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Fine Gael extend lead

Paddy Power – Jan 2011 – Fine Gael extend their lead ahead of the other parties, as Fianna Fail drop back to just 14%.

Fine Gael extend their lead as the party with most support in Ireland, securing 35% of the first preference vote and as such continuing the upward trend of support seen in polls over the end of 2010.

Support for the party is strongest among men (40%), younger 18-34 year old voters (39%), more upmarket voters (37%) and those in Munster (38%)

Labour’s share is down somewhat on that seen in 2010, with the party securing 21% of the first preference vote overall.  This appears to be due to a fall in support in Dublin, where the party now only matches Fine Gael levels of support having dominated in the past, support is also lower for the party in Connaught and Ulster.

Fianna Fail support also falls again to very low levels, with just 14% suggesting they would give the party their first preference vote, almost matching the lowest level of support for the party seen in 2010.  Only 10% of those in Dublin now suggest they will vote for the party in this poll.

Sinn Fein consolidate support at the higher level they have enjoyed since the Donegal by-election, and match Fianna Fail by also securing 14% of the first preference vote. Their vote is much stronger in Connaught and Ulster at 20%, and also among less well off manual workers at 18%.

The Green Party see something of a rise in fortunes, with support for the party at 4%, the highest seen since the party tried to arrange a national consensus among all the parties before the bailout.

Support for Independents is also high at 12%, a level they have not seen since 2009.

Paddy Power – Jan Political Poll 2011 – Vote Intention Report

The Battle for floating voters

SBP Poll – 6th Feb 2011 – General Election 2011. 

Do you wonder why Fine Gael and Labour are tearing chunks out of each other in the campaign so far, when they appear most likely to be coalition partners?  The reason becomes clear, when we look more closely at the number of voters that remain undecided about how they will vote at the election.

At this point of the campaign in 2007 a large proportion of voters had made up their minds.  Our polls before the election in 2007, recorded about 15% of all voters undecided three weeks out from Election Day.  Today we still have 20% who are definitely undecided, while just 65% claim to have “made up their mind” already.  On further examination, even some of those who suggest they have decided; still say they could change their mind between now and the election.  That means that somewhere between 35% and 40% of all voters that claim they will vote on Election Day are still up for grabs.

This means that all parties still have an awful lot to play for.  No surprise really; when you consider that Fianna Fail has historically held 35%-42% share of the vote, and is currently languishing on 17% in today’s poll.  This means that more than 20% of past Fianna Fail voters are looking for a new home, on top of those that change who they vote for at each election.  Many are determined not to vote for Fianna Fail again, but at the same time a large number come from families that have “always” voted Fianna Fail, and they have no real connection with any of the other parties. That is why over the past 6-9 months we have seen them move from one party to another, struggling to find a home.

During 2010 more and more of these voters suggested they would give Labour their support, with the party securing an unheard of first preference vote share in the polls at 27%.  Many of these voters still remain with Labour, but as the election draws near some have begun to fall away again, perhaps unsure of this choice.    Then, after the Donegal by-election some decided Sinn Fein was an option, resulting in a significant bounce in support for the party. But again, though some have stayed with Sinn Fein, others have left again. More recently the Independent candidates saw a rise in support, as the disaffected Fianna Fail voters continued to look for a home; but once again, as it became apparent that not everyone would have a celebrity Independent candidate to support, that too has fallen back again.

Come Election Day, it is quite possible that some of these lost Fianna Fail voters may end up going back to the party.  The fresh face of Micheal Martin as leader and his new team, perhaps gives once loyal Fianna Fail families the excuse they need to vote for the party again, despite all that has gone on.  While for others, the weight of family tradition, or simply because they want to support the local candidates on the ground, means they may end up voting Fianna Fail again despite their reservations.  But this move back to Fianna Fail is likely to be limited to the diehard supporters who only left the party in the last few months.  As such we can expect the most that Fianna Fail can gain from this is to take their share up to the low to mid 20’s.

