Cowen downplays poll findings


Taoiseach Brian Cowen has downplayed the significance of today's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll which shows that the Labour Party has consolidated its position as the most popular party in the State.

Speaking to reporters at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, where he was addressing a conference this morning, Mr Cowen said: “I don’t react very much to polls. There’s polls coming out every day of the week now as far as I can see. They’re a snapshot of opinion at the time I presume.

"You see a lot of variation in these polls over the last week. Obviously from our point of view as a Government we’re just concentrating on the job at hand and getting on with it. Polls will come and go I’m sure.”

The new poll shows a modest recovery in the Fianna Fáil vote since the last Irish Times poll in June. The party has now drawn level with Fine Gael for the first time in almost two years.

The poll was taken earlier this week, when the row over Dáil pairings was at its height and as the Fine Gael tactic of refusing pairs for Ministers appeared to have backfired.

Eamon Gilmore remains the most popular party leader, while there has been a slight recovery in the standing of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, despite the furore over his radio interview on Morning Ireland.

When people were asked who they would vote for if there was a general election tomorrow, the figures for party support when undecided voters are excluded, compared with the last Irish Times poll on June 11th last, were: Fianna Fáil, 24 per cent (up three points); Fine Gael, 24 per cent (down three points); Labour, 33 per cent (up four points); Sinn Féin, 8 per cent (down two points); Green Party, 2 per cent (down two points); and Independents/others, 9 per cent (no change).

The core vote for the parties (before undecided voters are excluded) compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fianna Fáil, 19 per cent (up three points); Fine Gael, 20 per cent (down one point); Labour, 27 per cent (up five points); Sinn Féin, 6 per cent (down two points); Green Party, 2 per cent (down one); Independents/Others, 8 per cent (up one point); and undecided voters, 18 per cent (down five points).

Despite the improvement in Fianna Fáil’s position, just 13 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way the Government is doing its job (a rise of one point), while 83 per cent are dissatisfied (no change).

On the party leaders, Brian Cowen got a satisfaction rating of 19 per cent (up one point); Enda Kenny was on 25 per cent (up one point); Eamon Gilmore was on 49 per cent (up three points); John Gormley, 18 per cent (down three points); and Gerry Adams, 29 per cent (down two points).

The number of people who would like to see a general election this year has dropped since June. A total of 54 per cent (down three points) said they would like an early election, while 35 per cent (an increase of four points) said they would not.

The continuing surge in Labour support is the outstanding feature of the poll and confirms the next election will be a three-way tussle to decide which party will be the biggest in the next Dáil.

The poll represents a worrying setback for Fine Gael, which not only slipped further behind Labour since June but is now at level pegging with Fianna Fáil for the first time since November 2008.

The June poll findings helped to trigger a leadership heave against Enda Kenny. While he saw off a challenge from Richard Bruton, there is now likely to be further soul-searching in the party.

Worryingly for Mr Kenny, just 55 per cent of his own supporters are satisfied with his performance, while 36 per cent are dissatisfied.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Fine Gael deputy leader Dr James Reilly said he did not believe party leader Enda Kenny would face another leadership challenge following the latest poll findings.

He said there had been three polls conducted over the past week all of which showed variations.

"The real polls that count are the general elections. Every time Enda has gone into a general election he's won more seats, won more of the vote. They are the real things that count."

The increase in the Fianna Fáil vote after the deluge of unfavourable publicity that followed its meeting in Galway, and the continuing controversy about Anglo Irish Bank, will come as a huge relief to the party and its leader. It indicates support for the party has bottomed out at about 24 per cent and it has a realistic prospect of pushing back towards 30 per cent in an election campaign.

There is little comfort for the Green Party in the poll as its support has declined since June and it could lose all of its six seats in an election.