'Fixing potholes' key to election success, claims study

Fixing potholes still gets TDs elected to the Dáil, a new book claims today.

Fixing potholes still gets TDs elected to the Dáil, a new book claims today.

'The Irish Voter', written by four university academics, claims to be the biggest-ever study of its kind on behaviour at the ballot boxes.

It includes a major survey of 2,500 people on their voting behaviour in the 2002 General Election.

Co-author Michael Marsh said: "Politicians are professionals. They know what gets them elected and it's not performing in the Dáil. It's fixing potholes. It's knocking on doors."

The book explores long-term influences on voting such as family loyalties to parties and short-term factors such as the state of the economy, party leaders and local candidates.

It also analyses voter turnout and what causes people not to cast their ballots.

Mr Marsh, who is professor of comparative political behaviour at the School of Social Science and Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, also said that the Lisbon Treaty referendum will be won or lost on the doorsteps.

"Our research underlines the importance of the door-to-door canvas in winning support and getting out the vote, which may also hold lessons for both the pro and the anti-Lisbon campaigns," he explained.

"Many people will not vote in this referendum, but as the book shows there are no easy answers to the question of why participation is not higher."

Mr Marsh also claimed that a popular party leader will not guarantee electoral success in the long-term.

"Leaders can help their parties, but effects are marginal, even in the case of Bertie Ahern.

He added: "In Ireland, elections are seen as mechanisms for holding governments accountable for what they have done rather than for instructing them in what they should do.

"Even then, the degree of candidate-centred voting weakens any potential link between elections and national policy".

The other co-authors are Richard Sinnott, John Garry and Fiachra Kennedy.

'The Irish Voter: The Nature Of Electoral Competition In The Republic Of Ireland' will be launched in Trinity College tonight by broadcaster and political commentator, Olivia O'Leary.

Co-author Mr Sinnott is associate professor at the UCD School of Politics and International Relations.

Mr Garry of Queen's University Belfast and Fiachra Kennedy of the UCD Geary Institute also contributed.

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