Sinn Féin has extended its lead over its rivals and remains on course to be comfortably the largest party in the next Dáil, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll.
With 18 months at most to go before the next general election, Sinn Féin now leads Fianna Fáil by 14 points and Fine Gael by 16, after today’s poll shows the party recovering from a fall-off in support seen during the first half of the year.
Support for smaller parties, especially the Social Democrats, has slipped, while Independents see their support grow, today’s figures suggest.
Satisfaction with the Government has also fallen to its lowest level in more than a year.
The state of the parties, when undecided voters and those unlikely to vote are excluded, is as follows: Sinn Féin 34 per cent (up three); Fianna Fáil 20 per cent (down one); Fine Gael 18 per cent (no change); Green Party 3 per cent (down one); Labour 3 per cent (down one); and Independents/others 22 per cent (no change).
Among the Independents and other smaller parties, the results are as follows: Social Democrats 2 per cent (down three); Solidarity-People Before Profit 2 per cent (up two); Aontú 1 per cent (no change); and Independents 18 per cent (up four). Rounding may affect the totals.
Undecided voters (excluded from the above numbers) were at 23 per cent, unchanged from the last poll in June.
Mary Lou McDonald remains the most popular party leader, with 42 per cent expressing satisfaction with her performance, just marginally ahead of the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (41 per cent). Both figures are unchanged since June.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sees his satisfaction rating improve slightly, up by two points to 39 per cent, while Green leader Eamon Ryan sees his rating decline by a similar amount, down two points to 18 per cent. Satisfaction with the Government as a whole is at 32 per cent.
While support for Sinn Féin is strongest among younger voters, today’s poll shows that the party has grown its support right across the electorate. It is 10 points ahead of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael among the wealthiest ABC1 voters and also leads Fine Gael (though not Fianna Fáil) among over-65s.
But with much of the Sinn Féin gains coming at the expense of smaller parties that it might hope to lead into a coalition, the party’s likely path to government after the next general election remains uncertain. Nonetheless, it is clear that the party is the big winner in today’s poll.
With 2½ weeks to go before the budget, the numbers are worrying for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The results of the poll are likely to increase pressure on budget Ministers Michael McGrath and Paschal Donohoe to increase giveaways when they announce the budget – many TDs and Ministers believe that a generous budget package that impacts on people’s pockets is the Coalition’s only chance of reviving its fortunes. Mr McGrath and Mr Donohoe, however, have stressed the need for caution and long-term planning.
The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies between September 24th-26th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.