When people were asked who they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow, party support – when undecided voters are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fine Gael, 25 per cent (down six points); Labour, 10 per cent (down two points); Fianna Fáil, 26 per cent (up five points); Sinn Féin, 18 per cent (down two points); Green Party, 1 per cent (down one point); and Independents/Others, 20 per cent (up six points). The poll was taken last Monday and Tuesday.I suspect that this poll underestimates FG support somewhat. More than one-third of the electorate is undecided. In addition the poll was taken before the Promissory Note deal which would undoubtedly benefit the government parties in any public opinion sample. Also the EU budget deal concluded on Friday has protected the CAP. However notwithstanding these events there are clear-cut reasons for the decline in FG support:
- The closure of garda barracks is very unpopular in rural Ireland.In some areas there has hysteria on the crime issue. Much of it nonsensical. In many cases it has been whipped up. This has terrified many elderly people. Notwithstanding this there is a crime problem in some rural areas. In addition there is revulsion at the murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe. This is fresh in the minds of voters.
- The horse-meat controversy has angered many farmers notwithstanding the fact that Minister Coveney is making every effort to get to the root of the problem. Farmers are worried about beef exports and fear a fall in prices.
- Many farmers are angry at proposals from Ruairi Quinn on Third Level grants.
- There is a strong anti-government campaign in some sections of the media. The Sunday Independent has led a savage attack. The government has taken a hammering on the Vincent Browne programme on TV3. The preponderance of coverage on RTE is negative and anti-government. Certainly day to day political decisions are reported. Dig down into the coverage however and in some cases you encounter an anti government slant. Some elements within RTE have set up the government for criticism on a regular basis. It is quite blatant to this observer. It is beautifully orchestrated. In addition any opposition to cutbacks is sure to get maximum publicity on the station. RTE traditionally had a policy of reading out an equal number of pro and anti government comments on any controversial issue. In some cases this no longer happens. It is particularly interesting to note how RTE reports on cut backs. Scarcely if ever is the national debt or budget deficit mentioned. Scarcely if ever is an effort made to explain the dire financial situation which makes cutbacks imperative.
- The harsh budget has hit the government's popularity. The government itself has failed to EXPLAIN in clear English the implications of the €13 billion deficit or the €170 billion national debt. Most people do not understand the term "deficit". Hence they cannot comprehend the necessity for cutbacks. They assume that payments to bondholders are responsible for all the cutbacks. The government needs to wake up on this issue and communicate the reality in crystal clear English. It is losing the electorate.
- The decision to legislate on the X-case has angered many FG voters. FG is a conservative Christian Democratic Party. Most FG supporters are opposed to abortion. FG backbenchers must stop James Reilly in his tracks on this issue. James Reilly is a major vote loser for FG. He comes across as arrogant.
- Sinn Fein has acted as Fianna Fail's battering ram. It has savaged the government parties on a continuous basis. It has averted its gaze from FF allowing that party to sneak up on the inside and gain ground. Scarcely if ever do Sinn Fein TDs attack FF on its stewardship of the economy. FF has got a breather and has started to recover. Increasingly FF will benefit from Sinn Fein attacks on the government as the Sinn Fein is seen as too extreme to benefit from damage inflicted.