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Blog: Does the latest opinion poll mean there's less to play for?

TodayFM
TodayFM

4:13 PM - 9 Jan 2014



Sinn Féin are the biggest 'winners' - and the government parties the 'losers' - in the latest political opinion poll.

The Red C poll for Paddy Power puts Fine Gael at 28 points (down one), Fianna Fáil on 22 (unchanged), Labour down two to 10, Sinn Féin up three to 18, the Greens unchanged at two, and independents and others unchanged at 20.

The headline figures are really not of much concern. Fine Gael - as has been the case for a few months - have solidified the lead over Fianna Fáil, which now stands at six points. 

Although it is possible to argue that the government parties have suffered (perhaps undoing the bounce they gained when Ireland exited the bailout), the changes are all within the margin of error: Fine Gael are down one point, and Labour two points. Neither is worth sweating over for now.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter may be familiar with my usual argument that coverage of opinion polls should always mention the number of voters who say they haven't decided on how they will vote.

In some polls last year this figure rose as high as 33 per cent - but today's poll shows there is perhaps a growing acceptance that voters cannot be so picky as to reject all of the major political parties.

The most recent Red C poll in November had the undecided figure at 20 per cent - but in today's its already fallen to 17. 

That means that out of the 1000-or-so people that were surveyed, around 170 people had not made up their minds about who they might vote for, compared to 200 last time around.

This may hint that there are fewer swing voters for the parties to fight over in the months coming up to the next elections. 

It also adds to my suspicion that the government parties have no reason for undue concern right now. The 'core' vote for Fine Gael in the last four polls (October, November, November and January) has been 23 per cent, then 19, then 23, and now 23 again.

Labour, meanwhile, has gone from 9, to 7, to 9, and now to 8 per cent of 'core' support. 

This is all within the statistical margin of error - but in general, both are holding steady in what could have been turbulent months after yet another austerity budget.

And because the broad trends for the four major parties (and the independent bloc) have been so relatively stable over time, one could suspect that undecideds could simply be sliced out of the picture without affecting the end result. If Fine Gael accounts for 30% of undecided voters, it seems there's a fair chance they'll get 30% of votes from undecideds too.

It's difficult to escape the ultimate conclusion that nobody has much cause for concern in the latest poll - and that if there is any reason to be worried, it's just that nobody has made any major breakthrough in the last few months, despite all of their various efforts to do so.



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