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Core issues of referendums, housing and immigration to the fore among electorate

Participants in snapshot poll unimpressed by how Coalition handled campaign on Family and Care referendums

Grabbing the public’s attention, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos B&A Snapshot poll, are the Family and Care referendums and how these campaigns were managed by the Government.

When participants in the snapshot poll were asked what they had seen or heard from Government recently that suggested the country is going in the right or wrong direction, 23 per cent cited or remarked on the Family and Care referendums.

The sudden appearance of referendums in the latest poll has not reduced the potency of housing (mentioned by 16 per cent, up one point), highlighting how entrenched it is as an issue of public concern.

Immigration remains topical (14 per cent of mentions), although somewhat overshadowed by the referendums this month (down eight points).

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Fieldwork for the latest snapshot poll was carried out between March 1st and March 13th, covering both pre- and post-referendum periods, and was completed before Leo Varadkar announced his resignation.

Each snapshot poll is conducted among a random national sample of 1,000 Irish adults aged 15 years and upwards.

Women were significantly more cognisant of the March 8th referendums (mentioned by 30 per cent) than men (mentioned by 16 per cent).

Also highly engaged was the most progressive generation — the 15- to 24-year-olds — among whom 36 per cent of verbatims referenced the referendums.

Why did Leo Varadkar choose this moment to go?

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The referendum results themselves are evidence that the Government did not capitalise on the opportunity. Today’s snapshot findings provide some insight into where it went wrong.

Comments made about the Government’s referendum performance were broadly unfavourable, with 81 per cent of verbatims on the topic classified as negative.

While all age cohorts viewed the referendums unfavourably, the 35- to 54-year-old age group was particularly unimpressed, with 94 per cent of comments from this cohort categorised as negative.

Both women (79 per cent negative) and men (85 per cent negative) gave the Government the thumbs down on how the referendums were handled.

Referendum negativity overwhelmingly focused on a lack of information and understanding. Verbatim comments were peppered with references to complexity, confusion and a general lack of information.

Some respondents were unhappy with the wording, with ambiguity leading them to question whether changing the Constitution would actually enhance the status and protections given to women and carers.

The need to hold the referendums in the first instance was queried by some respondents, with reference made on occasion to the costs involved.

Over time, the housing crisis has proven to be a thorn in the side of the Government, refusing to slip down the list of issues on which the Government is judged, no matter what else is going on. For housing it is business as usual in March, mentioned by 16 per cent of all respondents, increasing to 21 per cent among 25- to 34-year-olds.

Immigration completes the triumvirate of meta-narratives shaping opinion, attracting 14 per cent of comments this month. Among the least affluent socio-economic grouping, immigration remains the lens through which the Government is most likely scrutinised, accounting for 24 per cent of comments.

When Government opinion is under the gravitational pull of three core issues — referendums, housing and immigration — other concerns struggle to feature prominently. Less salient in March were issues such as Israel-Palestine, crime-gardaí and climate change-sustainability.

Next month’s snapshot poll will no doubt tell a different story. The referendums will be old news, replaced perhaps by a leadership contest and the fallout from Varadkar’s resignation. A month is a very long time in politics.

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