Varadkar helps Fine Gael move forward in Irish Times poll

Ipsos MRBI published its first national poll for over four months in yesterday’s Irish Times, covering not only voting intentions and leader ratings, but a number of individual issues notably including abortion law reform.

The survey shows rather little has changed in voting intentions over that long period, but the numbers do give a first chance in this poll series to assess the performance of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach. The new premier’s Fine Gael party breaks through the 30 per cent barrier with MRBI for the first time since October 2012. And he is comfortably ahead of all rival party leaders with a 49 per cent approval rating – so some kind of honeymoon effect is still being felt.

However, main opposition rivals Fianna Fail also rise two points in the survey to 29 per cent.  Sinn Fein is down marginally to 19 per cent. Among the many smaller parties and independents, there are no significant movements in support.


Abortion reform

With Varadkar having announced a long-awaited referendum on abortion liberalisation for May or June of 2018, it is clear this will be a major political discussion point in the months to come. Yesterday’s polling shows very strong support for limited reform, with 70 per cent of respondents saying they would back proposals to allow abortion in the cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality, rape or real risk to the life of the woman’ (17 per cent against, 12 per cent don’t know). In contrast only 35 per cent back unlimited abortion until the 22nd week of pregnancy (50 per cent against, 15 per cent don’t know). The wording of the referendum question will be critical, of course, and this is unlikely to emerge until the New Year. Other compromise options lying somewhere between the two stark choices presented here by MRBI may well be on the table.


Higgins backed

Irish President (head of state) Michael D Higgins receives strong backing to serve a second term in this poll, with 64 per cent wanting him to return in 2018 for another seven years. 29 per cent were against his continuing on, with 7 per cent unsure. Clear support for another term was found among supporters of all parties and independents. With just over a year until the Presidential election, no serious challengers to Higgins have yet come forward.


First preference voting intentions, per cent
(change on 26 May poll in brackets):

Fine Gael 31 (+1)
Fianna Fail 29 (+2)
Sinn Fein 19 (-1)
Labour 4 (-1)
Greens 3 (+1)
Social Democrats 2 (+1)
Others 2 (-3)
Independents 10 (nc)

Party leader satisfaction, per cent
(change on 26 May poll in brackets)

Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael 49 (n/a)
Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail 37 (-2)
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein 30 (-1)
Brendan Howlin, Labour 20 (-2)


Fieldwork: 02.10-03.10.2017. Published: 05.10.2017. Participants: 1200. Methodology: Face-to-face interviews. Media partner: Irish Times. Further report and charts here.


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