Ipsos MRBI poll: Advantage Varadkar and Fine Gael
Not since the heyday of Bertie Ahern has a taoiseach achieved this level of popularity
The soaring satisfaction rating of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as revealed in today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, is evidence of the dramatic impact he has had on Irish politics since his accession to the leadership last summer.
It is a remarkable achievement and will confirm the view of his parliamentary party that Varadkar was the most suitable candidate for Taoiseach
His popularity has increased steadily over the three polls conducted for The Irish Times since then and with a rating of 60 per cent he is now at a level never achieved by his predecessor Enda Kenny during his six years in the taoiseach’s office.
Not since the heyday of Bertie Ahern has a taoiseach achieved this level of popularity. It is a remarkable achievement and will confirm the view of his parliamentary party that he was the most suitable candidate for the post.
The satisfaction rating of 44 per cent for the Government is also notable as nothing like it has been in evidence for the last decade. These high ratings show Varadkar’s ability to put his finger on the nation’s pulse. He has been helped by the fact that he came to office as the economic recovery hit its stride and, unlike his immediate predecessors, has not been forced to take unpopular decisions.
Fianna Fáil's failure to make significant inroads into Fine Gael’s lead will be a worry
The danger he faces in the longer term will be the temptation to follow in Ahern’s footsteps and shirk necessary decisions in order to retain his popularity. For the moment, though, he has the standing to lead on important issues like the proposal to remove the constitutional prohibition on abortion. He has shown courage on that issue by putting it at the top of the political agenda for the first six months of this year and that has certainly not done him any harm.
Last week’s surprise announcement by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that he will support not just the removal of the Eighth Amendment but the introduction of abortion up to 12 weeks has not led to any significant change in his rating while his party remains on a solid 25 per cent. That will reassure those TDs who feared that traditional supporters would desert them in droves, but the failure to make significant inroads into Fine Gael’s lead will be a worry.
The announcement last weekend that Mary Lou McDonald is to succeed Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin leader has not resulted in in any change, with the party on 19 per cent for the third poll in a row. The Labour Party is still stranded on four per cent, just a point ahead of the Greens, while Independents and Others remain far off the 30 per cent achieved at the last election.
It seems Irish politics is still dominated by the two biggest parties with the advantage currently with Fine Gael.