herald

Monday 27 February 2017

Voters think women would make better 
decisions on councils

THE majority of voters believe more female councillors would result in better decisions by their local authority, a new poll has revealed.

Some 69pc of the electorate would prefer greater female representation in local politics, which they say would have a positive knock-on effect for the local community.

Voters clearly believe that their local authority would deliver better outcomes for communities if more council seats were occupied by women, according to the research.

The poll, commissioned on behalf of Women For Election’, also shows that the majority of voters (58pc) would opt for a female candidate over a male if both candidates were of equal merit.

Overestimates

And it reveals that the electorate overestimates the number of women that currently occupy council seats.

Just 17pc of council seats across Ireland are filled by women. Female representation has proven an issue for a number of political parties ahead of this week’s elections, particularly Fianna Fail.

Prominent senator Averil Power recently received a dressing down from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin after she criticised the party’s policy on gender quotas. Ms Power openly criticised the party’s failure to attract more women candidates.

Fianna Fail has selected just one female candidate in the European elections, and a mere 17pc of its local election candidates are female, despite setting a target of 33pc.

Today’s poll of over 1,000 voters illustrates the desire among voters to increase female representation at local level.

Almost three quarters of respondents said they believed that local councils should be made up of more than 40pc of females.

The finding will prompt renewed debate on the issue of gender quotas which has proved divisive in a number of political parties.

High-profile politicians such as former European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton have previously opposed the introduction of such quotas.

Co-founder of Women for Election’, Niamh Gallagher, said that Friday represents a crucial opportunity for the electorate to ensure the low number of women in councils is increased.

“Almost 7 in 10 believe their local council would make better decisions if there were more women councillors,” Ms Gallagher said.

Decisions

“This response is unsurprising because it is clear that a council which is more representative of the electorate will make better decisions.

A total of 1,001 voters were polled by Amarach Research on behalf of Women for Election’ .

On May 23 in the local and European elections, Irish voters will have the opportunity to boost the number of women elected to local councils, Ms Gallagher pointed out.

“This survey shows that not only do they want more women in politics, they are also more likely to vote for a woman if candidates are of equal merit,” she added.

noconnor@ herald.ie

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