Election 2016: Martin, FF rise as Coalition parties stagnate
Gains for Independents and smaller parties but Labour and Sinn Féin down
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Has the highest satisfaction rating of any party leader. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
The country remains on course for a hung Dáil after the general election, according to the final Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll of the campaign.
The poll shows no change in Fine Gael support since the election campaign began and a drop in Labour Party support to just 6 per cent.
Fianna Fáil has gained support since the start of the campaign and Micheál Martin now has the highest satisfaction rating of any party leader.
There are even bigger gains for Independents and smaller parties since the start of the campaign but Sinn Féin has fallen back significantly and is now at its lowest rating in an Irish Times poll for more than four years.
When people were asked who they would vote for in the general election, party support – when undecideds are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll on February 3rd was: Fine Gael, 28 per cent (no change); Labour, 6 per cent (down one point); Fianna Fáil, 23 per cent (up two); Sinn Féin, 15 per cent (down four) and Independents/Others, 28 per cent (up three).
Core voteThe survey was conducted last Friday and Saturday among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face- to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.
The core vote for the parties – before undecideds are excluded – compared with the last poll was: Fine Gael, 22 per cent (up one); Labour, 5 per cent (down one); Fianna Fáil, 18 per cent (up two); Sinn Féin, 13 per cent (down two); Independents/Others, 24 per cent (up four) and undecided voters, 18 per cent (down four points).
The poll indicates that the Coalition parties have got no traction with their message about keeping the recovery going.
Instead of gaining support as they had expected in the campaign Fine Gael has just managed to hold steady and has not recovered the position it held in November following intense speculation of an election that month.
Labour has now slipped into dangerous territory and at this level of support the party will struggle to hold even 10 seats.
Fianna Fáil has moved right back into contention and is up four points since November.
SqueezedThe other big gainers are Independents and small parties who have gained five points since November and confounded the expectation of the bigger parties who expected them to be squeezed when the campaign began.
The rise of the Independents has put a dent in Sinn Féin support with the party down six points since November.
The satisfaction rating of the party leaders confirms the overall trend with Martin up a whopping eight points to head the ratings.
Enda Kenny has remained exactly the same as the last poll while Gerry Adams is down marginally and Joan Burton down by four points. Satisfaction with the Government is up marginally.
The two big television debates have clearly had an influence on the ratings following the consensus that Martin performed best, that Kenny held his own and Adams and Burton did not do particularly well.
That makes the final debate of the campaign on RTÉ tomorrow night all the more important for the participants.
The breakdown of support in the Independents/Others category indicates that no particular group has emerged from the pack.
Unattached Independents are on 9 per cent; the Independent Alliance headed by Shane Ross is on 4 per cent while the Social Democrats and the AAA/ PBP are on 3 per cent each; the Greens and Renua are on 2 per cent and 3 per cent were not sure what category of Independents they supported.
The strength of the Independent vote and its diversity makes the outcome even more difficult to predict than normal as the impact of transfer patterns will play a significant part in deciding where seats go.
Another important factor is that 18 per cent of voters are still undecided. This group will have a decisive impact on the outcome depending on how they respond to the effort all the parties will now put in over the final few days of this campaign.
The main focus in the final days will be on the ground war in each of the 40 constituencies.
The Taoiseach said at the weekend that some of his Mayo constituents were “All-Ireland champions” at complaining.
Mr Kenny told a rally for supporters on Saturday: “God knows we have some All-Ireland champions here in Castlebar. I don’t mean Castlebar Mitchells GAA club, I mean the whingers that I hear every week saying there’s nothing happening.”
Asked yesterday if he regretted the comments, Mr Kenny said: “No, I don’t. Some of them wouldn’t know sunshine if they saw it.”
“Well, I want to assure them that the future is very bright.”
Asked what he meant by “whingers”, Mr Kenny said: “Locals – nothing to with national politics at all.
“Obviously, you get this all the time but sometimes I find that people find it very difficult to see any good anywhere, anytime.”