Voters' satisfaction with Government down sharply

 

The Government’s satisfaction rating has declined sharply, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, which also shows a drop in support for both Coalition parties.

The Labour Party has been particularly hard hit, while Sinn Féin has risen to 21 per cent, its highest rating ever in an Irish Times poll.

Support for Independents and smaller parties has also increased.

Satisfaction with the Government has dropped 14 points to 23 per cent since the last poll in October, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore are also down significantly.

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday at the height of the controversy over the planned introduction of water meters.

When people were asked who they would vote for if a general election were held tomorrow, the figures for party support – when undecided voters are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll were: Fine Gael, 33 per cent (down three points); Labour, 13 per cent (down six points); Fianna Fáil, 14 per cent (down one point); Sinn Féin, 21 per cent (up six points); Green Party, 2 per cent (up one point); and Independents/Others, 17 per cent (up three points).

The survey was undertaken last Monday and Tuesday 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.

The core vote for the parties compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fine Gael, 25 per cent (down four points); Labour, 10 per cent (down five points); Fianna Fáil, 11 per cent (down one point); Sinn Féin, 15 per cent (up two points); Green Party, 1 per cent (no change); Independents/Others, 13 per cent (up two points); and undecided voters, 25 per cent (up six points).

The drop in the Government’s satisfaction rating to 23 per cent, after just a year in office, is an ominous development given the difficult decisions it will have to implement over the next three years.

This rating is far lower than anything achieved by the Fianna Fáil-led governments during Bertie Ahern’s tenure from 1997 until 2008.

Only the performance of the Cowen government from November 2008 until February 2011 was worse.

Mr Kenny’s rating has dropped by ten points to 42 per cent but he is still the most popular party leader by a wide stretch.

Mr Gilmore has seen a steep drop of 14 points in his rating over the past six months to 27 per cent, the lowest he has achieved since becoming Labour party leader in the autumn of 2007.

Satisfaction with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has slipped a little, despite his party’s performance, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is also down in the poll.

In party terms, Fine Gael has slipped three points to 33 per cent but the party is still comfortably ahead of all the other Dáil parties and just three points below its general election performance.

The decline in Labour Pary support is a serious development for the party. At 13 per cent it has fallen back to a level of support it traditionally obtained before its significant breakthrough in the polls from the beginning of 2009.

One consolation for the party is its vote has held up relatively well in Dublin, where it is still on 20 per cent, three points ahead of Sinn Féin in the capital.

Speaking this morning, Labour’s Pat Rabbitte said he was “disappointed, but not really surprised” with the results of the poll. Mr Rabbitte said it is a “very unpopular time for politics” and historically the smaller party in government “suffers more”.

He said some people who support Labour in the last election felt they were not just getting a new government but a new economy as well. Mr Rabbitte said he understands people have seen living standards eroded and are “very distressed” but the Government has been given the job of getting the economy back on track.

The Sinn Féin surge to 21 per cent will be a significant boost to the party as it pursues the objective of becoming the leading force on the Opposition. The party’s gain of six points exactly matches the Labour decline.

Sinn Féin is strongest in the rest of Leinster, closely followed by Connacht, Ulster and Munster.

A Sinn Féin spokeswoman said the party would not become complacent despite its success. “It’s a long way from here to an election and these polls can be unreliable,” she said. “However, it is heartening, as always, to see the party doing so well.”

She said Labour is suffering for adopting Fine Gael policies. “The drop in support for Labour shows that the public realises it is just the tail being wagged by the Fine Gael dog,” she said. “Labour’s own supporters realise that too.”

The result shows Fianna Fáil is becalmed on 14 points and there will be concern in the party that it is trailing so far behind Sinn Féin.

The Green Party has managed to increase its support and party leader Eamon Ryan is up marginally but the absence of Dáil representation makes it difficult for the party to have an impact.

The number supporting Independents and smaller parties is up three points and is almost back at the level of support obtained in the general election when 19 TDs from this group was elected.

The number of undecided voters, at 25 per cent, is high, given the intensity of recent political debate, and it indicates that support levels for all of the parties could be very fluid.