Fine Gael lead cut by half but Varadkar’s popularity hits new high

After an exceptional poll in February giving the minority ruling party an 11-point lead, Fine Gael’s advantage falls back to a more routine five percentage points in today’s Behaviour & Attitudes survey for the Sunday Times. The main opposition Fianna Fail picks up two to reach 27 per cent of voting intentions. Sinn Fein, under newly installed leader Mary Lou McDonald, also advances, by three points to 19 per cent.

 

 

Notwithstanding the cutting in half of Fine Gael’s lead, voter satisfaction with the government moves up two points to 50 per cent, nearly equalling the record level seen in December 2017 and almost double the 26 per cent recorded by B & A one year ago, before current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took over as premier. Varadkar’s personal popularity hits a new high of 59 per cent today, up by four points on February.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin sees his satisfaction levels rise too, by five points to 55 per cent, equally his best rating in this series which was also achieved in December 2017. McDonald is clearly still in her ‘honeymoon’ period at the helm of Sinn Fein, scoring 46 per cent satisfied on her first inclusion in this poll: her predecessor Gerry Adams bowed on out 39 per cent last month and had seldom moved past 40 per cent on this measure.

With preparations for Ireland’s referendum on abortion law reform moving apace, pollsters are now routinely asking how voters will decide in May/June. Today’s poll finds little movement in attitudes, with 49 per cent planning to vote ‘yes’ to an enabling amendment to the constitution (unchanged on February), 27 per cent supporting ‘no’ (down three) and 20 per cent ‘Don’t Knows’ (up three). The balance of 4 per cent say they will not vote (unchanged).

 

BEHAVIOUR & ATTITUDES 18 March
First preference voting intentions, per cent
(change on 18 February poll in brackets):

Fine Gael 32.0 (-4.0)
Fianna Fail 27.0 (+2.0)
Sinn Fein 19.0 (+3.0)
Labour 6.0 (+1.0)
Independent Alliance 3.0 (-1.0)
Greens 2.0 (+1.0)
Solidarity-PBP 1.0 (-2.0)
Social Democrats 0.0 (-1.0)
Independents 10.0 (+1.0)

 

Party leader satisfaction, per cent
(change on February poll in brackets)

Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael 59.0 (+4.0)
Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail 55.0 (+5.0)
Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein 46.0 (n/a)
Brendan Howlin, Labour 44.0 (-1.0)

 

Fieldwork: 06.03-13.03.2018. Published: 18.03.2018. Participants: 900. Methodology: In-home, face-to-face interviews, adjusted for past turnout. Media partner: Sunday Times. Full details on the B&A site here.

 

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