Sinn Féin on the rise as Labour's support declines


ANALYSIS:Fine Gael’s vote has held up reasonably well but Fianna Fáil is down to 14 per cent and faces an enormous battle to recover

THE STEEP decline in support for the Labour Party and the corresponding rise in support for Sinn Féin are among the key findings in today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The Fine Gael vote has held up reasonably well while Fianna Fáil is still struggling to make an impact but Independents and smaller parties have gained support.

Labour has now dropped back to the level it traditionally achieved before the collapse of Fianna Fáil support in November 2008. A decline in satisfaction with party leader Eamon Gilmore has taken place in tandem with the slide in party support.

The 14-point slide in Gilmore’s support over the past six months to 27 per cent puts him at the lowest rating he has achieved since becoming Labour party leader in the autumn of 2007. For most of the past few years he has been the most popular party leader.

Labour’s national rating of 13 per cent is not evenly spread across the country. It will come as some consolation that it is still the second biggest party in Dublin with 20 per cent. It is on 13 per cent in Munster, 11 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 6 per cent in Connacht Ulster.

In class terms Labour support is fairly evenly spread apart from the farming community where it is unsurprisingly in very low figures.

The party’s vote is also evenly spread across the different age groups and it fares best among the 35 to 49-year-olds. The party attracts significantly more support from women than from men.

The position is reversed for Sinn Féin with the party proving far more attractive to men than women.

The bedrock of the party’s support is the poorest DE social category where it is on 34 per cent. It is easily the most popular party with voters in this category.

By contrast the party wins just 4 per cent support among the best-off AB voters.

Sinn Féin is very different from the other parties in the direct correlation between class and party support.

In regional terms, the party is strongest in the rest of Leinster where it gets 23 per cent but it is close to that figure in Connacht Ulster and Munster. Its support level in Dublin drops to 17 per cent.

In age terms, the party’s vote is now fairly evenly spread across the age groups apart from the over 65s where it is much lower.

Despite Sinn Féin’s significantly improved performance, however, the rating of party leader Gerry Adams has slipped by three points to 29 per cent, although he is now the second most popular party leader after Enda Kenny.

For Fine Gael the poll is relatively good. The party still has more support in every region of the country, among every age group and across all social classes, apart from the DE category, than any other party.

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s rating has dropped he is still comfortably the most popular party leader, a position he obtained for the first time following last year’s general election victory.

Mr Kenny has dropped from 52 per cent to 42 per cent but he is still far ahead of the position he held for almost all of his nine years as leader of the opposition.

The party’s vote in Dublin stands at 26 per cent and it rises to 40 per cent in Connacht Ulster, the home region of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Among the best-off AB voters Fine Gael is easily the biggest party with 46 per cent, far ahead of all other parties. It does even better among farmers at 68 per cent but among the least well-off voters it has dropped to 19 per cent.

Fianna Fáil has dropped one point since the last poll and it clearly has an enormous battle on its hands to recover.

The party is weakest in Dublin where it is now on 12 per cent, a far cry from the Ahern era when it was winning about 40 per cent of the vote in the capital.

The party’s vote is evenly spread across the age groups while in class terms it is weakest among the better-off social categories and strongest among the poorest and among farmers.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has seen a disappointing drop of five points in his satisfaction rating and he is now on 24 per cent, the lowest rating he has achieved since taking over as party leader over a year ago.

Green Party support has doubled from a very low base and its vote in Dublin is up to 3 per cent. It clearly has a long way to go to make any kind of recovery in the local elections due in two years’ time.

The level of support for Independents and Others at 17 per cent indicates that this group has held on to the substantial level of support it achieved in last year’s general election when it won 19 seats.

The strongest support for Independents came from the best- off AB voters but it was high across the other social classes with the exception of farmers.

In regional terms Independents were strongest in Dublin and weakest in Connacht Ulster.