Voters Unforgiving of New Politics
We have heard a lot of talk about the need for a “new politics” in the formation of this government, but this poll appears to suggest that voters may have little time for it. Fianna Fail have clearly made the most of their position as powerbroker, with significant gains in first preference support in the topline poll figures, which suggest that their tactics in the government formation have worked well.
Voters however do not appear to be taken in by the “new politics” agenda. For a start, almost half of all voters (47%) state that they believe that Fianna Fail is really running the government, despite being in opposition. This is a particularly damning figure for Fine Gael, who having gone into government, now appear to be unable to do anything without the say so of their arch rivals.
The fact that 2 in 5 (40%) of Fine Gael’s own supporters believe this to be the case is clearly behind concerns being vocalised by back bench Fine Gael TD’s. It is not just opposition party supporters who see this to be the case but a also a large proportion of their own supporters.
To be in power but be totally helpless and to appear not to have control is possibly more damaging that not having been in power at all. Certainly many voters believe that it is only a matter of time before things will have to change within Fine Gael to change the current impasse, and that is after having only witnessed the fist few weeks of this government.
Despite the Taoiseach’s robust defence to recent criticisms that he will remain in office for some time to come, well over half of all voters (57%) believe that Enda Kenny should resign as leader of Fine Gael even before the budget in October 2016. While you might expect this type of view from opposition party supporters who obviously want to see him resign, far more damaging is the fact that pretty much half of those still saying they will give Fine Gael their first preference vote (48%), also think he should go that quickly.
For the future prospects of the party it is also noteworthy that 60% of those that voted Fine Gael in 2011 believe he should leave before the budget, suggesting that those who have left the party since then could possibly be persuaded to return to the party, should a new leader be elected.
This is further underlined by a direct question to that effect, where we asked voters if they would be more likely they would be to vote for Fine Gael if there was a change in leader. Overall just under half of all voters (44%) suggest they would be more likely to vote for Fine Gael if there was a change in leader. A significant chunk of these voters were already suggesting they would vote Fine Gael, so that isn’t such a big deal, but does suggest better loyalty of vote as a result of the change of leader.
Of more interest is the potential for the party to win back support from other parties. With that in mind, it is also crucial to note that almost 2 in 5 Fianna Fail voters (38%) suggest they would be more likely to vote Fine Gael following a change in leader, and half (50%) of Labour supporters express the same positive views towards a Fine Gael leadership change. Most importantly at all, half of all undecided voters suggest they would be more likely to vote Fine Gael with a leadership change. It is clear then that a large proportion of voters believe that a leadership change would be of benefit to Fine Gael, and this is brought into sharper focus by the fact half of all voters expect to see a new General Election by the end of the year.
With Fianna Fail fortunes rising in the polls as support for independent candidates falls back, and with many voters already seeing Fianna Fail effectively running the government anyway from the opposition benches; there are significant warning signs for Fine Gael in this poll. Voters believe something needs to change quickly for the party, before the momentum toward Fianna Fail will be too far gone for them to do anything about it.
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