Opinion poll: plenty to puzzle and ponder

No obvious advantage to Fianna Fáil in bringing down Government when confidence and supply deal runs out

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

 

The message from the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll is that there is no obvious advantage to Fianna Fáil in bringing down the Government when the confidence-and- supply arrangement runs out later this year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week warned his TDs to be prepared for Fianna Fáil attacks as the arrangement runs out. But the poll findings should make the main Opposition party think very carefully before pulling the plug and prompting a general election. Although the poll shows a decline of three points in Fine Gael support and a rise of one point in Fianna Fáil support, the main Government party continues to hold a lead over its rival that began when Varadkar became party leader last summer.

With a support level of 31 per cent, Fine Gael is five points ahead of Fianna Fáil. If that lead is maintained until the next election the party will retain its position as the biggest in the Dáil but, of course, everything will hinge on the circumstances in which the election is called and how the various parties conduct their campaigns.

Complementing the reasonably solid support for Fine Gael in the poll, satisfaction with the Government at 44 per cent has remained strong after years of dire ratings for successive governments. The Taoiseach’s satisfaction rating has slipped five points but at 55 per cent he is still well ahead of other party leaders and clearly retains a level of public trust that his predecessor Enda Kenny never achieved.

The one-point rise for Fianna Fáil shows the party is still in with a chance of regaining its pre-eminent position but it has a lot of work to do to bridge the gap with Fine Gael. One encouraging sign for Fianna Fáil is that support in Dublin is continuing to rise although this is more pronounced in the party’s traditional working-class heartland in the capital.

There is good news for Sinn Féin with the party up three points and the new leader Mary Lou McDonald has a satisfaction rating of 39 per cent, an increase of 12 points on the rating achieved by Gerry Adams in the last poll. Sinn Féin is by far the leading party among 18- to 24-year-olds and although they do not vote in the same numbers as older people, it is an encouraging omen for the future.

Labour has recovered a little ground and is now on 5 per cent. That is still worse than its poor showing in the last general election when it bore the brunt of voter anger after the austerity years. But it represents the first bit of good poll news for a year.

The share of the voting going to Independents and smaller parties is down two points to 16 per cent. That is almost half the level of support achieved by this category in the last election and is another sign that voters are turning back to the major parties as the election approaches.

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