General Election demonstrates appetite for change in electorate

Sophie Finn talks to several students which party they voted for and why.

The 2020 General Election results show a seismic shift from the voting trends of the last 20 years. Sinn Féin achieved a historic result with 37 seats, 38 seats for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with 35. 

The results reveal a generational political divide, with the younger demographic voting for left leaning parties. The exit poll shows that 31.8% of those aged 18-24 gave their first preference to Sinn Féin, whereas only 12.2% of those aged 65+ did the same. Fine Gael received only 15.5% of the 18-24 vote share, and Fianna Fáil 13.6%. 

Other left leaning parties also received the majority of their votes from the younger demographic. The Green Party received 14.4% of the 18-24 first preference vote, Solidarity-People Before Profit won 6.6% from the same age bracket, and the Social Democrats received 4.1%. 

The voting division among different generations appears to boil down to two issues of contention, housing and health. According to the exit poll, 33% of those aged 18-24 cited housing and homelessness as their largest concerns. However, 43% of the 65+ said health was their biggest concern. The youngest demographics secondary concerns were job availability at 14%, followed by climate change at 13%. 

The University Observer interviewed a selection of UCD students for a first hand perspective of the younger demographic’s political views and rationale.

Eoin, who is studying Law, chose to vote for the Green party as he supports their policies regarding cycle paths, increased funding of public transport and their “entire attitude towards the environment”. He described Sinn Féin’s success in the election as “a blessing and a curse”. Eoin supports a left leaning party in government but he doesn’t support Sinn Féin as he doesn’t agree with “their stance on united Ireland”,  he also believes they are making “overachieving promises they won’t be able to follow through on”. Eoin prefers the Greens as he believes their promises are “more realistic”. 

Richard, a mathematics student, explained that he voted for Solidarity-People Before Profit as he believes Fine Gael’s “over-reliance on corporate tax from the phantom earnings of multinationals” has put the economy at risk. He explained how Irelands “tax haven status” will no longer be as lucrative due to the new competition from lowered tax rates in the US and strict guidelines being drafted by the OECM”. 

Richard believes we need to move towards a more “broad, equal and progressive tax system as provided for in S-PBP’s manifesto”. He further outlined his belief that without change from the previous governments economic policies, Irish people will continue to pay for the governments “fear of upsetting multinational corporations” whose “tenuous interests in Ireland end where the public good begins”.

Nutrition student Ciara voted for Sinn Féin, as she wanted her vote to be a “vote for change, justice and Irish unity”. Ciara explained how although the government has been centralised around Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for her lifetime, she believes they have done little to help “the middle- and working-class populations”, as their reign has seen “rents continually rising and the quality of healthcare declining”.

Ciara outlined how being raised close to the border, Sinn Féin has “always been popular in [her] area”, she believes they “stand for what they believe in”. She is “ecstatic” with the election results and believes Sinn Féin’s rise in popularity “highlights the demand of the Irish public for change”. Ciara hopes for the future that Sinn Féin will utilise their opportunity as the only “all Ireland party.. with significant political power on both sides of the border” to achieve a “peaceful united Ireland”.