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Irish voters trust Gardaí and RTÉ most, banks and political parties least

Results of a comprehensive survey of Irish voters also show that people want fewer TDs, value local interaction highly, and don’t want the electoral system to change.

Image: Photocall Ireland

A NEW STUDY has found that Irish voters consider the Gardaí, the courts and RTÉ to be among the most trusted institutions in the State, while political parties, banks and the Dáil are the least trusted.

The Irish National Election Study (INES) took the data gathered from face-to-face interviews with over 1,800 people during February’s General Election campaign and analysed it in an effort to understand Irish voting behaviour.

The results put confidence in banks, political parties and the Dáil behind the likes of the EU, the civil service, the courts and the church. The Gardaí came out on top of the eleven institutions polled, followed by RTÉ and the courts.

Professor Michael Marsh of Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Political Science, who is involved in the INES, told that the responses to the question of confidence in institutions threw up some surprising results, saying “you may have expected politicians to do better than the church, but the church only came halfway down the list, while politicians came second last”.

Professor March told that some of the most interesting things to emerge from the research was the conflicting opinions of Irish voters when compared with some commonly held views.

He said that leading economists and commentators often put forward the view that politicans “are useless and spend all of their time dealing with potholes instead of bigger issues”. Marsh said that if some widely expressed views were to be believed, then the Irish political system should be changed to turn the focus more into national issues.

However, Professor March said that the study results have shown that the public do like the electoral system, saying “they like it because they like what their TD does in the constituency for them. Most people have a pretty high opinion of their local TDs and rate them highly”.

When asked if TDs providing a local service was the strength of the Irish political system over 40 per cent of voters in Munster agreed while around 35 per cent of Connaught and Ulster voters agreed. That figure was just above 30 per cent for Leinster. Only in Dublin did the number of those who disagreed with the idea that a local TD service was the strength of the political system outweigh the number of people who agreed.

The study also revealed that a Irish people make a lot of contact with their local TDs, and that by and large they were quite satisfied with the results. Over 80 per cent of voters who had made contact with their local representative and had a satisfactory experience said they would vote for that TD’s party.

The study revealed some interesting results regarding reforming the political system. The number of TDS. Almost 80 per cent of respondents feel that the number of TDs should be reduced, and that the Cabinet should include experts who are not TDs. It also found that while voters are happy to have less politicians, they are widely opposed to reforming the way people are elected via the STV system:

Those interviewed said they’d like to see more young TDs and female TDs in the Dáil, but took a different view when it came to old age pensioners, or TDs of a pensionable age:

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Voters also felt that it was important that their TD should be of the same political viewpoint as them, and being from the same area, but put much less value on the TD being of the same religious views or of the same sex:

Thirty-three per cent of those interviewed said that they had very little or no knowledge about how the Dáil works, while 38 per cent said that they had ‘some’ knowledge of what goes on. Twenty-five per cent said that they knew a ‘fair amount’ while only four per cent said they knew a lot about the workings of the Dáil.

- All images courtesy of Professor Michael Marsh

The research was carried out by the Red C polling company. It conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,863 people around the country. A number of political scientists were also involved in the study. Professor Michael Marsh told that these results only scratch the surface of the information which was gleaned from the study. He also said that the results can be said to be representative of the electorate as a whole.

About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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