Higgins leads among student voters with Norris second


UNIVERSITY POLL:MICHAEL D Higgins is leading the presidential race among the electorate in the State’s seven universities, with a poll putting the Labour candidate on course to secure support from more than one-third of students.

The face-to-face poll of 1,962 people was carried out last Thursday by student newspapers and radio stations in University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University of Limerick, NUI Maynooth and NUI Galway.

The poll, co-ordinated by the UCD College Tribune, indicates David Norris is faring significantly better among students than the wider public. It places the TCD Senator in second place, ahead of Independent Seán Gallagher and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.

Independent candidate Mary Davis came fifth, followed by Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell and Independent Dana Rosemary Scallon.

The poll shows that 74 per cent of students intend to vote in the election, even though it takes place on a Thursday during term.

Some 22 per cent said they would not vote because they were not registered, unable to get home, not eligible or not interested. Four per cent said they did not know if they would vote.

Asked who they would vote for in the election, the figures (excluding undecided voters at 27 per cent) were: Mr Higgins, 34 per cent; Mr Norris, 25 per cent; Mr Gallagher, 17 per cent; Mr McGuinness, 12 per cent; Ms Davis, 6 per cent; Mr Mitchell, 4 per cent; and Ms Scallon, 2 per cent.

The poll shows Mr Higgins is the preferred candidate in five of the seven universities, with students in DCU and Maynooth favouring Mr Norris. Mr Higgins polled 44 per cent in TCD, compared to 30 per cent for Mr Norris, who represents TCD graduates in the Seanad.

Mr McGuinness polled between 10 and 17 per cent in six of the seven institutions. He got 17 per cent of the vote in UCD but just 3 per cent in TCD.

Support for Mr Mitchell and Ms Scallon was consistently low, with both candidates polling highs of 6 per cent in UCC. Support for Ms Davis peaked at 11 per cent in Limerick, while Mr Gallagher received his strongest backing in Maynooth, at 23 per cent.

Union of Students in Ireland president Gary Redmond said he was disappointed the Government was staging the election on a Thursday. He said the Coalition parties had previously been critical of Fianna Fáil for making it difficult for the 200,000-strong student electorate to vote by holding elections midweek.