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Up? Down? The polls have been delivering mixed messages

It can be hard to know what to believe.

Mixed results
Mixed results
Image: TheJournal.ie/Michelle Hennessy

TODAY THREE NATIONAL Sunday newspapers are leading their coverage with opinion polls.

The Behaviour and Attitudes poll on the front of today’s Sunday Times was leaked yesterday morning and the 4% support it showed for Labour would have set alarm bells ringing for the party.

Joan Burton and co would have been relieved hours later when the results of the Millward Brown poll published in the Sunday Independent and the Red C poll published in the Sunday Business Post emerged, showing a 6% support and 8% support for her party respectively.

With all of these numbers floating around, it can get a bit confusing. 

What exactly are the polls saying? 

Here are the results of the three big polls published today:

Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown

  • Fine Gael – 27% 
  • Fianna Fáil – 23% 
  • Sinn Féin – 19% 
  • Independents – 13%
  • Labour – 6% 
  • Anti-Austerity Alliance/ People Before Profit – 5%
  • Social Democrats – 4%
  • Green Party – 2% 
  • Renua Ireland – 2% 
  • Socialist Party – 1%

Sunday Business Post / Red C 

  • Fine Gael – 30% (+2%)
  • Inds/ Other – 28% (+2%)
  • Fianna Fáil – 18% (NC)
  • Sinn Féin – 16% (-4%)
  • Labour – 8% (NC)

Sunday Times/ Behaviour and Attitudes 

  • Fine Gael – 30% (+2%)
  • Fianna Fáil – 22% (+2%)
  • Sinn Féin – 15% (-1%)
  • AAA/PBP – 5% (+2%)
  • Independent Alliance – 5% (+1%)
  • Labour – 4% (-4%)
  • Greens – 3% (NC)
  • Renua – 3% (+1%)
  • Social Democrats – 3% (-1%)
  • Workers’ Party – 1% (NC)
  • Non-alligned Independent – 10% (NC)

The big talking points have been the gains made by Fine Gael in both the Sunday Times and Sunday Business Post polls, the collapse of Labour in the Sunday Times poll and the gains made by Fianna Fáil in the Sunday Independent poll.

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What do all the polls tell us? 

While today’s opinion polls have been the subject of intense scrutiny, the conflicting figures have made it difficult to read too much into the party support numbers.

The margin of error for opinion polls is 3%, meaning that the gains or losses made by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are potentially negligible.

And this margin of error – applied to opinion polls internationally – does not account for the difference in support for some of the parties when comparing today’s polls.

The difference in support for Sinn Féin in the Sunday Times and Sunday Independent polls and for Labour in the Sunday Times and Sunday Business Post polls is 4% for both parties.

Read: Leo would make a better leader of Fine Gael – poll

Also: Quiz: How well do you remember the 2011 election?

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