Gilmore is the voters' choice for taoiseach in a Labour-Fine Gael government
Poll shows strong support for immediate general election if Cowen steps down, writes STEPHEN COLLINSPolitical Editor
EAMON GILMORE leads Enda Kenny by a margin of almost two to one as the voters’ choice for taoiseach in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI.
Voters were asked to say which of the two party leaders they would prefer to see as taoiseach if the next election resulted in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
Gilmore was the choice of 48 per cent of voters while Kenny attracted the support of 26 per cent, 16 per cent said neither and 10 per cent had no opinion.
Among Labour voters Gilmore was the choice of 82 per cent and he was ahead of Kenny by a margin of two to one among Fianna Fáil supporters.
Kenny was ahead among Fine Gael supporters by 65 per cent to 22 per cent. Green Party supporters and Independent voters strongly favoured Gilmore.
The Labour leader’s lead is most pronounced among the best off AB voters while the Fine Gael leader is strongest among the poorest DE voters.
Among AB voters Gilmore’s lead over Kenny was 52 per cent to 17 per cent while the margin among the DE segment of the electorate was considerably tighter at 41 per cent for Gilmore and 31 per cent for Kenny.
In regional terms Gilmore’s lead is strongest in Dublin where he is ahead by 54 per cent to 20 per cent and it is almost as strong in the rest of Leinster where the margin is 49 per cent to 20 per cent.
The gap is narrower in Munster where Gilmore leads by 48 per cent to 30 per cent and the two leaders are in a dead heat in Connacht Ulster where they are both on 37 per cent.
There is no great variation in age or gender terms although a significantly greater number of women than men say neither, or have no opinion as to which of the two leaders would be the best taoiseach.
When voters were asked whether there should be an immediate general election if Cowen stepped down as Taoiseach or if the Government should continue until 2012 there was strong support for an early election.
A total of 57 per cent said there should be an election while 37 per cent said the Government should continue until the end of its term and 6 per cent had no opinion.
Support for an early election was strongest among supporters of Opposition parties while Fianna Fáil voters wanted the Government to continue until 2012 and Green Party supporters were almost evenly divided.
Labour voters were strongest in support for an early election with 72 per cent for it and 23 per cent against.
Among Fine Gael voters the margin was 68 per cent to 28 per cent and Sinn Féin favoured it by 60 per cent to 35 per cent.
By contrast 67 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters said the Government should continue on until the end of its term while 30 per cent said there should be an immediate election.
Among Green Party voters, 52 per cent favoured an election and 48 per cent were against.
There were markedly different responses from supporters of the different political parties on the question of whether Brian Cowen should remain as Taoiseach.
Among Fianna Fáil voters 61 per cent said he should remain and 32 per cent saying he should step down but Green voters took a different view with 61 per cent saying he should go and 39 per cent saying he should remain.
Supporters of Opposition parties were trenchant in their view that Cowen should step down before the next election – 72 per cent of Fine Gael voters, 73 per cent of Sinn Féin voters and 75 per cent of Labour voters thought the Taoiseach should go. Brian Lenihan emerged as the clear favourite to succeed Cowen and he had a substantial lead among supporters of all parties ahead of Micheál Martin, Mary Hanafin and Dermot Ahern. Lenihan’s lead was strongest among Fianna Fáil supporters with 50 per cent backing him.
Labour voters were the next strongest in support of Lenihan with 42 per cent supporting him.
Among Sinn Féin voters he got the backing of 37 per cent while Fine Gael and Green Party supporters were the most lukewarm with 34 per cent support.