Housing and health were dominant issues in General Election – exit poll

Housing and health were the two standout issues for Irish voters in the 2020 General Election, an exit poll has suggested.

Ireland, currently in the worst housing crisis in the history of the state, has seen the national conversation dominated by issues of homelessness, rent prices, lack of affordable housing and young people living with their parents or in emergency accommodation.

In health, record-breaking trolley numbers as well as historic strikes by nurses and paramedic staff have dominated headlines in the last year, as well as a huge spending overrun in the long-awaited, still unopened National Children’s Hospital.

This was borne out in voting habits of the public, an exit poll conducted by Ipsos/MRBI on behalf of RTE, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD suggested. The poll showed that 32% people said health and 26% said housing/homelessness were the most important deciding factor in how they voted.

Ireland Housing Crisis
Homelessness played a big part in the election campaign (Brian Lawless/PA)

Health was the most influential factor across almost all age groups and regions.

The election became dominated by housing within the first days of the campaign when a homeless man was left with life-changing injuries after his tent was scooped up by an industrial vehicle while he was sleeping inside near a Dublin canal.

Fine Gael, the previous government party, maintained throughout the campaign that they knew they had not done enough to remedy the issue, as their rivals took the opportunity to hammer the government on alleged inaction and all went on to propose their own ambitious housing plans.

After health and housing, pension age came third in prominent voter issues, on 8%.

The pension age became an issue after controversy began over the fact that the age threshold is to be increased to 67 next year and 68 in 2028.

Due to some private sector contracts ending at 65, it emerged that some people may need to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance for two years before they became eligible for pensions.

Parties took different positions on the issue, with Sinn Fein guaranteeing they would keep the age at 65, while after some discussion Fine Gael said they would introduce a “transition payment” in order to remedy the issue, and Fianna Fail promised to postpone the rise.

Much to the dismay of Fine Gael, Brexit did not feature prominently as an issue in the votes.

The party campaigned on the fact that they were the best team to lead Ireland through the next stage of Brexit due to their past experience.

Climate change only ranked as an issue for 6% of voters, which will come as a blow to the Green Party, who had hoped to build on the Europe-wide trend of the “Green wave” and build on their impression in European and local elections.

Climate has been a prominent issue over the last year with thousands of young people taking to the streets in major cities across the country, and each party promising to reduce Ireland’s emissions in order to hit European targets.

Bucking the trend from the rest of Europe, immigration ranked at only 1% as an issue people voted on.

According to the poll, Irish people do not see immigration as an issue for the state, unlike other European states who have seen the rise of populist far-right parties campaigning on reducing immigration numbers.

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