An increase in support for Sinn Féin is the most notable feature of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll, which shows little change for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael but a significant drop in backing for the Social Democrats.
Sinn Féin’s gain of three points to 34 per cent sees the party regaining most of the support it lost in the last poll in June and it is now back to the level it has been achieving consistently over the past two years.
The Sinn Féin gains appears to have come at the expense of the Social Democrats, whose support has dropped by three points to just 2 per cent. It is a far cry from the heady gains made by the party in the wake of the election of Holly Cairns as leader back in March.
The other smaller parties have also suffered in the latest poll, with the Greens dropping to 3 per cent, Labour static on the same figure and People Before Profit dropping a point to 1 per cent. It would appear that Sinn Féin is mopping up the bulk of the anti-Government sentiment, leaving slim pickings for the other smaller left-wing groupings.
There is little change in support for the two big Government parties. Fianna Fáil has dropped a point to 20 per cent but of the two it will be happier that its support has consolidated around that figure in a succession of polls. There will be disappointment in Fine Gael that after a drop of four points in the last poll the party remains stuck on 18 per cent.
The satisfaction rating of the party leaders has not changed much, with Leo Varadkar gaining two points to 39 per cent, Micheál Martin static at 41 per cent and Mary Lou McDonald remaining at 42 per cent. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan trails far behind with just 18 per cent.
Satisfaction with the Government has dropped to 32 per cent and probably more worrying for the Coalition is that 30 per cent of Fine Gael supporters express dissatisfaction, while the figure for the Greens is 40 per cent.
One positive indication for the two big parties in Government is that 70 per cent of Fine Gael supporters are satisfied with Martin’s performance while 60 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters are satisfied with Varadkar. This should bolster the case of those in both parties who believe their cooperation should extend to the next election campaign and beyond.
An interesting feature of the poll is that while support for small parties is declining, that for Independents is going up, with a rise of four points to 18 per cent in the number of voters who back non-party candidates.
When taken in tandem with the finding that shows 23 per cent of the electorate is undecided, the outcome of the next election remains wide open.