"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Poll suggests opposition on course to win election

The general election has yet to be called, but the electioneering is approaching full speed. Tomorrow's Irish Times/mrbi opinion poll (previewed here) represents a major boost for the (sometimes fragile) morale of Fine Gael. Conversely, Fianna Fail will be worried. The Irish Election blog notes: "The poll was conducted over last Monday and Tuesday from a representative sample of 1,000 voters at 100 sampling points across the country and in particular after the parties had all published the key economic aspects of their manifestos. Tomorrow’s Irish Times will have greater details on the adjustments made to the polling data so keep an eye open as this poll has been moved towards FG due to these adjustments."

The outline findings are that FF is on 34% (-3), Fine Gael 31 (+5), Labour 10 (-1), Greens 6 (-2), Progressive Democrats 3 (+2), Sinn Fein 10 (+1), Independents 6 (-2). RTE's website notes that: "These figures have been adjusted by the polling company, TNS/mrbi, to take account of the fact that opinion polls usually put Fianna Fáil too high, and Fine Gael too low, in comparison to their actual election vote." Be that as it may, there's no doubt that "the trend is unmistakeably toward Fine Gael and away from Fianna Fáil." On the figures presented in this poll, Fine Gael would stage a major recovery from its (admittedly dismal) 2002 result; it would almost certainly make Enda Kenny Taoiseach and Pat Rabbitte Tanaiste. Recent polls had suggested a competitive election, but this poll is the first to put the FG-Labour alternative (on 41% - 47% if the Greens are included) in a position to form a stable government, or at least come very close to doing so.

It is instructive to recall that, in the 2002 election, Fine Gael's vote share fell from 27.9% to 22.5% and its Dail seat count went from 54 to 31. Meanwhile, Fianna Fail in 2002 went from 39.3% to 41.5% and from 77 seats to 81. On the showing in tomorrow's poll, FG would in all likelihood return to its 1997-2002 strength (54 seats), or probably even make further gains. FF, which last time out won 48.8% seats on the basis 41.5% of first preferences would lose in the region of 20 seats. Bertie Ahern's career would meet the fate ordained for all politicians by Enoch Powell; Mayo would have the top two positions in government (provided Pat Rabbitte survives as Labour party leader after a disappointing 10% showing).

It's all to play for.

Update (Sat., 12.05 a.m.): The second part of the Irish Times/mrbi poll asked respondents whether they would prefer the current government, the possible Rainbow alternative. The findings: FF/PDs 35% (-7), FG/Labour and possibly the Greens 36% (+5); 14% answered they preferred neither; 15% did not know who they preferred.


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