Stunning changes in latest The Irish Times poll on Presidential election
Snapshots in time and all as they are, there is nothing like an opinion poll to set tongues wagging.
Especially when it is one that shows trends that are stunning, verging on jaw-dropping.
The last time The Irish Times conducted a poll in July, we had no notion that either Dana and Martin McGuinness would be in the field. So we have no comparitive figures for either.
And here are are the results.
Michael D Higgins: 23 (+5)
Sean Gallagher: 20 (+7)
Martin McGuinness: 19 (-)
Mary Davis: 12 (no change)
David Norris: 11 (-14)
Gay Mitchell: 9 (-11)
Dana Rosemary Scallon: 6 (-)
There are a couple of trends here that are almost beyond astonishing. Gay Mitchell is plummeting. Lying in second last place is a disaster for the candidate representing the biggest party in the country, a party that had its most spectacular result in its history only seven months ago. There is no glossing over it. This is really bad for the party. If things don’t improve his performance is going to be worse than Austin Currie’s in 1990. And that disaster eventually (arguably) led to Alan Dukes relinquishing the leadership of the party.
If the Mitchell campaign bombs, it will not only be a serious set-back for Fine Gael but may also prompt some uncomfortable questions for a leadership (and strategists) that has been regarded as unassailable and untouchable until now.
The sampling was taken earlier this week before the Vincent Browne debate but during the launch of Mitchell’s campaign. He just does not seem to be doing it at present. And it’s also clear that the party’s very visible attack on Sinn Fein and Martin McGuinness has not had the intended effect; the opposite seems to be the case in fact. The evidence from this poll is that it has backfired.
It’s predictable that Michael D Higgins is heading the field. It’s also predictable that David Norris’s support levels have collapsed because of the controversies that have dogges his campaign on a daily basis. My own opinion is that his campaign is now over and that he will be unable to recover over the next three weeks. The experience of Adi Roche in 1997 comes to mind.
The other massive surprise is the extent of the huge surge by Sean Gallagher. People were quietly saying that he was a a ‘creeper’, a candidate who would slowly climb up the field. But 20 per cent, a gain of seven points, is a stunning jump by any yardstick.
I have been impressed by him on the stump. He comes across as a genuine person who is sincere, unshowy, and with a very clear vision of why he wants to be President. Is he the right person? Is he the right fit to become guardian of the Constitution and the chief diviner of the soul of the nation? I’ve been undecided about that but it’s clear that a growing number are plumping for him. Gallagher is now a real contender and the fact that he is showing so strongly will give a huge boost to his campaign. I also thought he strong enought to put up a decent defence when Vincent Browne (all he’s missing is a scarlet jacket, a top hat and a whip) started strafing him with riducule, bile and spittle last night.
Michael D Higgins remains top dog, unsuprisingingly He seems to be doing better on transfers (Gay Mitchell’s in particular). That said, I think Gallagher won’t be a slouch in picking up number twos and threes. And on the evidence of this poll I think he will give Higgins a good run for his money.
That said, Higgins is the clear favourite. He has looked and sounded presidential. He has stayed aloof from all the dog fights. The only piece of negative publicity have been some cynical comments about him standing on a box for the debate on Vincent Browne.
Martin McGuinness will be happy with his showing. Nobody drawns attention like him. The more he is attacked, the more focus is placed upon him, the better he will do. He is running well ahead of Sinn Fein’s support levels and he could even do better as the als0-rans begin to falter and lose traction with voters. He won’t attract the transfers of others but if his trajectory continues upwards, he could be the key influencer in the outcome of this election.
Mary Davis has remained static at 12 per cent. She struggled last week, regained some ground when she published all her financial details. But her campaign has not succeeded in igniting the public’s imagination. There has been too much emphasis on her Special Olympics track record and that has made her seem a little narrow and monotonal. Like Mitchell, she needs to work immediately to broaden her appeal.
But has the die been cast? Is it already a three-horse, or even a two-horse race?