Government sees modest recovery


Taoiseach Brian Cowen today downplayed the findings of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, which show a slight increase in support for the Government and Fianna Fáil.

The poll shows that support for the Government, the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil has increased by two points since the last poll on the eve of the Lisbon Treaty referendum, despite one of the toughest budgets in the history of the State.

The modest recovery in the satisfaction ratings of the Government and the Taoiseach has brought them back to levels last seen in November 2008. Satisfaction with the Government is up five points to 19 per cent, while satisfaction with the performance of Mr Cowen is up three points to 26 per cent.

The increase in the Fianna Fáil vote is offset by the decline in support for the Greens, who have slipped back one point into the negative territory that saw the party almost wiped out in the local elections last June. Satisfaction with Mr Gormley has gone up two points to 24 per cent.

Fine Gael is also up in the poll and the combined support for the two main Opposition parties is running at 56 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for the two Coalition parties.

Speaking in Clonmel today, the Taoiseach downplayed the positive poll findings. “Polls are just an indication of opinion at any given time but the important thing is that the Government is committed to, and directed at, doing what’s right by the country,” he said.

Mr Cowen said the Government would “get on with its work no matter what is in the polls”. He also dismissed “media speculation” of a possible Cabinet reshuffle and accused the Opposition parties of not having a “coherent strategy” to deal with the economic crisis.

Green Party leader John Mr Gormley told The Irish Times today the findings were not unexpected. He said his party was at exactly the same level as it was last year, despite a number of very harsh budgets.

“You have to realise this has been a very, very difficult period and for a smaller party in Government it is going to be perhaps even more difficult,” he said.

But he added that he hoped the immediate future would show a consolidation of the Green agenda through the implementation of the renewed Programme for Government, as a consequence of which he expected to see the party rise in the polls.

When people were asked who they would vote for if there were a general election tomorrow, the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the last Irish Times poll on September 24th last were: Fianna Fáil, 22 per cent (up two points); Fine Gael, 32 per cent (up one point); Labour, 24 per cent (down one point); Sinn Féin, 8 per cent (up one point); Green Party, 3 per cent (down one point); and Independents/ Others, 11 per cent (no change).

The poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

The core vote for the parties (before undecided voters are excluded) compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fianna Fáil, 20 per cent (up two points); Fine Gael, 24 per cent (up one point); Labour, 17 per cent (down one point); Sinn Féin, 7 per cent (down two points); Green Party, 2 per cent (down one point); Independents/Others, 8 per cent (no change); and undecided voters 22 per cent (up one point).

The most heartening aspect of the poll from the Government’s perspective is the improvement in its satisfaction rating by five points in the wake of the budget and the bad weather, combined with the continued recovery in the Taoiseach’s ratings.

Fine Gael has retained the substantial lead over Fianna Fáil it first achieved in November 2008. This is the seventh Irish Times poll in a row to show Fine Gael as the biggest party in the country, and this was reflected in the European and local elections last June.

Labour has remained ahead of Fianna Fáil in the adjusted vote, although it has slipped behind the main Government party in terms of the core vote. Labour has consolidated its lead as the biggest party in Dublin, although it has slipped back among the best-off AB social category, where Fine Gael is now the leading party.

The improvement in Mr Cowen’s satisfaction rating has come in spite of the fact that a significant 32 per cent of Fianna Fáil voters expressed dissatisfaction with his performance, while 59 per cent of Green supporters are dissatisfied.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny’s rating has slipped one point to 31 per cent, but he is still ahead of both Coalition party leaders. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore remains by far the most popular political figure on 45 per cent, with a one point increase since the last poll.

The Sinn Féin vote has dropped back after a rise during the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, when it was the only Dáil party campaigning for a No vote. Satisfaction with party president Gerry Adams is up three points to 31 per cent, in spite of the recent controversy surrounding his handling of child abuse allegations.