Poll shows Varadkar trails Coveney among Fine Gael voters

Opinion poll also reveals that FG ahead of FF for first time since the general election

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 of all voters said Mr Coveney, while 37 per cent opted for Mr Varadkar. Over one-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 only 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 in Munster, where 56 per cent say he is their choice.

Asked a series of questions about the candidates’ strengths, voters favour Mr Coveney on trust

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

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”. But they favour Mr Varadkar to “deliver real change” and rate him ahead of his rival for “straight talking”.

The result will come as a significant boost for Mr Coveney as he heads into a series of hustings debates with his rival, which began last night in Dublin. 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.

Last night, several hundred Fine Gael members questioned the two candidates at the first of the hustings, held at the Red Cow hotel in Dublin. Further events take place over the coming days in Carlow, Ballinasloe and Cork.

However, Mr Varadkar retains a near-unassailable lead in the contest. 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. This support largely rests on the endorsement of 46 members of the parliamentary party.

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.