The reality however is that a huge number of these undecided voters are trying to decide between voting for either Fine Gael or Labour.  In fact the cross over between the two parties is so large that 40% of all of those that say they might vote Fine Gael, also say that they might vote Labour.  In reverse the figure is even greater with 50% of all those that say they might vote Labour, also saying they may give Fine Gael their first preference.

If Fine Gael can win a large proportion of these undecided voters over, they could conceivably form a government with just the support of a few like minded Independent candidates.  Of course this would be a disaster for Labour, having done so well in the polls up to now, so they too are desperate to secure the undecided voter support.  After all, the more of these floating voters they persuade to support the party on election day, the stronger voice they would have in a likely coalition.

So now you see why Fine Gael and Labour are fighting each other so hard.  Because it is the battle between these two parties that will define the election, and ultimately the shape of the next government.

SBP 6th Feb Poll Report 2011
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SBP Election Poll Report 6th Feb 2011

Fine Gael make significant gains

Paddy Power Poll – 2nd Feb 2011 – General Election 2011. 

Fine Gael see a significant rise in support in today’s poll, taking 37% of the first preference vote, a rise of 3% since the last RED C poll at the weekend.   If this trend continues, the party must be looking at the possibility of forming a government and possibly just needing the help of like minded Independent candidates to do so.

In contrast Labour’s share continues to trend downwards. They secure 19% support in today’s poll, down 2% since the weekend; but significantly down on the 27% high they saw towards the end of 2010.

Fianna Fail support trends upwards securing 18% in today’s poll, up 2% since the weekend, and creeping up toward 20% again.  This is presumably on the back of Martin taking over as leader, as he is again seen as the best person to represent Ireland as Taoiseach when party support is put aside.

Sinn Fein support slips again in today’s poll to leave them securing 12% first preference, and has been trending downwards slowly since the Donegal by election success gave the party such a boost.

The Green Party takes a 3% share of the vote, which is their average share over the past 6 or 7 polls, and will leave them very tight to secure any seats

Support for Independents, which had been very high at 15%, drops back to 11%.

A key point from this poll is that, with just over three weeks until polling day, there are still 20% of likely voters who remain undecided in how they will vote, and as such there is still all to play for.

Paddy Power – Vote Intention Poll Report- 2nd Feb 2011

Runners & riders for GE11

SBP Jan 30th 2011 – General Election Poll

On Tuesday the Dail will be dissolved and the election campaign can start in earnest.  So what does the wealth of data we have available from the monthly Sunday Business Post Tracking polls tell us about the likely outcome for each of the runners and riders, in a few weeks time?

Fianna Fail will do badly
One of the most consistent stories from the polls over the past two years, is the decline in the Fianna Fail vote.  In today’s poll the party secured 16% of the first preference vote.  This is 26% less than they achieved at the last election.  In the six months prior to the election campaign in 2007 their average support was at 38%.  In the campaign itself they made “impressive” gains to take 42% share, only a rise of 4% above the average of the previous six months.  Extrapolating these trends forward to now; even if the Martin factor gives the party a bounce and assuming some “shy voter” impact and some “local candidate” impact, it is unlikely that they can get hope to secure more than low 20’s on Election Day.

Verdict – Somewhere between 16% and 22%, but evidence of the appeal of Martin suggests they could push this to the top end of the range with a good campaign.

Labour will make significant gains
At the last general election the Labour Party secured 10% of the vote, while in the last six polls before that election they had an average share in the polls of 12%.  Move on four years and the average share for Labour in the most recent six polls has been 25%, which represents a significant rise in support for the party.   However they have dropped off a bit in the last two polls, with 21% recorded this time, and did lose some support in the final run in to the last election.  Extrapolating forward they should still secure close to double the first preference vote compared to 2007, and the fact that they are far more transfer friendly should give their seat to share ratio a boost.

