‘Irish Times’ poll: Fianna Fáil pulls ahead of Fine Gael to become most popular party

Enda Kenny satisfaction rating up seven points as minority Government’s rating also rises

Hugh Linehan talks to Pat Leahy on the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast about the latest poll and what it may mean for Fine Gael and the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny

 

Fianna Fáil has pulled ahead of Fine Gael to become the most popular political party, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

Both parties have gained support since the previous poll in October, with the biggest gains going to Fianna Fáil. Labour has also improved, while Sinn Féin and Independents have lost ground.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has seen a big jump in his satisfaction rating and there has also been an increase in the Government’s rating.

The poll indicates solid public support for the arrangement between the Fine Gael-led minority Government and Fianna Fáil, with the leaders of the two big parties pulling well ahead of their rivals.

When people were asked who they would vote for in a general election, party support, when undecideds were excluded, was: Fine Gael, 27 per cent (up one point compared with the result of the October poll); Fianna Fáil, 30 per cent (up four points); Labour, 6 per cent (up one point); Sinn Féin, 17 per cent (down two) and Independents/Others, 20 per cent (down four).

The survey was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week 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.

Core vote

The core vote for the parties before undecideds were excluded, compared with the last Irish Times poll in October, was: Fine Gael, 21 per cent (up one); Fianna Fáil, 24 per cent (up three); Labour, 4 per cent (no change); Sinn Féin, 14 per cent (down two); Independents/Others, 16 per cent (down four); and undecided voters, 21 per cent (up two points).

The main reason for Fianna Fáil’s improvement since October is a big increase in support in Dublin. If it can maintain this support it has a realistic chance of becoming the biggest party after the next general election.

Fine Gael support is holding solid at 27 per cent, and while there will be disappointment in the party that Fianna Fáil has again pulled ahead, there will be some relief that being in Government has not led to a drop in support.

Fine Gael is still the biggest party in Dublin and its middle-class support is holding up, but Munster remains a big weakness. Unless the party can recover ground in the region, it will struggle to hold on to its status as the biggest party in the Dáil after the next election.

Taoiseach’s strong showing

A surprise feature of the poll is a seven-point jump in Mr Kenny’s satisfaction rating, his best performance in four years, and this is accompanied by a five-point increase in the Government’s rating.

The showing of the two big parties and their leaders may indicate that the level of hostility to established parties and their leaders is beginning to abate.

The ground gained by the established parties has been made up at the expense of Sinn Féin and the Independents and smaller parties.

Sinn Féin’s drop of two points still leaves the party on a solid 17 per cent of the vote, but the decline in party support in Dublin to 13 per cent would be a concern if the trend was maintained in future polls.

The party may be losing some support to the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit group, which is on 6 per cent in the capital and 3 per cent nationally.