A Trinity News poll conducted over a three day period, from Wednesday 10 February to Friday 12 February has predicted contests in the entertainment and communications & marketing races. Meanwhile Kieran McNulty, Dale O’Faoilléacháin, Aobhinn Ní Lochlainn, and Sinéad Baker ared expected to come out on top in the races for president, education, welfare, and editor of the University Times respectively.
In total, 635 students were surveyed and answered questions about who they will vote for in the upcoming SU elections, as well as questions about which issues they care about most and whether they think the outcomes of the election will have an effect on them.
Tightly fought contests are predicted in the Ents and Communications and Marketing races, with Kieran McNulty, Dale O’Faoilléacháin, Aobhinn Ní Lochlainn, and Sinéad Baker expecting to come out on top in the races for President, Education, Welfare, and Editor of the University Times, respectively. One key feature of the poll results however is the large number of students who responded with “Don’t Know”, with these set to have a significant part to play in the final outcome of the elections. There is approximately a 4% margin of error in the results presented here.
Kieran McNulty has a comfortable lead over both Stephen Carty and Dan O’Brien in the race to become the next President of the Trinity College Student’s Union, taking 33% of the vote. Carty and O’Brien are tied on 18% but interestingly the second largest response came from those who answered “Don’t Know”, making up 29% of the vote. Everything is still to play for going into the second week when both Carty and O’Brien will be hoping to double up by swaying the undecided voters.
When the results are broken down across faculties, the number of “Don’t Know” responses is actually greater than all three other candidates amongst Health Science students. Many Health Science students who were polled, particularly those in St. James’ Hospital and D’Olier Street, remarked that they felt isolated from the college and disconnected from the SU in general. McNulty polled best in the faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, with Carty performing his best and outdoing O’Brien amongst students of Engineering, Maths, and Science.
Welfare and Equality
Aobhinn Ní Lochlainn looks set to be the next Welfare and Equality officer with a commanding 47% of the vote. She has performed strongly in all hustings so far, generating two rounds of applause in the Trinity News and QSOC hustings on Thursday 11 February. Éamonn Redmond trails Ní Lochlainn in second place with 24% of the vote, with 20% answering with “Don’t Know”, and Andrew Wafer coming next on 7%. Redmond will have to convince those still undecided to vote in his favour next week if he wants to dislodge Ní Lochlainn from poll position.
In what is set to be the closest race of the lot, Ents looks like it will go right to the wire when the count takes place next Thursday 18 February. Caolan Maher so far edges Padraic Rowley for first place with 24% of the vote to Rowley’s 23%. There is a virtual three-way tie for second place between Katie Browne, Grace O’Boyle, and those who responded with “Don’t Know”. It should be noted that some of the polling was conducted before a story emerged in relation to Maher handing out cans in Trinity Halls on Wednesday 10 February. Maher denies the accusation but it is possible that the story could have had an impact on Maher’s support. No candidate has stood out so far in their bid to become the next Ents officer of the SU. Everything is still to play for going into the second week, with second and third preference votes looking like they will have a lot to say in the outcome.
Editor of The University Times
Sinéad Baker is running uncontested to be the next Editor of The University Times and looks set to do so comfortably with 59% of the vote. However, despite her being the only candidate, 65% of students polled from the faculty of Health Sciences responded with “Don’t Know”. Once more, this echoes the feelings of isolation and lack of inclusion felt by most Health Science students.
In any of the leadership races if a candidate can capitalise on this fact next week and make a connection with Health Science students, particularly those in St. James’, Tallaght Hospital and D’Olier Street, they would be in with a great shout of winning. Baker received criticism at the Trinity News and QSOC hustings for the perceived lack of impartiality of The University Times’ coverage of the election so far. She responded by saying she hasn’t perceived a bias this year.
