Just 1% of voters concerned about Brexit, poll suggests

Updated / Sunday, 9 Feb 2020 09:58

Exit poll conducted by Ipsos/MRBI on behalf of RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Leo Varadkar's attempt to frame the General Election around his Government's Brexit work appears to have failed, after just 1% of exit poll respondents said this was a factor in how they voted.

The figure - which may lead to questions within Fine Gael over the decision not to call the election last November - was confirmed in last night's exit poll, which saw respondents rank the issue joint last alongside "immigration" as a deciding factor in their vote.

The exit poll - conducted by Ipsos/MRBI on behalf of RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD - is based on the responses of more than 5,000 people at 250 polling stations across the country immediately after they voted yesterday.

Questions on who someone voted for, their age, gender and what region they are from were asked of all respondents, and have a margin of error of 1.3%.

However, in order to give an insight into the reasons why people voted certain ways, 15 additional questions were also asked of respondents, who were split into five different groups of 1,000 people and asked three questions each.

According to the responses to these additional questions:

- 58% of people said health (32%) or housing/homelessness (26%) were the most important deciding factor in how they voted, followed by pension age (8%), jobs (6%), climate change (6%), childcare (3%), crime (3%) and tax (4%).

- while just 1% of respondents said Brexit - one of the Government's most high-profile General Election touchstones - decided their vote, on a par with immigration (1%) and far below "something else" (6%) or "no response" (5%)

The figures indicate that while Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael repeatedly emphasised the Brexit threat and their work in avoiding a no-deal crisis, the issue did not resonate with voters.

Instead, two of the biggest problem areas for the Government appear to have been the underlying issues for voters.

The situation is likely to lead to a period of reflection for Mr Varadkar and his party over whether they should have called the election last November, as was rumoured at the time, when Brexit was still to the forefront of the public's mind.

Health was the most influential factor across almost all age groups and regions, with 43% of people over the age of 65 in particular saying it decided how they voted.


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It was only out-polled in three demographics - among 18-24 year olds, 25-34 year olds and people living in Dublin.

The exit poll also asked respondents a number of questions on the economy, giving a further insight into voters' minds.

Asked if they have benefited from an economic recovery and given three options on how to respond, 63% of those who took part in the exit poll said "this does not apply to me personally" while 37% said it did.

Similarly, two thirds of exit poll respondents (65%) said they were in favour of increasing spending on public services instead of tax cuts, compared to 35% who favoured a reduction in taxes, while 82% said a party's ability to manage the economy was crucial to their decision.

On the separate question of what they want to see as a result of the general election, 48% of respondents said it is "best to have a change of government" compared to 31% who said the "country needs a radical change in direction.

Just 21% said it is "best to continue with the government we have".

Similarly, asked how they voted in 2016, the 2020 exit poll respondents said, of the three biggest parties Fine Gael had 32% in 2016 compared to 22% in 2020, Fianna Fáil had 22% in 2016 compared to 22% in 2020, and Sinn Féin had 12% in 2016 compared to 22% in 2020.

Voters appear relatively evenly split on whether Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were right or wrong to rule out going into coalition with Sinn Féin, with 51% saying they were wrong to do so and 45% saying they were right to do so.

Similarly, asked if they want a border poll to take place at some stage in the next five years, 57% said they would like to see this happen - including 81% of Sinn Féin voters - while 40% said they would not like a poll by 2025.

While there has been significant discussion and debate throughout the three-and-a-half weeks General Election campaign, the exit poll has also suggested much of this ultimately did not matter to voters.

Asked when they decided how they would vote, 48% of respondents said "before the campaign/always knew", 28% said "during the campaign", 16% said "in the last couple of days" and 8% said "today/when casting my vote".