However, there is evidence from the by-election in Donegal prior to Christmas that indicates that the Labour first preference vote in polls could be a little more “flaky” than for other parties.  Also, the impact of Gilmore may not be as strong a card to play, with Martin now rated ahead of him as a preferred Taoiseach.

Verdict – This is the toughest to call as their vote is so volatile – so somewhere between high teens and mid twenties.

Fine Gael are most likely to lead the next government
Fine Gael support has been trending up for the past few weeks, but this has come to halt now, as they drop back to 33% in today’s poll.  In the past 6 months support for the party has been on average 33%.  This is 9% higher than the average seen for the party before the last general election in 2007.  During the campaign itself in 2007, their support firmed up to reach 27% overall.

Fine Gael does however have two key issue areas that may limit support.  The first is that Enda Kenny remains a “turn off” for some voters, lying in third place behind Martin & Gilmore as preferred Taoiseach.  As he gets increased exposure during the campaign, this may depress support for the party.  The second is that the party still has something of a problem convincing people that they can really manage the economy from its current poor position.

Verdict – I suspect that support they will end up with somewhere between low and mid 30’s.

Sinn Fein could do better than expected
The success of Pearse Doherty in the Donegal by election has improved the image of Sinn Fein in the minds of many voters.  This has led to an increase in the polls, with them securing 13% today.  The main issue for the party is that those who say they may vote Sinn Fein, have historically fallen away on Election Day; either from getting cold feet closer to the time, or simply being less likely to bother going out to vote at all.

In the 2007 General Election the party polled 9% on average in the six months before the campaign, but ended up with 7%.  If the party sees a similar fall off this year, it still may end up with about 11% share of first preference, a significant improvement on 2007.  However the party is still held quite negatively by a large proportion of voters who claim there is no chance they would vote for them, and the support they have may be squeezed if Fianna Fail make gains.

Verdict – will probably do better than 2007, but closer to 10% share

Green Party may not have any TD’s
The average Green Party share of the first preference vote over the past six months is 3%.  This is a significant decline for the party compared to 2007.   The party polled on average at 8% over the last six months before the campaign started in 2007, they then dropped off to about 6% during the campaign, and ended up on 5% first preference.  The party cannot afford the same decline in support from a 3% start point, particularly as they have also become far less transfer friendly even from Fianna Fail voters during their time in government.  This makes it far harder for even their high profile candidates to get elected.

Verdict – some very tight battles for final seats in constituencies, possibly 2-3 seats – but possibly none, with high profile independents fighting against them.

Independents will prosper in pockets
There is a lot of talk that Independent candidates will do particularly well this year, as a disenfranchised electorate vote for people outside of the party system.  Our latest polls appear to back this up, with 15% support in today’s poll, and an average of 11% over the last six months.  This is a significant improvement when compared to the 7% average share they received in the six weeks prior to the last General Election campaign.  Independents didn’t lose traction during the campaign in 2007, but they may lose out a bit if Fianna Fail make some gains.

Verdict – with new high profile candidates such as Shane Ross and Paul Somerville running, we are likely to see more independent candidate seats in the next Dail.

SBP Jan poll 2011 chart deck
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SBP Election Poll Report 30th Jan 2011

13th Feb SBP Poll Report – Full

Fine Gael upward trend continues

Fine Gael sees a further gain in first preference vote share as undecided voters begin to make up their minds, and in doing so support the party.  They take 38% share of the first preference vote  and while this is up 3% since a week ago, of more interest is the trend over the campaign.  When polls are conducted so frequently the trend is key to the analysis, rather than the poll on poll movement.  The trend for Fine Gael is very positive, with a series of poll results since the beginning of the year that has seen the party move from 32, to 35, to 33, to 37, to 35 to 38.   This upward trend means on average in the past three polls (those taken in February) Fine Gael is securing 37% share overall.

