Ipsos MRBI opinion poll: how voters see Fine Gael’s choice

Public takes quite a different view than members of the parliamentary party

 

The public takes quite a different view of the Fine Gael leadership election campaign than the members of the parliamentary party, according to today’s Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI opinion poll. Although Leo Varadkar is ahead by more than two to one among Fine Gael TDs, senators and MEPs, his rival Simon Coveney is ahead among ordinary voters.

Questioned about the qualities of the two candidates, the responses show that Coveney chimes with voters on the issues of political experience, trust, stability and traditional values. By contrast, Varadkar comes out ahead as regards straight talking, the ability to win more votes for Fine Gael and the capacity to deliver real change. The two contenders are tied on which of them would be best in a political crisis.

The poll reflects the appeal of Coveney to older voters, who are concerned with stability and trust, in contrast to Varadkar’s appeal to the young, who attach more importance to change and straight talking. Not surprisingly, Varadkar is ahead in Dublin but Coveney has a massive lead over his rival in Munster.

The poll was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday, just after Varadkar made his comments about wanting to look after the interests of people who get up early in the morning. This drew a strong riposte from Coveney, who stressed his commitment to the Just Society ideals that inspired Garret FitzGerald and Declan Costello.

It appears more of the public are on Coveney’s side of the argument and while it is hardly likely to affect the outcome, the poll should inject life into the hustings which began last night.

The findings will fuel the frustration of Fine Gael members who feel the contest was stitched up by their TDs and senators before it even started. It will be very interesting to see the final breakdown in support for the two candidates among party members as distinct from party supporters.

A notable feature of the poll is that Enda Kenny has achieved his highest satisfaction rating since 2011 in the final Irish Times poll to be taken during his term as Taoiseach. This suggests a recognition that he has done a good job for the country during his six years in office. The Government’s satisfaction rating has also surged to its highest level in more than five years and that should give the incoming Taoiseach a fair wind.

As for the state of the parties, Fine Gael has pulled back ahead of Fianna Fáil, which is probably not surprising given the focus of media attention on the party over the past two weeks. Fianna Fáil has dropped back a little but is still within touching distance of Fine Gael. The battle as to which of them will be ahead after the next election is still wide open. There has been little movement among the other parties and groups, with Labour recovering a little ground and Sinn Féin and the Independents/Others remaining stable.

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