Gallup poll on Irish political attitudes
LAST APRIL a public opinion poll was carried out in this country, surveying political attitudes on the eve of the election. The poll was undertaken by Social Surveys (Gallup Poll), based on a sample of over 2,000 respondents throughout the country. Within the usual limits of sampling error this poll gives a reliable and unique insight into Irish political attitudes. The range of information provided is immense and in this article only some aspects of the results can be considered.
The main conclusions of the survey dealt with in this article are
. In April 1969, the Labour Party commanded 21 % of the vote. Between then and the General Election in June its vote dropped to 1 T~%.
. The whole swing away from Labour during the campaign, occurred outside Dublin, where its vote slumped by almost a quarter. Fianna Fail was the main beneficiary.
. No less than 12% of Dublin Fianna Fail voters in the 1965 Election and 10% of Dublin Fine Gael voters had decided to vote Labour before the campaign began, and they were not deflected from this during the election.
. In the rest of the country there was a larger than normal swing away from Labour, which seems to have lost 7% of its voters to Fianna Fail and 8t % to Fine Gael during this four-year period.
CD Fine Gael's share of the vote is very much higher (30-40%) for the over 55 age groups, than for younger groups. . Fianna Fail's share of the Dublin vote is low in the 25-34 age group (only 32%) and high in the 55-64 age groups (51 %).
. Outside of Dublin Fianna Fail's share of the vote is much the same over the range 25-54, but is significantly higher (60%) above age 55. In Dublin almost half of those under 35 intended to vote Labour-twice as high a proportion as in the case of over 55.
. Outside Dublin the ratio of intending Labour voters was almost three times as high in the younger as in the older age groups.
. Fianna Fail has the most uniform pattern of class support-ranging from 42% ofthe upper middle-class to 65% of the small farmers with under 30 acres.
. Fine Gael averages as very much a middle-class party with 43% of the upper middle-class support and 53t% of the larger farmers' support. It is weakest of all anlOngst unskilled and semi-skilled workers and pensioners, where it has the support of less than one-fifth. Labour has one-third of the manual workers' vote compared with 15% of the upper middle-class and 20% of the lower middle-class. Only 6% of small farmers and 2% offarmers with more than 30 acres intended to vote Labour.
G Only 19% of Fianna Fail voters own 30 acres or more-whereas 39% of Fine Gael supporters are in this category. Almost 40% of Labour supporters are council tenants-but only 18% of Fianna Fail supporters and 14% of Fine Gael supporters are in this position.
. Over half of Labour voters are trade unionists-whereas less than a quarter of Fianna Fail voters and less than one-sixth of Fine Gael voters hold union cards.
In view of the surprise result of the June General Election, it is of particular intt:n:st to try to sce what lighI this survey can throw upon this election result. How did the actual results of this election compare with what was indicated by this poll, and just what shifts in opinion were responsible for any change in political allegiances during this period of the election campaign? Considerable light is thrown on this matter by the data summarised in Table 2. If this information on intended switches in voting is used in conjunction with the 1965 actual voting pattern, making duc allowance for the deaths of 1965 voters during the following four years, and for the stated voting intentions of those who had not voted in 1965, a clear picture of voting intentions in April 1969 emerges. This can then usefully be compared with the actual voting in the June election.
A comparison of the voting record of the respondt:nts with the actual 1965 Gent:ral Election results shows that while the sample was fully representative of the different parts of the country and of the different age groups, it contained too Iowa proportion of people who voted Fine Gael in 1965. Thus whereas in the General Election of that year over 34% of voters gave their first preference to a Fine Gael candidate, only 28t% of the sample had voted Fine Gael in that election. Moreover, this underrepresentation of Fine Gael voters applies both to the survey results for Dublin and to those for the rest of the country-although in Dublin it is Labour voters who are correspondingly over-represented whereas in rural areas the over-representation affects Fianna Fail voters.
