Norris ahead in presidency poll


Independent Senator David Norris is ahead in the race to succeed Mary McAleese as the next president of Ireland, according to the latest Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI poll.

The poll shows Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell in second place followed closely by Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins.

There is also significant support for Independent candidates Seán Gallagher and Mary Davis but potential Fianna Fáil candidate Éamon Ó Cuív is trailing in last place in the poll.

When people were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election was held tomorrow, the figures (when undecided voters were excluded) were: David Norris 25 per cent; Gay Mitchell 21 per cent, Michael D Higgins 18 per cent, Seán Gallagher 13 per cent, Mary Davis 12 per cent and Éamon Ó Cuív 11 per cent.

The poll was taken between last Friday and Monday 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.

With three months to go before the presidential election the poll shows that 28 per cent of the electorate is in the “don’t know” category.Easily the most important factor that will influence voters in making up their minds is choosing the candidate who will best represent Ireland.

When presented with a number of options 38 per cent of voters said a candidate who could represent Ireland well was the most important; 17 per cent said honesty/reputation and 9 per cent opted for personality. Just 3 per cent said a candidate’s political experience was the most important factor.

Although he leads in The Irish Times poll Mr Norris has still not received the necessary support of four county councils or 20 Oireachtas members required to contest the election.

All of the other individuals in the poll, with the exception of Mr Ó Cuív, are declared candidates with enough support to get on the ballot paper. Fianna Fáil has not yet made a decision on whether to put up a candidate. Mr Norris gets his strongest backing in Dublin while he is weakest in Connacht-Ulster. In class terms his support is strongest in the best-off AB category and weakest among farmers.

Mr Norris is attracting significant backing from supporters of all the major political parties. Across the different age groups his strongest support comes from the 35- to 49-year-old age group, while he is weakest among the over 65s and the youngest 18- to 24-year-old group.

Mr Mitchell is also strongest in Dublin and weakest in Connacht-Ulster. What will be of concern is that he is currently getting the support of less than half of Fine Gael voters. By contrast with Mr Norris the strongest support for Mr Mitchell comes from the youngest and oldest age groups. In class terms his support is evenly spread.

Mr Higgins is strongest in Munster and Connacht-Ulster and among the older age groups, while in class terms he is strongest in the lower middle-class C2 group. Like Mr Mitchell he is getting the support of less than half the declared Labour voters.

Mr Gallagher and Ms Davis have an even spread of support across the age groups and social classes. However, Ms Davis does considerably better among Fianna Fáil voters than Mr Gallagher.

The level of support for Mr Ó Cuív at 11 per cent is an indication that the Fianna Fáil brand remains toxic. In Dublin he attracts a paltry 4 per cent level of support but that rises to 19 per cent in Connacht-Ulster.

A factor that will have a decisive impact on the outcome of the contest is the ability of the candidates to attract transfers.

Mr Higgins is the most transfer friendly of all the candidates, which will encourage his supporters to believe that he can win the presidency even if he does not top the poll on the first count.

Mr Norris and Ms Davis come joint second in their ability to attract preferences. Mr Mitchell lags behind Mr Gallagher on this front and only Mr Ó Cuív does worse on second preferences.