SF Dominate, while FF voters return to the fold2022.02.28
While Sinn Féin continue to dominate the political landscape in Ireland, there is an interesting subplot running alongside this dominance in Irish politics. This subplot revolves around the government parties, and who between them is either gaining or losing support.
At the last election, the government parties secured 50% of the first preference vote. As you might expect, that overall support has been slipping as we move through the term of the government. After the first year, and once the rally-round-the-flag effect from the Covid crisis had dissipated, the government parties’ share of the vote fell to 45%. Another year on and it’s fallen again to 42%.
Within this overall share across the government parties, the dynamics of which party is getting the public’s support have also been changing actively
For the first year or so after the last election, Fine Gael dominated, with support for the party rocketing after the interim government was seen to handle the initial lockdowns very well. Over the last year however, this support has been waning heavily. The initial fall in support was seen after Fianna Fáil began to get its act together leading the government, after an initial few months of their own crisis.
The party then enjoyed solid support at around 30% during the first half of 2021. However, in the second half of the year, that support began to drop. The trend has now been consistently downward since that time and leaves the party securing just 20% of the vote, a drop of 10% points in just over six months.
While Sinn Féin appear to have been beneficiaries of some of these voters, the other interesting feature is the gains of their coalition partners. Both Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have seen gains in support in recent months, following a long period where their support lay well below what they achieved at the last election.
Fianna Fail in particular have seen gains over the winter. Back in October last year, the party’s support lay at just 13%, some 9% points below what they achieved at the last election. Since then, they’ve increased their share by 5% over a period of just three to four months. In today’s poll, they secure 17% of the vote, a high not seen since March 2020. When we evaluate these gains more closely, it appears that in large part, this is thanks to a “return to the fold” from those people who voted for them at the last election.
One of the key characteristics we previously uncovered about the decline in Fianna Fáil support, was how poorly they held on to their voters after the election. Back in October 2021, just 50% of those who voted for Fianna Fáil in the last general election said they would vote for them again in a future election. The big change in their support now is underlined by a return of some of these lost voters. Today almost 70% of those who voted for Fianna Fáil at the last election also said they would vote for them again in any new election.
It certainly appears therefore, that the leadership and the party is doing something right in the eyes of those who supported them in the past. Pockets of gains have been seen particularly among the older 35+ age groups and those in more rural locations, as well as in its previous strongholds in Munster.
Certainly, it does appear as if the party is significantly more stable in terms of its leadership than at the height of the crisis, and there has been plenty of media coverage around both this and Michéal Martin’s more secure position recently.
Perhaps then, it has become more acceptable to say that you would vote for the party again in the future, and this is winning back voters who hadn’t gone that far away, but were unsure of their future support. If this is the case, it could bode well for Fianna Fáil to regain further lost supporters into the future.
However, the see-saw of support across the government could also continue. There is no doubt that having a strong-leader as Taoiseach benefits the party. However, Fianna Fáil only have until the end of the year before they must hand back the Taoiseach role to Fine Gael, and this in itself might well see a rebalance of support between the two parties again.
Download the full report below