Support for Fine Gael and Labour continues to decline

Fianna Fáil consolidates its recovery with support showing at 26%

The trend has been downwards for Fine Gael since a high just after the last general election. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The trend has been downwards for Fine Gael since a high just after the last general election. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


Political allegiance has remained stable over the past few months with little change in party support despite a range of controversies, from abortion to the property tax, according to today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The last poll – in February – showed a leap in support for Fianna Fáil and the party has managed to consolidate its position at that new level of 26 per cent.

Support for Fine Gael and Labour is down marginally since the last poll but that is counterbalanced to some extent by the rise in the Government’s satisfaction rating. Of more concern to both parties than the latest poll figures will be the long-term drift downwards.

Fine Gael hit a modern-day Irish Times poll high of 38 per cent a few months after its victory in the general election of February 2011. Since then, the trend has been downwards and 24 per cent is getting into worrying territory for the party with local and European elections coming up in 12 months’ time.

One consolation is that party supporters are solidly behind the Government and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. While the overall satisfaction rating for the Government is just 21 per cent, it rises to 62 per cent among Fine Gael supporters.

Kenny’s backers
There is a similar trend when it comes to satisfaction with the leader. Among voters in general Kenny gets a rating of just 30 per cent, but among Fine Gael supporters he is on an impressive 78 per cent.

The story on the Labour side of the Coalition is not nearly as reassuring. Just 27 per cent of Labour supporters say they are satisfied with the way the Government is running the country, while 69 per cent of them express dissatisfaction.

When it comes to satisfaction with Eamon Gilmore there is an equally worrying trend. A narrow majority of 42 per cent of Labour supporters express satisfaction with his performance but 40 per cent are dissatisfied while 18 per cent have no opinion.

An analysis of where their support lies also contains some comfort for Fine Gael. It is still the leading party by a significant margin among the best-off AB voters and it also has a lead over all the other parties among middle-class C1 voters. The party also comes out on top among farmers.

Voter turnout is highest among these three groups, indicating that Fine Gael could aspire to improving significantly on its top-line figure of 24 per cent in a national election, particularly as it is still the leading party in Dublin by a fairly comfortable margin.

Labour support
Labour also does best among the AB1 and C1 categories, where it is on 12 per cent. One note of encouragement is that it does considerably better in Dublin, where it is on 15 per cent, than in the rest of the country. It gets 8 per cent in Munster, 6 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 3 per cent in Connacht-Ulster.

For Fianna Fáil, the poll is confirmation it has recovered a significant degree of support since its election disaster in 2011. The party has held on to the gains revealed in February’s poll and remains ahead of all other parties.

Fianna Fáil has almost doubled its support over the past year and will be hoping it can maintain the momentum going into the local and European elections. The party is strongest in the over-65 age group but its support tails off among younger voters.

Across the regions, it is the leading party in Connacht-Ulster, Munster and the rest of Leinster. There are also signs the Fianna Fáil vote in Dublin, where it does not have a single TD, is beginning to recover. In February’s poll, the party obtained just 11 per cent support in Dublin but that has risen to 17 per cent, which puts it ahead of Labour and almost level with Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin has recovered three points to 21 per cent and satisfaction with leader Gerry Adams has jumped six points to 33 per cent, making him the most popular party leader.

The poll indicates that the party is beginning to make serious inroads into new groups. While it is still more attractive to men than women, the discrepancy is not nearly as big as it was in the past.

It is no surprise Sinn Féin is the leading party among the poorest DE social category. However, it has pushed up its share of the vote to 20 per cent or over among all other social categories apart from AB.

In regional terms, Sinn Féin is strongest in Connacht-Ulster, where it is on 28 per cent, but it has also made inroads in the rest of Leinster, where it is on 26 per cent, while the party is on 18 per cent in Dublin and 16 per cent in Munster.

Older voters, though, are still suspicious of the party, with just 11 per cent expressing support for Sinn Féin compared to 20 per cent or over among all other age groups.

The Green Party has improved since the last poll but is struggling to make any impact. That is also reflected in the poor satisfaction rating of party leader Eamon Ryan.

Minor players
Independents and small parties continue to appeal to a significant segment, with 18 per cent support. Dublin is the strongest region for this group, where it gets 21 per cent, followed by the rest of Leinster at 19 per cent, Munster at 15 per cent and Connacht-Ulster at 9 per cent.

One of the most significant figures is that one-third of the electorate is undecided. That opens opportunities for all the parties in the year ahead.

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