If recent opinion polls are to be believed, a snap election may push voters back into the arms of the traditional large parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
Polls can never be fully trusted, but they offer an indicator of where the country stands should Taoiseach Leo Varadkar go to the Áras in the next day or so.
It seems to be an election that nobody wants yet, here we stand on the brink of one.
There have been more than 40 opinion polls since the last general election in February 2016.
While Fine Gael underperformed in the last election, taking just 50 seats, recent opinion polls have shown the party making steady gains since then.
The most recent Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes opinion poll earlier this month showed Fine Gael support at 34% (+3 percentage points) and Fianna Fáil at 31% (+4pp). By contrast, support for Sinn Féin had fallen 5pp to 14% while Labour fell 1pp to 3%,level with the Independent Alliance and Solidarity/People Before Profit. It’s not quite the move away from Civil War politics people had come to expect.
This point was made by Dr Adrian Kavanagh on his popular election blog when he analysed the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI from October.
That poll put Fine Gael support at 31%, Fianna Fáil (29%), Sinn Féin (19%), and Labour (4%).
On the basis of that breakdown of support, Dr Kavanagh predicted that an election would result in Fine Gael taking 62 seats and Fianna Fáil would win 54. The two main parties would be followed by Sinn Féin (27), Independents (9), Green Party (2), Social Democrats (2), Solidarity/People Before Profit (1) and Labour (1). A return to the civil war politics of old?
Maybe, maybe not. While it must be noted that when the other “Civil War” party, Sinn Féin, is factored in here, the combined support for the “Civil War parties” come in at just under 80% in this poll — up by around 15pp on their combined vote in the 2016 election.
“As the larger parties advance, the smaller parties and Independents all fall back, with the exception of the Green Party, while Labour support levels are significantly lower than the already very low levels of support won by that party at the 2016 contest. The Empire Strikes Back? Probably,” Dr Kavanagh wrote on his blog.
Writing for RTÉ in September, emeritus professor at Trinity College Dublin Michael Marsh said the polls showed one thing — they contained nothing “to give either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil a firm indication that they would have much to gain by an election”.
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