Party Polling by Age Demographics

I’ve always found it a bit strange that politics in Ireland just stops happening over the summer. Or at least, the formal mechanism of the legislature go into hibernation. Consequently, there isn’t a lot happening on the polling front. This is a shame, not only for nerds like me, but because we have needed polling this summer as the government has bounced from scandal to scandal (yes, this one even got its own wikipedia page!) to really stupid scandal. The leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party all took to the media to defend their actions and – inevitably – made everything worse.

Under normal circumstances you’d expect heads to roll, but this government has shown – with the notable exception of poor old Dara Calleary, who at least appears to have some sense of self-awareness – that it is not operating under normal circumstances and will brazen out everything it makes a mess of, which has felt like a weekly occurrence over the last year. Ultimately, it would have been interesting, and may have put more pressure on the government, if there were polling at this time but, as mentioned, politics is on holidays.

Anyway, the point of all this is two-fold – firstly, without any polling, I haven’t got anything to write about, and secondly, I’ve spent too much time having fun about the whole thing on Twitter to be productive anyway.

But look, it’s been a while since an update, so maybe let’s look at something I haven’t gone into depth on before: how voters break down by age demographics. Will there be surprises? No, not really. But there’s some interesting pieces nonetheless.

(Oh, and on a side note, I finally got around to updating the projections to reflect the result of Dublin Bay South By-election. The model no longer shows Labour losing six seats, it now show them losing seven.)

This is the exit poll from GE2020, which was pretty accurate and gives us a good overall idea of where party support was by age in the last election. Annoyingly, it uses five different brackets because IPSOS, whereas Red C and B&A use three. The rest of this piece will use that three bracket approach as it constitutes the vast bulk of polling, so this image should be taken as illustrative rather than comparative.

I think most people probably could have guessed it would look something like this, although I was surprised to see Sinn Féin came ahead (albeit by statistically insignificant amounts) among 35-49 year olds and 50-64 year olds. It’s also worth noting that the 65+ groups alone almost entirely cancelled out SF’s substantial lead among under 35s. There are more under 35s than over 65s in Ireland, though the population is overall aging. This is a reminder that old people are more likely to vote (and vote for right-wing candidates) than young, and there is no inevitable demographic die-off that will swing things to the left, as some people seem to think.

So let’s look at where we are now, using the same RPA methodology as I use for the main polls:

While, as above, we can’t do a 1:1 comparison with the GE20 result, we can draw some conclusions, albeit partially based on assumptions. Most notably, Sinn Féin look like they’re doing better across the board – and while they dominate in the under 35s category, it appears from this that their biggest growth has actually been among 35-54 year olds. This has come, perhaps unsurprisingly, at the expense of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. Fine Gael have also benefitted from their government colleagues’ struggles across the board. The numbers broadly reflect the overall polling – Soc Dems doing a little better, PBP doing a little worse, Independents down and Labour stagnant.

What is notable from this however is that while the age groups have very different levels of support, the overall movement since the general election is not relatively consistent across all three. However, theis doesn’t tell the whole story – graphing out the RPA gives us a better picture.

Starting with the under 35s, everyone is more or less back where they were a year ago, but that doesn’t mean things didn’t move – Fine Gael came unexpectedly close to closing the gap with Sinn Féin entirely in early September 2020, with the Green Party peaking around the same time – this is right before the pandemic started to go seriously wrong (bear in mind the RPA reacts to polling changes with something of a delay). There was something of a sense of national togetherness in how we were working together as a nation to beat the virus, before that misty-eyed nonsense rapidly dissolved in a series of botched re-openings and high profile spats.

It’s also worth noting, given what I said at the start about it being unfortunate that we don’t have polling to measure the impact of Vardakar’s latest scandal, as the GP contract leak scandal certainly seems to have had some impact on FG’s figure.

It’s also worth noting that the Green Party dipped substantially from their GE2020 figures after going into government. While this move proved unpopular overall with younger voters, support recovered to over 11% before slowly slumping down over the following months. Its a good illustration of the fact that young people didn’t vote for them to see them go into government, but were at one point being won around before being turned off again.

Final notes on this one – the SD’s latest moment seems to have passed, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come around again. Their drop in support seems to co-incide with a rise in Labour’s, which is possibly correlation rather than causation, but not something any Soc Dem will want to see. Fianna Fáil are ticking up recently, but this is merely bringing them back to where they started. PBP won’t like these numbers either – even adjusting for the fact that they are systemic underpolled by a point or so doesn’t offset the fact that they are doing worse than they did in the last election – something I would speculate is a result of Sinn Féin further consolidating the young left-wing vote.

The middle bracket is probably the least interesting, as the rise for Sinn Féin I mentioned before happened immediately post-election and therefore the RPA doesn’t show it; overall this has gone down a little but not moved a ton. The Fine Gael line shows similar decline to the 18-34s, but with the decline kicking in later, around December in the immediate aftermath of the Christmas re-opening that would precipitate another wave of COVID. It might have been appreciated by the business lobby and car park owners, but voters seem to have had a somewhat different view of it.

The one other thing that’s notable is the small but steady ticking up for Independent candidates – who have overall polled poorly in the last year. Being competitive with Fianna Fáil in this age group is exactly where they need to be for the big-ticket ones to hold their seats.

Finally, the over 55s, where we see a broadly similar trend for Fine Gael. Naturally the key difference here is Sinn Féin being much less popular, and indeed, unable to overtake Fianna Fáil. This is in some ways not good for FF – being so heavily reliant on older voters – but as observed at the start, this isn’t the demographic time bomb some people seem to think it is. While their days as top dog are well and truly gone, this indicates that the party isn’t going to face serious wipe-out for a long time.

Final thoughts on the over 55s: Although neither were very popular with them in the first place, the Greens have dropped back below Labour here since late last year – not a good sign. This is also the only age group who don’t have Aontú dead last, which is pretty much in keeping with Aontú’s strategy, but they are even here a million miles away from where they need to be for any kind of electoral breakthrough.

A brief note

Thanks very much for reading! I hope you found this informative and hopefully we’ll be able to get back to the main polling before summer is out. If you like what I’m doing here and want to support this website, you can click here, and if you want to get in contact, you can click here!

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