Oxygen of publicity energises Sinn Féin but lack of airtime weakens Labour

ANALYSIS: Fine Gael still has more support in every region, among every age group and across all social classes – apart from…

ANALYSIS:Fine Gael still has more support in every region, among every age group and across all social classes – apart from the DE category – than any other party

THE REFERENDUM campaign on the fiscal treaty has clearly had an impact on the standing of the major political parties going on the findings of today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

Sinn Féin’s rise to a record level clearly owes something to the massive television and radio coverage the party has been getting as a result of the McKenna judgment which obliges broadcasters to give 50 per cent of coverage to the No side.

The party, which was already on an upward curve since the last election, has taken full advantage of the opportunity to exploit the opportunity to get its message across.


The poll also reveals that Sinn Féin is in tune with its core supporters on the treaty issue with its strongest backing coming from the groups most likely to vote No in large numbers.

The bedrock of the party’s support is the poorest DE social category where it is on 36 per cent.

It is easily the most popular party with voters in this category.

The party has significantly improved its standing among the best-off AB voters since the last poll and is clearly proving attractive to the minority of No voters in that category.

In regional terms Sinn Féin will be happy to see a substantial rise in Dublin where it has moved ahead of Labour.

The party is strongest in Connacht-Ulster but its support is relatively even across the rest of the country. In age terms, the party does best among the 25-34 age group and worst among the over-65s.

As in previous polls Sinn Féin is far more attractive to men than women. The big jump in the satisfaction rating of party leader Gerry Adams is another plus for Sinn Féin.

By contrast, the poll will leave Labour with some serious thinking to do. In terms of publicity, the party has suffered a broadcasting squeeze during the referendum debate due to the plethora of opinion on the Yes side.

Labour has also had to cope with the fact that a significant minority of its own supporters are in the No camp by contrast to Fine Gael where there is overwhelming backing for the Yes cause.

The drop back to 10 per cent will be worrying for the party because even if there is a Yes vote on Thursday there is little prospect of good news from the Government for some time.

One of the reasons Labour is suffering the brunt of the opposition to the Government’s policies is probably because it gave a misleading impression in opposition that it would be able to do something dramatic about issues like the bank debt and mortgage arrears.

The only silver lining for Labour is that its rating of 10 per cent is not evenly spread across the country.

Dublin is easily its strongest region and while Sinn Féin has passed it out in the capital in this poll, the party is still well positioned to recover.

In class terms, Labour support is fairly evenly spread although it does worst in the poorest DE category. The party’s vote is also evenly spread across the different age groups apart from the over-65s where it does very badly.

For Fine Gael, the poll is relatively good, despite a little slippage.

The party still has more support in every region of the country, among every age group and across all social classes – apart from the DE category – than any other party.

Crucially, the party is completely in tune with its supporters on the fiscal treaty with overwhelming support for the Yes side.

The party’s vote in Dublin stands at 28 per cent and it rises to 35 per cent in Munster with the other regions coming in between.

Among the best-off AB voters, Fine Gael is easily the biggest party with 50 per cent, far ahead of all other parties.

It attracts significantly more women than men and does well across all age groups with its strongest backing coming from the over-65s. There is also good news in the poll for Fianna Fáil which has finally reversed the downward trend in place since the election.

The party is weakest in Dublin where it doesn’t have a single TD and the major challenge facing it is to rebuild in the capital.

The Fianna Fáil vote has recovered significantly among farmers and in age terms it is strongest among the over-65s.

The big increase in Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s standing has come about following the challenge to his authority from former deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív.

His decisive handling of that episode and his performance during the referendum have clearly boosted his image.

The Green Party still has a long way to go to make any kind of recovery and it will require a strong performance in the local elections due in two years in order to build a platform for the future.

The level of support for Independents and others at 15 per cent remains strong and it indicates that this group will continue to make an impact in national politics in the years to come. The strongest support for Independents comes from

Dublin and Munster and it is spread across social categories and age groups.

A majority of this group intend to vote No in the referendum on Thursday.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times