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Mary Lou McDonald most popular choice for taoiseach, Irish Times/Ipsos poll finds

Four in ten voters want Sinn Féin in next Government, but party also faces most opposition

Mary Lou

The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is now the most popular choice to be the next taoiseach, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll has found.

When voters were asked who they would prefer to see as taoiseach after the next election, almost a third (32 per cent) opted for Ms McDonald. The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar were both the choice of 18 per cent each, while 20 per cent of respondents chose none of the three main party leaders.

The poll also finds that just over a quarter of voters (27 per cent) favour a continuation of the present Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Coalition after the next election, but more than four in 10 voters want to see Sinn Féin as part of the next government.

A quarter of voters (25 per cent) say they want to see “a government led by Sinn Féin without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael”. A further 11 per cent want to see a Sinn Féin-Fianna Fáil Coalition, while 6 per cent favour a Sinn Féin-Fine Gael government. Some 17 per cent said they wanted none of the above options.


But if Sinn Féin is the most popular choice for government, it is also – in a tie with the Greens – the party that most voters do not want to see in power. Almost a third of voters (31 per cent), say they do not want to see Sinn Féin in government, while a similar number said they did not want to see the Greens in government.

Under a quarter of voters said they did not want to see Fianna Fáil (23 per cent) or Fine Gael (24 per cent) in the next Government.

The poll suggests there is a strong mood for change in the country. Almost four in ten voters (38 per cent) say that they believe it is “time for radical change” in the way the country is run, a similar number to the last time the question was asked in The Irish Times/Ipsos series of polls in July of last year. But a significantly greater proportion (51 per cent), said that they were in favour of “moderate change”, an increase of four points. Just 8 per cent said they are “wary of change”, a drop of three points.

Despite the appetite for change, however, voters are in no rush to see an election. Just 29 per cent say they want to see an election now. About a third (32 per cent) would like an election in the autumn of 2024, while a further third (34 per cent) say that the Coalition should wait until its term ends in 2025.

Asked about the budget, there is a strong preference among voters for “immediate help with the cost of living”. Over half (52 per cent) of voters favoured this option; 19 per cent said “increase spending on public services”; 18 per favoured “reduce the amount of tax I pay”; while just 8 per cent said “save surplus resources to invest in the future”.

Asked “which one of the following permanent changes would you want to see the Government give first priority in the budget”, the most popular option among those offered was “free GP care for all”, which was the choice of 26 per cent.

The other choices were: mortgage interest relief – 19 per cent; winter fuel bill contributions – 18 per cent; reduction in USC – 12 per cent; and free preschool childcare – 11 per cent.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies between 24-26 September. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times