Public Affairs: Poll of Polls

The renewal of the Confidence and Supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the uncertainty around Brexit had created confidence that the next election would not be until 2020.

However, in politics, the only certainty is uncertainty.

Political crises can develop when and where you might least expect them. No one foresaw the circumstances which led to the resignations of Ministers like Frances Fitzgerald or Denis Naughten.

Add to this constant risk of a destabilising issue arising, the evident dissent in parts of the Fianna Fáil party at the continuance of Confidence and Supply and the possibility of a short-term development on Brexit which kicks that can down the road for 6 to 12 months.

Any of these issues alone could trigger an election.

The question is…what would happen?

Don’t believe any politicians when she or he says they don’t take any notice of opinion polls. Some get spooked by a bad poll. Some over interpret one poll as evidence that public mood has changed dramatically. But what senior strategists in all parties watch is the TREND in polls.

Most weeks one newspaper or other produces their latest poll. In 2018, 33 separate political polls were published by Irish media. Our DruryPN Poll of Polls draws on all of the data in those polls, aggregates them over quarters and shows the trend of support for all the main parties.

The trend for Fine Gael is that it has floated just above 30% (compared to 25.5% in the General Election of 2016). The initial indications for 2019 (just 4 polls so far) suggest some slippage but Fine Gael strategists may increasingly feel that 30% is their new floor.

Fianna Fáil have fluctuated around the 25% mark which is modestly up on the 2016 General Election figure. Of concern for FF however is that FG has maintained a fairly consistent 6/7% gap compared to the 1% gap at GE 2016.

On a positive note for Sinn Féin, it is polling consistently higher (around 5%) than its GE 2016 result. However, the party’s showing in elections tends to fall behind its polling figures. Also of note is that the height that they reached in Q2 when Mary Lou McDonald became leader has slowly declined.

Polls are particularly poor at predicting how independents might fare in an election. Support has fluctuated but overall support for independents of all hues is still similar to its GE figure.

There is no evidence of a surge for smaller parties – Labour, Green Party, Social Democrats, Sol/PBP etc.

Health warning. Our Poll of Polls reflects the trend in polls since the start of 2018. But, election campaigns matter. So these figures suggest where the parties are at starting off. They are not a hard predictor of the outcome.