Giveaway Budget Has Limited Impact – October 30th Poll
Today’s REC C/Business Post poll suggests that the recent budget did have an impact, albeit a limited one. Not really the radical change in vote behaviour that government parties may have hoped for, given such a significant spending.
Fine Gael have seen a decent bounce in support. However, you could argue that this was more of a correction, rather than a major gain. After all, the last couple of RED C polls have seen FG at record lows in voter support. So, it appears the budget has at least worked in reminding past Fine Gael core supporters why they support the party and helped to pull back some of those who had drifted in recent months.
While Fine Gael rebounded by 3% in the poll, no similar gains were seen for either Fianna Fáil or the Green Party, both of whom record marginal 1% point declines in support. This means overall the Government parties have seen a small increase in support, while at the same time Sinn Féin retains a near record share of support despite unprecedented handouts by the government in the budget.
It is a strange situation really. Historically a budget that gives this much back to voters, should have produced a real bounce for the government and knocked the opposition off its stride.
The reality now is that the massive increase in costs and inflation, has really only started to hit people’s pockets in the last couple of weeks as energy price rises, and mortgage repayments rise exponentially. As a result, despite the benefits, for many, the budget probably feels a bit like a drop in the ocean.
Certainly, two thirds of the public still say that that they have no disposable income as they struggle to make ends meet, a similar proportion to that seen a few months before the budget. While only a third believe that Ireland can avoid a recession in the next 12 months. Add to this concerns around Covid 19 that still lurk in the background for most, and which are likely compounded by the impact any resurgence may have on top of the already rising cost of living.
At the same time while the budget was seen to genuinely help a lot of people with the rising cost of living, it perhaps wasn’t seen to address the fundamental problem of housing, that has driven so many people to look for another option.
So, the rebound for Fine Gael will be seen as pretty positive for the party, despite it being really about pulling back past voters into the fold. In the current situation, with Sinn Féin riding high in support and a cost of living, housing, and energy crises in full flow, the first task for the government parties is at least to retain the core support they had at the last election. Then perhaps persuade some of the possible voters to switch to them.
In this respect there is also a less visible battle for support going on between the government parties. The coalition partners may on the whole give an outward view of working together right now, but there is also a concern that when an election begins to come into view, one of the parties could get squeezed as the anti-Sinn Féin vote comes in to play.
The theory is as follows. Despite the major gains for the party, around 2 in 5 of the electorate would still prefer to not see Sinn Féin in government, with many citing past associations with the IRA, violence and a lack of trust in the party.
As we move towards an actual election, if Sinn Féin look to potentially be in government by retaining the type of support they currently enjoy, those voters who don’t want to see this happening could potentially move their support to the party most likely to stop that happening. That is likely to be one of the current main coalition parties, and in particular the largest of these at the time.
As such it is pretty important for both the current main government parties to be seen to be the one that is most likely to get the support at the next election to block Sinn Féin. If one of them is seen to be ahead they could conceivably make real further gains. It’s also another reason why they have to be careful about suggesting they will go into coalition with Sinn Féin.
With this in mind, it is perhaps no surprise to see some cracks are starting to show between the two parties. Most recently there was quite a lot of upset in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, due to Fine Gael announcements about introducing a new housing initiative once Leo Varadkar becomes Taoiseach in December. As it was seen to be a means to try and undermine what Fianna Fáil had been doing to alleviate the issue. Housing is key to voters, and both parties know that there is a lot to play for.
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