Poll puts Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil neck and neck

Enda Kenny’s party down five points to 25% in Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: recent controversies have affected the level of support for the Government parties, with Fine Gael taking the biggest hit. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: recent controversies have affected the level of support for the Government parties, with Fine Gael taking the biggest hit. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 01:00

Fine Gael has suffered a significant drop in support and Fianna Fáil has recovered ground, according to the latest Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI poll.

The two parties are neck and neck with less than two months to go to the European and local elections.

The ongoing controversy over the administration of justice has clearly had a damaging impact on the level of support for the Government parties, with Fine Gael taking the biggest hit.

The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week when the motion of no confidence in Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was being debated in the Dáil.

The bounce both Coalition parties got at the time of the exit from the EU-IMF bailout in December has now evaporated and Fine Gael and Labour are back to the level of support they had for most of last year.

Support for Sinn Féin has stayed unchanged at 21 per cent since the last Irish Times poll in December but support for Independents and Others is up.

When people were asked who they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow, party support – when undecided voters are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fine Gael, 25 per cent (down five points); Labour, 8 per cent (down one point); Fianna Fáil, 25 per cent (up three points); Sinn Féin, 21 per cent (no change); and Independents and Others, 21 per cent (up three points).

The survey was taken among a representative sample of 1,000 voters, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

The core vote for the parties compared with the last poll was: Fine Gael, 18 per cent (down two points); Labour, 5 per cent (down one); Fianna Fáil, 18 per cent (up three); Sinn Féin, 15 per cent (up one); Independents/Others, 15 per cent (up three) and undecided voters, 29 per cent (down four).


Moving up
The big gainer is Fianna Fáil, with the party moving up again after remaining becalmed in the polls since last summer.

The aggressive stance adopted by party leader Micheál Martin in the various controversies surrounding the Department of Justice and the Garda has clearly paid dividends. Mr Martin has also seen an increase in his personal satisfaction rating.

Fianna Fáil is again the biggest party in Munster, Connacht Ulster and the rest of Leinster. However, it is still trailing well behind Fine Gael in Dublin and is also behind Sinn Féin in the capital.

The poll indicates that the party is going to find it very difficult to win a seat in Dublin in the European elections or make a significant impact in any of the four local authority areas in the county.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has had a significant increase in his satisfaction rating, up six points to 33 per cent, giving him the highest rating of any party leader.

Satisfaction with the Government has dropped four points to 22 per cent but, despite all the controversies of recent months, that is still higher than it achieved for the 18 months before the bailout exit.

Satisfaction with Enda Kenny is down three points to 30 per cent, while satisfaction with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore is up one point to 20 per cent, the highest rating he has achieved since autumn 2012.


Enormous task
There will be some satisfaction in Labour that the drop in party support since the last poll has been marginal, given the range of problems besetting the Government. However, with just 8 per cent support, the scale of the challenge it faces in the European and local elections is still enormous.

The increase in the level of support for Independents and Others to 21 per cent indicates that there is potential for at least one seat in each of the three European constituencies from that grouping.

The poll also highlights the prospect of a significant number of councillors being elected from the ranks of small parties and Independents, particularly given the large new electoral areas that will elect between six and 10 councillors.