More of a nudge than a bounce
How do we define a leadership bounce in support? What’s a good bounce and what’s just ok?
In the run up to the Fine Gael leadership election most political commentators expected a significant bounce in support for the party. This was certainly borne out in our last poll, which saw support for the party rise by 7% and left them taking a significant lead over Fianna Fail. However, that poll was taken during the heat of the leadership campaign itself, when almost 100% of the media attention was focused on Fine Gael. Clearly this has a significant impact on those voters that are not closely following political events, which is most of them!
Today’s poll then is perhaps a much fairer reflection of exactly how much of a boost the party may expect to get from a new leader. There has been a short, but decent period of time, since Leo Varadkar took control of the party and the country. During which time Fine Gael has been put under pressure from the opposition, both on the way the former Attorney General Maire Whelan was hastily made a judge, and on the changes to bin charges.
The results form the poll suggest that while Fine Gael have gained from the change on leader, this has perhaps been more of a nudge, than a bounce in support. In the poll, Fine Gael secures 27% of the first preference vote, down -2% from the highs of 29% they saw during the leadership campaign itself.
This is “just about” a significant rise in support of +3%, (the outer limit of the margin for error in any poll of this size), when compared to where the party was polling with Enda Kenny as leader. It also means that they remain the largest supported party in the state, ahead of Fianna Fail. However the gap isn’t that large, with just 3% difference between the two parties, which is just about within margin of error. Fianna Fail move back up to secure 24% support, a rise of +3% since the Fine Gael leadership campaign.
This means the “real” impact of a new Fine Gael leader at this stage, has been to suppress Fianna Fail support by between 2% – 4%, when compared to the share they were securing in months before Enda Kenny stepped down as leader. It does also of course also mean as a result that Fianna Fail are no longer the largest party in the state.
But Fine Gael do not have the significant lead they would need to win an election decisively. In fact, were an election to be called now, it is most likely that we would have a pretty similar looking Dail to the one we have now.
Sinn Fein also regain ground that they lost during the Fine Gael leadership campaign, securing 18% of the first preference vote, up from 15% last month and back in line with where they were before the change in Fine Gael leadership. But Solidarity-PBP don’t really see any significant gains from the coverage that Paul Murphy received for being found not guilty in the Jobstown protest case. The party does increase support, but only by 1%, to secure 4% overall.
Of the other parties and candidates, the biggest change is the drop in support for Independent candidates. Where support seems particularly volatile over the last few months. These candidates secure just 8% support, down from 14%in the last poll, and well below the 10% support they have been securing at a minimum up to now this year. However, despite the pressure on Shane Ross from the opposition in recent months, the Independent Alliance actually sees an increase in support from 3% last month to 4% in this poll.
Overall then the political landscape doesn’t look that different to where it was at the last election. Yes Fine Gael has regained some lost ground since then, but not enough to make a radical difference to the outcome of any future election. A nudge, rather than a bounce in support, is probably not enough to trigger an election any time soon.
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