What else we learned from the poll

Students have their say on TCDSU’s performance, national politics, and Trinity in the pandemic

The Trinity News poll wasn’t just about the election – students were also asked their views on a variety of other topics. This is one of the largest surveys of Trinity students regularly conducted and gives us a great sense of the mood on campus relating to a number of key issues.

SU Representation

Respondents were asked “How well do you feel TCDSU represents you?” and then presented with five statements ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative. A plurality, 35.4% said they felt ambivalent about the issue. 32.3% felt well represented and 12.3% extremely well represented. 13.5% responded negatively and 6.6% extremely negatively. The caveat about these results is that they were attached to a poll specifically labelled as being related to the Student Union election and the data is only from those who then chose to fill out that poll. Thus there is no doubt a certain amount of bias; the survey disproportionately sampled those who are at least somewhat interested in and engaged by TCDSU.

That said, the results are still overall a positive for the union. This election, like every year, has featured much discussion about student engagement, so only 20.1% of those surveyed feeling under-represented indicates that the problem could be significantly worse.

The exact same question was asked of poll respondents last year, and this year’s results show a two-percentage point increase in those responding somewhat or very positively. This year’s union has therefore achieved a slight improvement in making students feel spoken for, albeit one within the margin of error (±2.9% on this question). The proportion of people responding either very positively or very negatively have both dropped by a combined six points, suggesting people just feel less strongly and more unsure about this union than last year’s in general.

Political Affiliation

Students were also asked to whom they would give their first preference vote to if a general election were held right now, if they would vote at all. The clear winners were the Social Democrats, with 24.0% of responses (not including those who are ineligible to vote). Given the party rarely polls at more than 5% nationally, this is certainly notable. Trinity is by no means a perfect sample of either college students or young people, but it nonetheless hints that these groups may be important parts of the SD’s voter base. The next largest was Sinn Féin at 17.9%. This is less surprising, given the party is polling so strongly nationally at the moment, especially among young people – if anything, this result is smaller than one might expect.

Next was the Green Party at 13.8%. When Trinity News asked students last year who they voted for in the 2020 general election, the Green Party comfortably topped the poll at 31%, whereas the Social Democrats managed just 8%. This suggests many centre-left voters in Trinity have fled the Greens for the SDs, presumably due to unhappiness with the party’s performance in government. The number of SF voters has remained relatively steady.

The next two biggest cohorts were the Solidarity-PBP grouping and Fine Gael, on 13.0% and 12.2% respectively. This represents a four-point increase for each party since last year. Labourm Fianna Fáil and Aontú received 4.6%, 3.0% and 1.4%, all largely unchanged from last year.

Finally, 3.9% of respondents said they wouldn’t vote. Last year, 17% said they hadn’t voted in the general election. It’s unclear if the difference in these figures represents Trinity students becoming more politically engaged, or if there’s simply a difference between the number of people who say they’re going to vote and the number of people who actually end up voting.

College and the pandemic

Those polled were finally asked to rate Trinity’s handling of the pandemic, again on a five-point scale from exceptionally well to exceptionally badly. 36.4% said College had performed “neither well nor badly”, the largest single group. 33.8% said it had performed “quite well” and 2.6% said “exceptionally well”. On the other hand, 23.5% described it as handled “quite badly” and 3.7% “exceptionally badly”. These results look quite similar to those about TCDSU. The news is definitely more good than bad for College, in that quite a few more people feel positively about the past year than negatively. That said, the plurality of neutral answers, as well as the degree to which results are tightly clustered in the middle (with few “exceptionally well” or “exceptionally badly” answers) suggest students mostly don’t feel that strongly. People are, perhaps, mostly just not sure what to make of the pandemic and Trinity’s navigation through it.

Jack Kennedy

Jack Kennedy is the Editor-in-chief of the 68th edition of Trinity News. He is a Computer & Electronic Engineering graduate, and a former Assistant Editor, Online Editor, and Deputy Online Editor.