A survey of over 7,000 public servants has found that substantial majorities are prepared to vote for parties they haven’t previously supported depending on the basis of policies on pay, healthcare, housing, childcare, and the four-day week.
The poll, conducted by Amárach Research for Fórsa, found that 88% of public servants said public service pay policy was either an important or a very important factor in determining how they would vote on 8th February.
Almost two-thirds (63%) said they would consider voting for parties they hadn’t voted for in the past if they pledged inflation-plus pay increases, while only 9% said they would not consider doing so. More than half (53%) said they would refuse to vote for parties that didn’t pledge inflation-busting rises.
A whopping 94% said it was unacceptable that higher-paid public servants are having their pay fully restored to pre-crisis levels, while those on lower incomes are still working extra unpaid hours introduced during the recession.
Over two-thirds (68%) said this could influence their vote on Saturday week, while only 15% said the issue would definitely not influence their choice of candidate.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said the survey was the first significant attempt to identify the factors that will determine how Ireland’s 300,000 public servants will vote in a general election.
“There are four stand-out messages from our survey. First, public servants care most about the same issues – particularly housing, health, living costs, and childcare – as the rest of Ireland. Second, public service pay is definitely an issue for a significant proportion of the electorate.
“Third, public servants are prepared to change their voting behaviour on the basis of party positions on the issues they care most about. And fourth, public servants will turn up to vote on Saturday week,” he said.
The poll, which took place between Thursday 23rd and Tuesday 28th January, also found that:
• 88% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they pledged increased investment in community health services as part of a move towards free healthcare for all (4% said they would not; 9% don’t know)
• 79% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they pledged to support a four-day week, or other mechanisms to reduce working time, without loss of pay or productivity (7% said they would not; 14% don’t know)
• 79% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they committed to a large-scale public home-building programme to address the housing and homelessness crisis (6% said they would not; 14% don’t know)
• 71% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they pledged to support publicly-provided and funded affordable childcare for working people (9% said they would not; 19% don’t know)
• 65% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they committed to an early referendum to ensure that Ireland’s water services remain in public ownership (10% said they would not; 25% don’t know)
• 59% of public servants said they would back parties they haven’t previously voted for if they pledged to require employers to publish their organisation’s gender pay gap (10% said they would not; 31% don’t know).
Almost all (99%) of the 7,148 Fórsa members who participated in the online survey said they intended to vote in the general election, although a very significant 27% remained undecided about who would get their support.
Just 4% of respondents identified tax as the single biggest issue in the election, way behind health (22%), housing and homelessness (18%), wages and salaries (17%), the cost of living (12%), and climate change (7%).
Of the 7,148 respondents:
• 73% were female.
• 5% were under 30 years of age.
• 52% were between 31 and 50 years of age.
• 43% were over 50 years of age.
• 28% were from Dublin city and county.
• 26% were from Leinster (not including Dublin city and county).
• 26% were from Munster.
• 20% were from Connacht/Ulster.
Members in private companies and commercial semi-state bodies were not polled as the intention was to identify opinion among public servants and those on linked pay scales.