Monday, May 3, 2010

May Day bump for Labour

It's been a while since I commented on an opinion poll, mainly because in the last 6 months or so all changes have been within the margin of error. It's been just two days since the results of the most recent RedC poll were published. Since then there have been two depressing rugby matches and one awesome gig so I almost let it slide. However, the result is so unexpected that it is worth commenting on even at this remove.

The headline story is the 7 point increase for Labour pushing them above Fianna Fáil into second place on 23%. There are a few plausible explanations for this massive increase in support in such a short period of time.
Party Conference
The Labour Party Conference was held in Galway a few weeks ago. The televised leader's speech by Eamon Gilmore was positive and well received generally. Generally after a conference a party's support can be expected to increase somewhat.
New Recruits
The party has been actively recruiting members and potential candidates in the last while, especially in areas where previously there would be little support for Labour. With a plausible candidate in place, voters who might previously have only been inclined to vote for the party will now actually come out and declare their support.
UK Issues
Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats in the UK have shown that it is possible to become a new force in a stale electoral situation. While Clegg's star seems to be fading again, over the polling period a lot of the news cycle from the UK was centered on his excellent performance in the first leaders' debate. There is now serious momentum for Gilmore to be included in a three way debate with Kenny and Cowen whenever the next general election is called.
The left vote is consolidating behind Labour most notable with a 4% drop in support for Sinn Féin. Again with Labour being seen as a serious threat to the two larger parties the protest vote will move Labour rather than start off as a PBP or the like and then transfer to Labour at a later count

The real question is how much of this jump is permanent or is it actually a rogue poll that sometimes just happens with the random sampling. If June's RedC shows Labour still above 20% then I would see this as a sustainable increase in core support rather than just a flash in the pan.

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