianna Fail probably has most to fear from Sinn Fein, since its support is most notable among the younger, blue-collar voters and in Munster and Connaught/Ulster. This may be a long-term fight.

The constituency battles will undoubtedly be as intense as ever, with Dublin looking to be pivotal. Fine Gael's capital weakness looks set to persist, with Labour almost as powerful in the county as a whole. Leinster outside Dublin sees FF/PD support at 41% versus 38% for FG/Labour, well within striking distance (and statistical significance).


The New PD's

This poll took place on the Wednesday and Thursday immediately after Michael McDowell assumed the mantle of party leader. The public seem to take a reasonably favourable view of the new PD leader in this poll. Firstly, the PDs would claim 6% of the vote, up marginally on a year ago. They also give a tiny edge to a FF/PD coalition over Fine Gael/Labour in terms of probable effectiveness. More importantly, more people regard the new leader as a positive development (42%) than as a negative development (30%) for Irish politics even if the remainder have not yet decided. Whether this will improve the PDs' prospects at the next election is more of a divided issue as yet, however. And, finally, 2 in 3 electors feel that the current government will be likely to go to its full term only 1 in 5 expect an earlier election.



The only unfortunate aspect of this relatively rosy picture is the healthcare issue. Healthcare and medical costs have risen to the top of the public's list of key issues, edging out the cost of living. (This is not to say that prices are far from a preoccupation house prices rank fourth highest in the list of concerns). Much more worryingly, however, the public just do not seem to believe that the A&E crisis can be turned around by the Minister for Health before the next General Election. 2 in 3 are not very or not all confident in her ability to do so. This perceived inability may be attributable to a view that the A&E crisis will simply not respond to a quick fix, or that the existing health system is in need of reform or that the current Minister is powerless to change things. Healthcare is one of the key battlegrounds for the next election especially for the over 55 year old voters. The spectre of the stretcher may lurk ahead.





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