Political polling, at least the kind made public, was once thought of as a science but recent, contrary-to-predictions results have made a reappraisal of polling methodology necessary.
Some results, especially David Cameron’s 2015 Tory majority, were so in conflict with what had been seen in the crystal ball that they suggest polling is more a finger-in-the-wind voodoo than a discipline.
Britain’s decision to quit the EU and President Trump’s victory were not predicted either but pollsters take comfort that the margins in those votes were so tight that the usual 3% wriggle room might save their blushes. Nevertheless, this unreliability led to a French newspaper — Le Parisien — to stop publishing opinion polls.
Polls ahead of the April round of France’s presidential election put far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 25%. The same poll predicts she will be beaten two-to-one — 66% to 34% — by independent Emmanuel Macron in the second round in May.
Germans vote in September and Chancellor Angela Merkel, on 34%, is just ahead of Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats on 31%. In Holland, polls predict far-right Geert Wilders will win power next month.
These polls will generate momentum but the weekend poll showing Fianna Fáil has an 11-point lead over Fine Gael will quickly feed into the accelerating vortex in the Dáil. That kerfuffle will be fuelled too by Sinn Féin’s no confidence motion.
We seem on the cusp of what could be a momentous week for the Government, for politics and, most importantly, the idea of accountability, credibility and trust in public institutions.
Fianna Fáil hit 32% up 3% while Fine Gael polled 21% a fall of 2%. Fianna Fáil’s rating is a six-year record high but Fine Gael’s 21% is its lowest. These figures will stir barely-kept-in-check Fianna Fáil traditionalists unhappy to continue to play second fiddle. They will smell blood and see opportunity.
Ironically, the figures may convince those who would succeed Enda Kenny that they might be wise to wait until there is something like clarity around the deepening Sgt Maurice McCabe scandal before instigating a challenge. After all, who would want to captain a ship heading for the rocks?
Worryingly, the assertion by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that she had no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding allegations against Sgt McCabe until details were published last week stretches credibility further.
So does her declaration that she had just one conversation with Minister Katherine Zappone on the issue. The oldest question of all in politics — if not, why not? — is unavoidable.
Mr Kenny was a TD for seven years when the first GUBU scandal unfolded so he knows how these things play out. This is his GUBU crisis and unless he leads a response far beyond the kicking to touch, the ignorance, feigned or otherwise, the moral-reservation obscurantism and the chilling air of stonewalling and conspiracy, he and his colleagues won’t need a poll to tell them what their future holds.
All around the western world liberal democracy is in retreat because governments underestimated the response required to scandals like the sordid McCabe affair. This is a stand-up-and-be-counted moment. So much at stake, so little time.
READ MORE: Maurice McCabe meeting deepens crisis
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