Changes in Party Support between 1965 and 1969 Elections Table 3 suggests that over twothirds of the progress which Labour had made in securing public support between April 1965 and April 1969, principally at the expense of Fianna Fail, was lost during the election campaign. Thus whereas the Labour party might have secured 21 % of the vote in April 1969-an increase of well over a quarter by comparison with four years earlier-it actually increased its share from 16% to only 171%. It would also appear that while Fianna Fail was the principal beneficiary of this last-minute swing away from Labour, Fine Gael also benefited substantially.
Last minute swings
Of particular interest is the differem pattcrn of last-minute swings in Dublin and in the rest of the country as indicated by this table. The whole of the swing away from Labour seems to have occurred outside Dublin.In Dublin Fianna Fail continued to lose ground during the campaign-a fact which helped to mislead Dublin-based observcrs and commentators into thinking that they would be defeated nationally. It would seem, however, that most of the continuing swing away from Fianna Fail in Dublin during the campaign went to Fine Gael, which seems to have recovered from Fianna Fail more than half the ground it had lost to Labour in the capital during the previous four years.
By contrast, outside Dublin Labour support appears to have slumped by almost a quarter during the campaign, the great bulk of this swing benefiting Fianna Fail, although Fine Gael may also have marginally improved its position which outside Dublin had remained unchanged ovcr the previous fonr vcars.
Changes in allegiance-due to swings in established voters or new generation?
The upper part of the table also tells us a good deal about the extent to which changes in political allcgiances between April 1965 and April 1969 were due to actual swings of support amongst established voters, as distinct from the emergence of a new generation with a different voting pattern. It should be said that a small swing in the political allegiances of supporters of all parties is normal between elections. The survey figures suggest that in both Dublin and in the rest of Ireland at least 10% of the supporters of each party swung away from it, in roughly equal numbers to each of the other two parties, with two exceptions, both of which affect Labour. In Dublin the swing from both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to Labour between April 1965 and April 1969 was at least twice as large as the "normal" figure of 5%, and as has been stated earlier this additional support seems to have remained with Labour in Dublin during the campaign. It would seem that no less than 12% of Dublin Fianna Fail voters in the 1965 Election, and 10% of the Dublin Fine Gael voters, had decided to vote Labour before the campaign began, and they were not deflected from this during the election. On thc other hand in the rest of the country there was a larger than normal swing away from Labour-which seems to have lost 7% of its voters to Fianna Fail and 8!% to Fine Gael during this four-year pcriod.
Increase in Labour vote-why?
The somewhat higher percentage swing away from than towards Labour outside Dublin between the 1965 Election and the survey did not, however, prevent it from gaining ground substantially in terms of votcs, for two reasons. First of all the relatively small size of the total Labour vote meant that even somewhat bigger percentage swings away from that party cost it much less than it gained from somewhat smaller percentage swings in its favour at the expense of the larger parties, which between them had five times as many votes as Labour. Secondly outside Dublin as well as in the capital, Labour secured a disproportionate share of the support of those who had not voted in 1965, about half of whom did not have a vote at that time, principally because of their age. Labour's advantage in respcct of this group of new voters was enjoyed largely at Fianna Fail's expense outside Dublin and at Fine Gael's expcnse in the city.
II-Age and Party Allegiance
The survey figures for voting intentions by age, set out in Tablc 4, are of great importance for the future of the three parties.The figures for the
youngest age group, 21-24, are, however, open to some doubt, because of the small size of this group, and consequently of the sample upon which the results are based. The voting pattern shown for this age group is, moreover, somewhat out of line with the general trend, as it shows Fianna Fail with a one-third bigger share of the votes of this group than of the next age group, 25-34, and shows Fine Gael with only 12% of the votes of this younger group. A difference of only nine respondents as between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would have been sufficient to have "normalised" this pattern, so it seems wise not to attach too much importance to these figures.
III-Class and Party Allegiance
As might have been expected the survey shows a distinct correlation between social class and political allegiance. As will bc seen from Table 5 Fianna Fail has the most uniform pattern of class support-ranging from 42% of the upper middle class to 65% of the smaller farmers with under 30 acres. It is also relatively strong in the lower middlc class group.
