Irish Political Studies
With Stefan Müller
The Irish party system has been an outlier in comparative politics. Ireland never had a left-right divide in parliament, and for decades, the dominant centrist political parties competed around a centre-right policy agenda. The absence of an explicit left-right divide in party competition suggested that Irish voters, on average, occupy centre-right policy preferences. Combining survey data since 1973 and all Irish election studies between 2002 and 2020, we show that the average Irish voter now leans to the centre-left. We also show that income has recently emerged as a predictor of left-right self-placement, and that left-right positions increasingly structure vote choice. These patterns hold when using policy preferences on taxes, spending, and government interventions to reduce inequality as alternative indicators. We outline potential explanations for this leftward shift, and conclude that these developments might be anchored in economic inequalities and the left populist strategies of Sinn Féin.