Independent and other parties are the other big winner this week.  Having seen the largest number of independent candidates registered in this election earlier in the week it is perhaps not a surprise that many voters are now choosing this option.  Particularly when such a large number of undecided voters  are past Fianna Fail supporters with no home to go to at the moment.  In total Independents/others secure 14% share, up 3% since last week, and averaging out at 12% over the past three polls. Fianna Fail could potentially be suffering as Independents gain share, given that such a large number of past Fianna fail candidates are now running as Independents.  Certainly in this poll the party secures just 15% of the first preference share, down 25 since a week ago, and leaving the average share over the past 3 polls at 17%.  This perhaps is the most surprising result from the poll, as many commentators myself included had suspected that the Fianna Fail vote would harden in the weeks before the election.  Now it appears that despite the popular appeal of new leader Michael martin the party may not see a late surge of undecided voters move back to the party.  Even the spiral of silence analysis that we conduct suggest that the share is not significantly depressed by “shy voters”. Labour will also be disappointed in today’s poll, which sees the party secure 20% first preference, but this figure is also in line with recent trends that has seen the party strength of support weaken in the past few weeks.  Their average for the past three polls is now relatively stable at 20%, but in order to ensure they remain in the mix of the next government the party will want to see support return to the low to mid 20’s. Sinn Fein also lose share in this poll, down 3%, to leave the party back at 10% and back to the same levels seen before the Donegal by election surge.  This is a very similar pattern to that the party had at the last election, and may mean they do not benefit as much as had been hoped for.  Finally the Green party secure 3% of the vote which is remaining relatively steady as the campaign progresses, but still may not be enough to see them take any seats.

SBP 13th Feb Poll 2011 Report

SBP 13th Feb Poll 2011 Report

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Regional Analysis of Campaign Polls

Fine Gael support founded in strengths outside of Dublin.

The latest RED C Sunday Business Post poll sees Fine Gael make considerable gains, while Labour and Fianna Fail fall back. These trends are underpinned by very different voter behaviour in different constituencies.  Regional poll vs. poll analysis is not reliable as the sample size is too small, however with a large number of polls conducted in the past few weeks we are able to look at the regional vote share on the basis of the last four RED C polls, conducted in the past three weeks. So how does the performance of the different parties differ from one part of the country to another?


Dublin sees a very different picture to the Rest of Ireland, mainly due to the strong support shown for the Labour Party.  Across the last four RED C polls conducted in the past 3 weeks, Labour has secured an average share of the first preference vote in Dublin of 29%, significantly ahead of its share outside of Dublin.  This is Labour’s heartland, and where by contrast Fine Gael takes its lowest share of the vote.  Fine Gael still secures 29%, the same as Labour, but this is some way behind its strongest share in Connaught and Ulster.  Dublin is also the weakest area for Fianna Fail, where on average over the past four polls the party secures just 12% share.  Perhaps surprisingly Sinn Fein doesn’t do any better in Dublin than elsewhere, but Greens and Independents/Other parties do somewhat better in Dublin than in other parts of the country.

Rest of Leinster
Outside of Dublin both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael perform much better, with Labour taking a much lower share.  In fact, Labour takes a full 10% less first preference share across Leinster compared to Dublin.  Fine Gael secure 36% share and Fianna Fail secure 19%.  The trend over the past four polls suggest that it is in Leinster that Fine Gael is making real headway with a continuous upward trend, and this is underpinning their gains nationally.  In contrast it is here, despite a better average performance than in Dublin, that the trend for Fianna Fail is quite heavily downward, and this is masking some small gains seen in Munster.  Labour also appear to be trending upwards in Leinster outside of Dublin, and this is turn is masking some declines for the party in Munster.  Sinn Fein and the Greens hold very similar share in the Rest of Leinster to Dublin, but Independents/Others fare less well securing just 12% of the vote

Despite the impact many felt the Micheal Martin might have had on the Fianna Fail vote in Cork, the party does not fare particularly better here than in other parts of the country.  In fact the parties share here is 8%, which 1% less than in Leinster.  However there are signs in the trend over the past few polls that Martin has improved the share for the party here recently.  In contrast, Fine Gael do better again in Munster, securing 38% of the first preference vote some way ahead of the other parties.  Labour secure just 18% here, with Sinn Fein and Independent candidates on 12%. The Green party vote also declines in Munster to just 2%.