It looks as if Dale O’Faoilléacháin will be the next SU Education officer, his 39% of the vote leading Patrick Higgins’ 23%. O’Faoilléacháin is polling particularly well in his own faculty of Health Sciences, where Higgins is only receiving about 10% of the vote. O’Faoilléacháin has performed strongly in hustings so far, drawing on his experience as Health Science convenor and demonstrating good working knowledge of the SU. Higgins, who doesn’t have the same experience of working in the SU, has claimed that experience isn’t vital and that the necessary skills can be learned on the job. Higgins will be remaining hopeful that he can convince enough of the 36% of voters answering “Don’t Know”, to vote in his favour once the polling commences on Monday.
Communications and Marketing
In another very close race, the “Don’t Know”s lead both candidates, with Glen Byrne slightly edging Emmet Broaders by 32% to 29%. It is impossible to call the race at this stage with everything still to play for in the second week. Interestingly, Broaders leads Byrne in the faculty of Engineering, Maths, and Science, and the faculty Health Sciences. Byrne takes 37% of the vote however amongst students of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The candidates have led different style campaigns so far with Broaders claiming the most important part of role to be the communications side and putting the students first. This is perhaps reflected in Broaders’ strong support from the Hamilton and Health Sciences, where increased communication would be welcomed, as students from the respective faculties often feel forgotten by the SU. Byrne has argued that the roles are not mutually exclusive and emphasised his stance to introduce direct sponsor investment into student services.
Out of the 635 students polled, only 43% responded saying that the outcome of the SU elections would have an effect on them directly. Junior Freshman students were the only ones who thought otherwise, with 55% claiming that they thought the election results would affect their lives directly. Almost 80% of Senior Sophister students said that the outcome would have no effect on them directly, but this is probably in light of the fact that it literally couldn’t have an effect on them, as they will be leaving the college next year.
An issue raised quite a lot over the course of the election campaign to date was that of women in leadership. Four of the six sabbatical officers for 2015 were female. This year however there is no female candidate for the roles of President, Education, or Communications and Marketing. Despite this, 47% of women responded saying that the SU results would have a direct effect on their lives, comparing to only 37% of men, suggesting that female students were in fact more interested in the elections than male students.
If the results are broken down by faculty we see that 54% of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences students responded “yes” to the question, compared to only 37% and 34% for the faculties of Engineering, Maths, and Science, and Health Sciences, respectively. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that all three of the presidential candidates come from the faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. When asked what issue matters most in the leadership race, by far the most pressing issue for students was student fees, followed in second place by housing.
Students were also asked about which political party they will vote for in the upcoming General Election on Friday 26 February. Fine Gael came out on top with 22% of the vote. Perhaps an unusual result, considering the fact that student fees and the repeal of the eighth amendment are two of the most important issues in the eyes of students. Fine Gael have historically been a more socially conservative party, and have recently announced that they would introduce a student loan scheme if elected on 26 February.
Realistically, the introduction of a student loan scheme means the increase of student fees. The party’s popularity amongst students probably stems from the fact that they resided in office over the massive success of the same-sex marriage referendum last summer and also reflects the sense of disillusionment with the other big political parties such as Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Labour who failed to keep their promise to not increase student fees following the 2011 election.
Whoever is eventually elected to the SU will be hoping to build upon the huge success of outgoing president Lynn Ruane, who has had numerous appearances on national tv and radio shows, and is also at the forefront of the campaign to introduce sexual consent classes to college. She has recently had an article about sexual consent published in the Irish Times. Once elected, the new SU will seek to use Lynn Ruane’s success as a platform to fight against student fees, to repeal the eighth amendment, and to come up with a practical solution to the current housing crisis affecting students.
Statistics editor Owen Ward coordinated and analysed the figures used in this piece. Graphs by Dylan Scully. Polling was carried out by Jessie Dolliver, Eva Short, Lia Flattery, Conall Monaghan, Rory O’Neill, Caoimhe Gordon, Conn de Barra, Oisin Vince Coulter and Niamh Lynch at the School of Nursing and Midwifery D’Olier Street, the Hamilton Building, Aras an Phiarsaigh, St. James’s Hospital, the Dublin Dental University Hospital and the Arts Block