Fine Gael shares almost equally with Fianna Fail the support of the upper middle class, but is strongest amongst farmers with over 30 acres, well over half of whom intended to vote Fine Gael in this election. It is weakest of all amongst unskilled and semi-skilled workers and pensioners, where it has the support of less than one-fifth. Labour's support, not surprisingly comes principally from manual workers, but its votes are drawn from a wider class range than many would, perhaps, suspect. Its one-third of the manual workers' vote compares with 15% of the upper middle class and 20% of the lower middle class. It is weakest amongst farmers, who clearly fail to identify at all with the Labour party. Only 6% of small farmers and 2% of farmers with more than 30 acres intended to vote Labour.
hus the picture that emerges from these sections of the survey is one of a Labour party challenging from a small and largely urban base, supported by a relatively high proportion of young people, especially in Dublin, but losing the election campaign outside Dublin where one-fifth of its support was eroded during the campaign.
Fianna Fail most broadly based Party
Fianna Fail, the most broadly-based party, lost ground heavily in Dublin both before and during the campaign, but during the election campaign regained enough of its lost support outside the capital to secure a majority of seats, even though with a reduced national vote. Its considerable dependence on an elderly vote especially outside Dublin suggests that it may not 83 find it easy to maintain this position in future.
The differences in class support between the parties are naturally reflected in the average standards of living of their supporters. Thus whereas 25% of Fine Gael supporters have telephones, only 17% of Fianna Fail supporters and 15% of Labour supporters enjoy this service. Labour supporters on the other hand are better equipped with television sets than supporters of the other two parties because so many of them live in cities and towns. Only 17% of Labour supporters are without television-whereas 24% of Fine Gael supporters and 28% of Fianna Fail supporters are in this situation. So far as cars are concerned, 59% of Fine Gael supporters, 46% of Fianna Fail supporters and 37% of Labour supporters are members of households with cars.
A majority of the supporters of each of the two main parties are members of households owning land-62% of Fine Gael supporters, and 52% of Fianna Fail supporters. Only 21 % of Labour supporters are in this category, and the great majority of them own less than an acre.
There is a very sharp difference between the size of holdings of Finc Gael and Fianna Fail supporters. Only 19% of Fianna Fail supporters own 30 acres or more-whereas 39% of Fine Gael supporters are in this category
There is little difference between supporters of the two parties so far as house ownership is concerned. About three-quarters of the supporters of both parties own houses, or are buying them through a mortgage, whereas only half of Labour supporters are in this position. By contrast almost 40% of Labour supporters are council tenants, but only 18% of Fianna Fail supporters and 14% of Fine Gael supporters are in this position.
Labour supporters also have a different educational pattern. Over half completed their education by age 14, and only 13% remained at school til117. On the other hand less than half of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail supporters left school at or before 14, and 21 % of Fianna Fail supporters and 28% of Fine Gael supporters remained until 17 or later.
Again while only a quarter of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail supporters are full-time employees, a half of Labour supporters are in this position.
Finally the parties differ markedly in their shares of trade union membership. Just 27% of all voters hold trade union cards-although the proportion belonging to families whose head holds a
These" profiles" of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour voters give us a useful picture of the sources from which each of these three parties draw thcir support. They suggest that whatever setback Labour may have suffered in the recent General Election, it will increasingly be a force to reckon with in the years ahead. It emerges from this survey as a party challenging from a small base, but supported by a relatively high proportion of young people, especially in Dublin. It lost the election campaign outside Dublin, where almost a quarter of the support it had built up was eroded during the campaign. On the other hand, Fianna Fail, the most broadlybased party, lost ground in Dublin both before the campaign, (to Labour), and during it, (to Fine Gael), but regained enough support outside the capital to secure for it a majority of seats, even though with a reduced overall vote. Its considerable dependence upon an elderly vote, especially in Dublin, suggests that it may not find it easy to maintain this position in future.
Out side Dublin Fine Gael draws its support almost equally from all age groups, and has the support particularly of farmers with over 30 acres. In Dublin it is dependent to a significant degree on older voters, and on support from the upper middle class, and lacks support amongst manual workers. Nevertheless during the election campaign it strengthened its position in the capital at the expense of Fianna Fail, thus gaining enough votes to regain over half of the ground it had lost to Labour in Dublin during the previous four years.