Politics

Sinn Féin opens up 10-point lead as most popular party among voters

A sharp fall in support for Fine Gael has opened up a 10-point lead for Sinn Féin over its nearest rival as the party strengthens its position as the most popular party among voters.

The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll shows that Sinn Féin has the support of almost a third of voters at 32 per cent, far ahead of Fine Gael (22 per cent) and Fianna Fáil (20 per cent).

The poll also shows a drop in the satisfaction rating of the Government from 53 per cent in June to 46 per cent on Wednesday. Both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also see their personal approval ratings fall, Mr Martin by eight points to 41 per cent and Mr Varadkar by a substantial 13 points, to 43 per cent.

The latest approval ratings for the four main party leaders
The latest approval ratings for the four main party leaders

The state of the parties, when undecided voters and those unlikely to vote are excluded, is as follows: Sinn Féin, 32 per cent (up one); Fine Gael, 22 per cent (down five); Fianna Fáil, 20 per cent (no change); Green Party, 7 per cent (up one); Labour, 4 per cent (up one); and Independents/others, 16 per cent (up three). All of the above figures are rounded which accounts for the total of 101%.

Among the Independents and smaller parties, the results are as follows: Social Democrats, 3 per cent (up one); Solidarity-People Before Profit, 2 per cent (no change); Aontú, 1 per cent (no change); and Independents, 10 per cent (up two). (Rounding of figures gives a total of 101 per cent.)

Drop in support

The sharp drops in support for Fine Gael and for its leader are the most noticeable aspects of the poll, bringing the party to its lowest levels since the last general election. It comes after a difficult period for the Government, and for Fine Gael in particular which faced sustained criticism for the now-abandoned appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy, and a motion of no-confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

But the poll results also come after the launch of the National Development Plan earlier this week, which saw the Government pledge to invest €165 billion in capital projects over the next 20 years, and as the pandemic continues to recede.

Hopes in the Government parties of a “Covid bounce” have come to nothing, as the political agenda has shifted from managing the pandemic to issues such as health and housing, on which the Government faces severe challenges.

The result is the highest ever rating for Sinn Féin in The Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI series. Though the party remains strongest among younger voters and in working class communities, it has also made gains this year among older voters and wealthier voters. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald sees a marginal increase in her satisfaction rating, from 42 to 43 per cent.

Fianna Fáil support remains skewed towards older voters, though the party will be happy to have recovered support in Dublin to 16 per cent, twice the level recorded earlier this year.

At 7 per cent, the Green Party has recovered to the level of support it won at the last general election, though party leader Eamon Ryan sees his personal approval rating slip by a point to 25 per cent, the lowest of all the party leaders.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies on October 2nd, 4th and 5th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

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