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Vote 19

A worrying trend for Fianna Fáil as exit polls show young people abandoning party

Micheál Martin has a task to convince those in their teens and 20s to give his candidates first preferences.

AN EXIT POLL following the European and local elections yesterday highlights how Fianna Fáil continues to have trouble attracting younger voters.

The Red C poll for RTÉ and TG4 throws up some interesting figures, indicating a trend away from what has traditionally been Ireland’s largest political party. 

The poll of just over 3,000 people is subject to a wide range of potential sources of error but the data follows previous election results and anecdotal analysis that Fianna Fáil is failing with teenaged adults and those in their 20s. 

According to the poll, just 14% of those aged 18 to 24 gave their first preferences to Fianna Fáil candidates. That compares to Fine Gael’s 23% share and the Green Party’s 17%. Sinn Féin is also one percentage point ahead on 15%. 

The figures for individual candidates in the European elections make for even starker reading for party leader Micheál Martin.  

Although the sample sizes are small and should only be taken as indications, there is a trend of support for Fianna Fáil candidates falling by age category.

In Midlands North West, Brendan Smith is seen to enjoy a 12% share of the over-65 vote, but this falls to 3-6% for those aged between 25 and 64. Of the 18- to 24-year-olds sampled, 0% gave him a first preference. 

Smith has been a TD for Cavan-Monaghan since 1992. He served as Minister for Agriculture between 2008 and 2011 and Minister for Justice for a brief time in 2011. In‘s audit of European candidates, he said his priority was to “secure Brexit mitigation measures for all sectors of the economy”. 


Similarly in Dublin, Barry Andrews received 20% of the over-65 vote, according to the exit poll. This fell to 13% for 55-64-year-olds and between 10% and 11% for 35-54 year-olds. His share of votes slides into the single figures as the age categories get younger. He sees just 7% of first preferences from 25-34 year olds and only 2% of those aged under 24. 

Andrews, a former CEO of the charity Goal and the current director-general of the Institute of International and European Affairs, is 52 years old. One of main tenets of his campaign was to create a Dublin Office in Brussels what would “seek out funding opportunities for urban projects and to monitor the impact of EU initiatives on the capital”. 

European Parliament Election Debate Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Billy Kelleher, a TD for Cork North-Central is looking set to become an MEP for Ireland South, moves from 15% support in the over-65 category to 9% of 18-24 year-olds and 7% of 25-34 year-olds. 

Kelleher, 51, was the party’s spokesperson for health and was pro-repeal ahead of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment after sitting on the Oireachtas health committee. 

Bucking the trend slightly is Malcolm Byrne of Wexford, who maintained a 10% share of the youth vote, up from the 7-9% support he received from 25 to 54 year-olds. 

Byrne, 45, has been a councillor in Wexford since 2009.  

3858 European Election Manifesto_90570122 Kelleher and Byrne

The Red C questionnaire also asked respondents – who were asked to participate outside polling stations after voting yesterday – about their general election preferences. Asked which party they would vote for if there was a vote tomorrow, 24% of 18 to 24 year-olds said Fine Gael, while 21% said the Green Party. 

Fianna Fáil enjoys just 15% support in that category, compared to 33% of over 65s. 

As turnout for local and European elections is usually much lower than for general elections and voter motivation varies, the exit poll isn’t a perfect predictor of general election results, but the trends will still make worrying reading for Fianna Fáil’s next director of elections. 

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