Better News For Fine Gael2023.06.26
Some reprieve today for Fine Gael after a tough few weeks fielding questions about the party’s position in the polls and briefings around concerns in its leadership.
Firstly, the party regains ground lost last month, bringing it back to a similar level of support at 22% that it secured at the last election. This is within margin for error on our last poll, but suggests support remains in the low 20s in the long-term trend rather than a protracted decline in support.
Secondly, there is relatively strong backing from voters for Leo Varadkar to remain as leader of the party going into the next election, particularly amongst Fine Gael voters. We asked all voters, when putting aside your own party preference, who they think should lead Fine Gael into the next general election. Clearly this is difficult for some of those who have no interest in Fine Gael to have an opinion. Despite this however, Leo Vardakar gets the highest level of support among all voters at 23%, which rise to a third (33%) among those who actually express a preference.
More importantly he gets the support of over half of all Fine Gael voters (52%), which rises to 56% among those that express a preference. The next best candidate is Simon Harris, but he is some way behind with only 14% of Fine Gael voters supporting him, while Pascal Donohue comes in third, with 12% support.
Support for Varadkar as Leader of Fine Gael is similar across age groups but is stronger among those living in Dublin and the rest of Leinster, and weakest on Connaught and Ulster.
Elsewhere in the poll Sinn Fein support drops back quite heavily. Before reading too much into this, we should take into account that the party did see quite a steep rise in support in May. At the time we suggested this could be due to heavy coverage of successful elections in the North during the time the poll was taken. Today’s poll does appear to bear this theory out, as all the gains seen are lost again.
While Sinn Fein have been recording support in the low 30’s for most of this year, it will be more of a concern for the party that support has dipped below the 30% threshold this month. Support for Sinn Fein is standing now at 29%, a share of 1st preference votes which has not been as low since September 2021. However, polling does have a margin of error no matter how accurate the method is, and I would suspect that party support remains in and around 30%, until we see a longer-term trend of decreased support.
It appears that much of the loss for Sinn Fein is among male voters, those in middle 25-54 year old age groups and those living in Dublin.
Government parties will be pleased with the results of the poll overall, as Fianna Fail also makes small gains, to see support rise back up to 16% overall. The Green Party remain stable at 4%, so overall the Government parties see a rise in support to secure 42% of the total votes available.
Outside of the government it is Independent candidates that make the strongest gains as a result of this dip in Sinn Fein support. They see support rise to 13%, up 2% on last month and is now at the highest level since February this year.
Labour also make gains in today’s poll, seeing support rise to 5% for the first time since March 2022, when party leader Ivana Bacik first took over from Alan Kelly. Perhaps this is as a result of the Presidents intervention in political affairs last week, when he voiced a position on neutrality and a perceived skew against it in the Government Forum on International Security? Bacik shared this position vocally in the media this week.
On the issue raised by President Higgins with regard to the country’s neutrality and security the public are quite unsure how we should move forward. Only a third support the concept of Ireland joining NATO, while a slightly higher proportion (38%) oppose it, but this means well over a quarter of voter are unsure whether we should or not.
The gender split on this issue is significant. Men are much more likely to believe that we would join NATO (44%), with support at its highest among men aged over 55. Women are more likely to oppose joining or be unsure if we should or not.
Almost half (47%) however do support relying on Britain to help police/patrol our seas and skies from foreign actors. This again rises to its highest level among older men, where 65% of those men aged 55 or over support relaying on Britain to help police/patrol seas and skies, while only just over 1 in 4 (28%) of young women aged under 35 support this idea.
The full report can be downloaded below