Given the inconclusive results, many commentators are forecasting another election in the near future.
The thought of launching into a further exhausting round of canvassing, and getting a rather negative reception on the doorsteps, must fill many TDs with dread, writes Professor John Garry, of QUB’s School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy.
However, if the starting gun is indeed fired for another election campaign, could TDs reasonably say to sceptical voters: “Well, you must have known there was a good chance of another election?”
Yes, is the short answer. According to the Exit Poll, exactly half of all voters stated that another election within 12 months was likely.
One third said it was unlikely and the rest said they did not know.
Voters’ expectations varied significantly across party, and particularly between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters.
Among FG voters, slightly more said an election was unlikely (43%) than likely (40%).
In contrast, 57% of FF voters thought another election likely (and only 27% said unlikely).
An almost identical pattern also emerges when just ‘hardcore’ party supporters are looked at (those voters who said they ‘feel close to’ either FF or FG).
Of course, expecting a second election and being happy about a second election may be very different things, but these findings suggest that FF may have less cause for concern than FG if they have to knock on the same doors again within a few months.
As the party leaders consider their various options, and add up the pros and cons of instigating another election, FF have arguably another reason to be less concerned than FG about going to the country.
In the event of more leaders’ debates, Micheál Martin appears better positioned than Enda Kenny.
The Exit Poll found that a very large proportion of voters (two thirds) watched the leaders’ debates.
When asked to evaluate the performance of the various leaders in the debates two fifths (39%) said that Martin came out best overall compared to only 8% who felt that Kenny performed best.
A large proportion of FF voters (72%) stated that Martin performed best (and 14% said no-one came out best).
In contrast, less than one fifth (19%) of FG voters felt that Kenny performed best.
Just over a third of FG voters (34%) picked Martin as the best performer and this cross-party generosity was reciprocated with a paltry 2% of FF voters saying that Kenny performed best.
While leadership qualities are just one element of many influencing vote choice, these findings are more worrying for Kenny than for Martin as the leaders ponder the potential joys and pitfalls of an imminent second election.
Professor John Garry, Queen's University Belfast