Polls show Fianna Fáil/PDs well short of overall majority

  • 20 September 2006
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The average of opinion polls since the last election shows: a substantial decline in support for Fianna Fáil; a failure by Fine Gael to make substantial gains; and gains for Labour and Sinn Féin. By Colin Murphy

The recent political opinion poll in the Irish Examiner may have given Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats a morale boost, but the averages of all published opinion polls since the last election still shows that the current coalition is well short of an overall majority.

The current state of the parties, according to the average of the opinion polls, is as follows (2002 general election result in brackets):

• Fianna Fáil 34.9% (41.5%)

• Fine Gael 23.2% (22.5%)

• Labour 13.4% (10.8%)

• Sinn Féin 9.8% (6.5%)

• Green Party 5% (3.8% )

• Progressive Democrats 4.2% (4 %)

The key trends shown by these figures are: the substantial decline in support for Fianna Fáil; the failure of Fine Gael to make any marked gains since their disastrous 2002 result; a decent improvement by Labour; and a substantial improvement by Sinn Féin.

The Greens have shown some improvement, while the PDs have remained relatively static – however, in both these cases, the low base of the party makes its opinion poll support particularly unreliable.

The putative "Rainbow coalition" of Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens is marginally ahead on these figures, with 41.5 per cent, compared to 39.1 per cent for Fianna Fáil and the PDs. Both are far behind the hypothetical coalition options of Fianna Fáil and Labour, with 48.3 per cent, and Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with 44.7 per cent. Despite reports that Pat Rabbitte has ruled out coalition with Fianna Fáil, he refused to rule it out absolutely in an interview in Magill magazine earlier this year. Bertie Ahern has said he will not enter coalition with Sinn Féin after the next election.

The Irish Examiner poll, as just one of 35 polls since the last election, makes little impact on these average figures. Individual opinion polls are hugely influenced by high-profile media events, which may have little or no lasting effect on political opinion: the resignation of Mary Harney as Tánaiste and leader of the PDs, and the election of Michael McDowell in her place, was one such media event. However, taking an average of all polls since the last election reveals the underlying trends in public opinion.

These averages are calculated on the basis of 13 TNS MRBI polls in the Irish Times, eight Millward Brown IMS polls in the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and the Sunday Tribune, 13 Red C polls in the Sunday Business Post and two Lansdowne Market Research polls in the Irish Examiner.