Fine Gael support surges on back of Brexit row

Latest poll reveals Fine Gael stretch clear of Fianna Fáil to enjoy an 11-point lead

Fine Gael has seen a surge in support and now enjoys a substantial lead over Fianna Fáil, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll.

The poll, which was taken this week while the row over the breakdown of Brexit negotiations was raging, shows that Fine Gael has gained five points since the last poll in October, while Fianna Fáil support has dropped by four points.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar enjoys an 11-point lead over Micheál Martin's party, the largest poll lead in The Irish Times series since 2015.

Support for Sinn Féin, at 19 per cent, and for Labour, at 4 per cent, is unchanged. Independents, others and small parties see aggregate support decline marginally to 16 per cent.


The state of the parties, when undecided voters are excluded, is: Fine Gael 36 per cent (up five points compared with the last poll in October), Fianna Fáil 25 per cent (down four), Sinn Féin 19 per cent (no change), Labour 4 per cent (no change), Independents/others 16 per cent (down one).

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face-to-face interviews at 120 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

The "core" vote for the parties – that is, before undecideds were excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll in October was: Fine Gael 27 per cent (up four); Fianna Fáil 19 per cent (down three); Labour 3 per cent (down one); Sinn Féin 15 per cent (no change); Independents/Others 13 per cent (down two).

Undecided voters are up by two points to 23 per cent, meaning that almost a quarter of the electorate are not sure who, if anyone, they will vote for in the next election. Among the smaller parties, the Greens are on 3 per cent among voters declaring a preference, Solidarity-People Before Profit are on 1 per cent, the Social Democrats are on 1 per cent, Independents4Change are on 1 per cent, the Independent Alliance is on 1 per cent, other groups and parties are on 2 per cent and non-party Independents are on 5 per cent.

There has also been a jump in satisfaction for the Government since the last poll, with 41 per cent of people saying they are satisfied with the manner in which it is running the country, an increase of five points. In addition, a majority of people (57 per cent) believe the country is “on the right track”.

Mr Varadkar also sees his approval rating increase by four points to 53 per cent, the highest number in the series since Enda Kenny’s rating in 2011.

But Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also sees his approval rating jump by six points to 43 per cent. Both Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Labour leader Brendan Howlin see their approval ratings decline marginally by a point, to 29 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

The movement in today’s poll arrests a trend in recent months where support for Fine Gael and for Fianna Fáil was increasing gradually together.

It comes after the Government endured a week of controversy which culminated in the wake of the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald as tánaiste, but shows Fine Gael and its leader have endured no immediate damage.

More significantly, the sampling process coincided with the collapse of Brexit talks between the UK, Ireland and the EU, which saw the Taoiseach strongly criticise the British government.

It represents an acceleration of a steady increase in support for Fine Gael over the last year and a half, though with the added factor of the strong personal ratings for Mr Varadkar.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times