Fine Gael’s support has plummeted in the latest Ipsos/MRBI poll, published last week. According to the poll, support for the party has slipped to 22%. In contrast, Sinn Féin has gained five points since the last poll and now leads by ten points at 32%, while Fianna Fáil has held at 20%. This is the highest Ipsos/MRBI poll rating for Sinn Féin.
According to The Irish Times, ‘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’.
‘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’.
Further, The Irish Times said that the Green Party were on 7%, increase of one percent, while Labour is on 4%, also an increase of one percent. Independents/others are on 16%.
Meanwhile, ‘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)’.
In summary, this poll rating of 22% will be a worry for Fine Gael, who would have been hoping for an upsurge in support, due to a Covid bounce. This latest poll rating, in October 2021, is in stark contrast to the party’s highest poll rating during the pandemic, which was at 37% in June 2020. It is also just one percent greater than its election result in 2020, the worst one since the 2002 election.
In comparison, Sinn Féin has continued to consolidate its support in the latest Ipsos/MRBI poll. While it draws much of its support from younger and working class voters, it has also broadened its voting base as it has increased support among older and wealthier voters.
Undoubtedly, the one who will be most disappointed with this poll rating is Leo Varadkar. While his satisfaction rating is slightly greater than Taoiseach Micheál Martin, he is now on level pegging with Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald.
This follows reports of dissatisfaction that were levelled at Mr. Varadkar during a recent Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. This poll rating also continues a difficult 12 months or so for Varadkar.
Having been placed under criminal investigation following being accused of leaking a highly confidential GP contract to a rival trade union, and the fallout from the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a Special Envoy for Freedom of Expression, it surely cannot get any worse now for the Tánaiste.
Varadkar will need to work vigorously to improve the poll ratings for Fine Gael between now and the next 12 months; in particular, to start on a positive note as Taoiseach when Mr. Martin hands over the reins to him in November 2022.
Otherwise, there is a possibility that if these poll ratings do not improve, Mr. Varadkar could face a leadership challenge from rival TDs, such as Simon Harris, Paschal Donohoe, and Simon Coveney.