This is where Fine Gael completely dominates, with 41% share of the vote.  The party also sees significant gains in the last poll here, which is also underpinning their success nationally.  The other party that does well here in relative terms is Sinn Fein who secure 14% first preference.  However, Sinn Fein’s downward trend nationally, appears to be focused in Connaught/Ulster where previous highs are being eroded during the campaign.     Labour in contrast does relatively poorly in this region of the country, securing just 12% of the vote, some 17% behind their share in Dublin.  The Greens also do poorly here, securing just 1% first preference share across the past four polls.   Fianna Fail retain the same share as seen in Leinster and Munster, with 18% of the first preference vote.  Finally, Independent and other parties also do better in Connaught/Ulster taking 14% share.

Regional Analysis Report – 13th Feb 2011

Cork South Central Constituency Poll

Martin doesn’t do enough to save both seats, and Fine Gael take honors.

Since his election as leader of Fianna Fail this constituency focus has all been on Micheal Martin, and what he can do to hold up the share of the vote.  While he does manage to hold the Fianna  Fail share  at a higher level than seen nationally, it doesn’t appear as yet to be enough to save his running mate Michael McGrath from possibly missing out on being elected.


Instead it is Fine Gael who reap the dividends of an improved share, despite not making as good gains in first preference support as Labour overall.    The main reason for this is that Fine Gael appears to be more transfer friendly overall, than either of their main competitors.  Suggestions from this poll are that Simon Coveney will do very well, securing 19% and easily making quaota on the first count.  He then has a not insignificant surplus to pass on to his party colleagues. This puts them far enough ahead to hold out until Desmond is eliminated and take god transfers from her.    As such Deidre Clune looks like retaining her seat relatively comfortably in the final count, while Buttimer gains enough transfers from Chris O’Leary of Sinn Fein, to keep him ahead of McGrath in the final count.

While Martin does hold on to his vote it is at the expense of his Fianna Fail running colleague McGrath, who sees his first preference vote almost halved since 2007.  This leaves McGrath with an uphill battle to secure the seat, and as the party are now relatively transfer unfriendly, this poll suggest he may not make it unless the party work harder on vote management in the constituency.  Martin’s surplus is less beneficial than Coveney’s, and McGrath then struggles to pick up transfers from anywhere until the Sinn Fein candidate Chris O’Leary is eliminated.

Labour does retain a seat in the constituency through Ciaran Lynch; but the overall first preference vote for the party is at 18%, not far from current national polls, but a long way behind the highs of 27% seen nationally a few months ago.  That means that while Lynch gets good transfers and makes quota on the seventh count, his running mate Paula Desmond fails to receive any transfers of note and as such is eliminated on the eighth count.  There is certainly a job to do in the party to encourage voters to place their candidates on the ballot paper at some point, even if it isn’t first preference.

In contrast to the national polls this is one constituency where Independents don’t perform that well, perhaps due to Martin keeping votes more loyal to Fianna Fail. However they do improve their share vs. 2007.  Perhaps it is this gain for Independents that further impacts on Dan Boyle’s position, as he falls back quite heavily even vs. 2007, securing just 3% first preference in today’s poll.

All in all, while Martin has held up the Fianna Fail vote in the constituency it doesn’t appear as yet to be enough to save the seat for McGrath, and that is the key battle for the final week.  With Fine Gael needing very good vote management to secure all three seats on election day.

Cork South Central – Constituency Poll Report