The Irish Times view on the Ipsos/MRBI poll: Fine Gael still in the driving seat
Leo Varadkar’s party is in a strong position, but the poll leaves open the question as to who will form the next government
The electorate is almost equally divided on whether the confidence and supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail should be extended or whether the country should have an immediate general election, according to the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll. Photograph: Alan Betson
The dramatic events of the past week have not changed the political landscape to any significant extent, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, which shows a modest rise in support for both Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.
The poll was taken immediately after the budget while the Dáil was in the throes of the Denis Naughten departure but neither event appears to have altered the political mood.
An interesting feature of the poll is that the electorate is almost equally divided on whether the confidence-and-supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should be extended or whether the country should have an immediate general election.
There is an irony here in that Fine Gael supporters are far more strongly in favour of an extension of the deal than supporters of any other party even though the pressure for an early election appears to be coming mainly from Fine Gael Ministers.
Reaction to the budget is neutral, with 62 per cent of people saying it will make no difference, 19 per cent saying they will be better off and just 14 per cent feeling worse off. In political terms the low number feeling worse off is a plus for the Government.
However, the budget strategy of focusing resources on improving public services rather than cutting taxes has not enthused the voters, with a majority favouring tax cuts instead. Only Fine Gael supporters approve of the strategy while a majority of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin voters would have preferred tax cuts.
In party political terms Fine Gael will be happy with a two point rise to 33 per cent. The party has been polling consistently in the low to mid 30 per cent range since Leo Varadkar took over as leader.
Fianna Fáil has slipped one point to 25 per cent since the last poll in April and it too has developed a consistent pattern of support in the mid to high 20 per cent range. By contrast Sinn Féin has risen to 24 per cent, a level of support it has not seen in an Irish Times poll since March 2015.
The Labour Party remains in the doldrums, falling back one point to just 4 per cent, while support for Independents and smaller parties has dropped by two points to 14 per cent, which is less than half the share of the vote they achieved at the last election.
While the satisfaction rating of the Government has dropped since the last poll, Varadkar remains the most popular party leader with a rating of 51 per cent, well ahead of his rivals.
Overall the poll indicates that Fine Gael is in a strong position to enhance its status as the biggest party in the Dáil in the event of an early election, but it leaves open the question as to who will form the next government.