‘Irish Times’ poll: Voters prefer Simon Coveney to Leo Varadkar

Minister for Housing holds lead among wider electorate and party members in Fine Gael leadership race

Simon Coveney has demonstrated that there is a contest, there is a choice, for the Fine Gael party leader at the first of four hustings at the Red Cow in Dublin. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Simon Coveney leads Leo Varadkar among Fine Gael voters and also among voters in general in the race for the party leadership, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll.

Asked their preferred choice for leader of Fine Gael, 42 per cent said Mr Coveney, while 37 per cent opted for Mr Varadkar. Over a fifth of voters (21 per cent) said they didn’t know.

Among Fine Gael voters 48 per cent opted for Mr Coveney and 44 per cent for Mr Varadkar, with 8 per cent undecided. The sample of Fine Gael voters is smaller than the national sample and therefore has a larger margin of error.

Mr Coveney is preferred by less well-off voters, older voters, farmers and those resident in Connacht-Ulster and Munster, where 56 per cent say he is their choice.

Podcast: Pat Leahy analyses poll results

Mr Varadkar leads in Dublin (with 44 per cent support) and in Leinster, and also among wealthier voters.

Boost

The result will come as a significant boost for Mr Coveney, as he heads into a series of hustings debates with his rival. His supporters have insisted in recent days that the party membership has been ignored by TDs, many of whom rowed in behind Mr Varadkar in the early days of the race.

However, Mr Varadkar retains a near-unassailable lead in the contest to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny. According to The Irish Times tracker of support in the leadership campaign, he has the declared support of 45 per cent of the Fine Gael electorate.

Asked a series of questions about the candidates’ strengths, voters favour Mr Coveney on trust and believe he is more “in touch with ordinary people”. However, they favour Mr Varadkar to “deliver real change”.

The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.