Labour’s policies not a distraction

THE Labour Party has been derided for failing to produce viable economic policies, but voters do not appear to care.

Labour’s policies not a distraction

There is little between the party and Fine Gael when voters are asked which policies would work to pull Ireland out of its current mess.

However, rather than suggesting a wave of support for the stance the Labour Party has taken, the poll indicates voters are just as dismissive of both sets of policies from the prospective coalition partners.

Just 23% of those surveyed think the Labour Party has the right plan for the economy, 1% below Fine Gael.

For both parties there was a large group who could not make their mind up on either approach.

For Eamon Gilmore’s Labour Party, the poll revealed 43% of people do not believe its policies can effectively deal with the ongoing recession. Those aged 18-25 are most likely to agree with its approach (37%) and it loses among the 50-64-year-old bracket where less than one in five have faith in its financial strategy.

And rather than being ignorant of the policies the results suggest the electorate has different views about what is important but is willing to back Mr Gilmore regardless.

The Labour Party opposes cuts to child benefit, but 70% of those polled believe it is the fairest way to raise revenue.

Similarly Mr Gilmore has said he rejects the introduction of a property tax on residential homes, but this is the next favoured option among the people if cuts have to be made.

Meanwhile 81% of people do not think it is realistic to achieve the savings targeted by 2014 without at least renegotiating the Croke Park Agreement on pay in the public service. However, this does not matter when it comes to the face of the Labour Party’s election charge.

The poll sheds light on just how well Mr Gilmore has managed to connect with the electorate since he took over from the unpopular Pat Rabbitte following the 2007 General Election.

A solid foundation of 14% of people strongly agree with the idea he would make a good taoiseach. This is even more impressive because it is above the 10% of first preference votes Labour got in 2007.

Mr Gilmore just needs to address the problem of getting the right candidates in non-traditional constituencies who can act as a lightening rod for those inclined to like him. Tellingly, in Donegal south west last week Cllr Frank McBrearty did not get 14% of the vote to mirror this poll. So it has not found the formula for fully exploiting its promise.

The Gilmore team will be particularly pleased with the consistency of his personal support regardless of gender, age group or social class.

Older voters, especially the retired, have a better impression of Mr Gilmore, and he gets more favourable responses from people in Dublin and Leinster than in Munster and Connaught Ulster.

A slight concern will be raised because the negative impressions of the party’s economic polices are marginally more pronounced in the west and south where Labour is hoping to make its inroads in the election.

Similar to the ratings for Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, there are many who have not made up their mind on the TD elected from Dún Laoghaire.

A quarter of people took a non-committal stance on his prospects as taoiseach and 9% do not know.

LESSONS FOR LABOUR

- The public is more open to certain cuts than the Labour Party’s hardline stance of social welfare measures suggests, particularly its refusal to entertain taxing or means testing child benefit.

- The party is out of step with the majority of people if it believes the Croke Park Agreement can remain intact for four years.

- People like the prospect of Eamon Gilmore as taoiseach, but they do not believe Labour has the policies to solve economic crisis.

- For a third of people the jury is still out on Eamon Gilmore, 9% do not know if he would make a good taoiseach and 24% were on the fence.

- Munster is more of a problem than the Labour Party’s recent strategy suggests. Its national plan has focused on midlands.

- Its opposition to the plan to cut the minimum wage is popular among people.

- Eamon Gilmore has his biggest following among younger people. But it is middle aged voters where the disaffection is strongest and worry greatest.

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