Support for non-party candidates has risen from 15% at the time of the 2011 general election, to 21%, according to a Millward Brown Poll, putting them almost on a par with Fianna Fáil on 22% and Sinn Féin on 20%.
The poll shows Independents are three-and-a-half times more popular than the Labour Party who have 6% support — the lowest the junior coalition party has polled since coming into office and a drop from 19% at the last general election.
A separate poll by Behaviour and Attitudes puts support for Independents up five points to 26% — significantly higher than any of the political parties. This compares with 20% support for Fianna Fáil, 21% for Fine Gael, 20% for Sinn Féin, and 9% for Labour.
The results are good news for about 365 Independent candidates contesting the May 23 local elections.
These include 28 who are part of the Independents Network Group which also includes five Dáil TDs, Catherine Murphy, Catherine Murphy, John Halligan, Thomas Pringle, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Finian McGrath.
A further 20 Independents — mostly based in Cork — are associated with The People’s Convention grouping.
The polls show mixed results for Fine Gael and no clear pattern of how months of controversies surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter might have affected voters’ perception of the party.
The Millward Brown Poll published in the Sunday Independent has Fine Gael up two points to 29% support making them the most popular political grouping in the country. But 54% believe Mr Shatter should resign because of his handling of the controversy over phone tapings at Garda stations, 56% believe he should resign because of his handling of the Garda whistleblower controversy, and 53% believe the Taoiseach should simply sack him.
The Behaviour and Attitudes poll published in The Sunday Times shows the controversies have had a major effect on the party’s popularity. It shows a dramatic drop in support for Fine Gael from 30%, the last time a survey was taken on February 19, to 21% now.
Based on these results, analysts say that Fine Gael could lose one third of its Dáil seats if there was an election tomorrow.
The poll places Sinn Féin as the largest party in Dublin, where its support levels are at 23% compared with 16% for Fianna Fáil and 12% for Labour. This puts Sinn Féin in with a strong chance of winning one of the three European Parliament seats in Dublin.
It now looks increasingly unlikely that the Labour Party will manage to win any EU seat in this month’s elections and its dip to just 6% in one poll will raise alarm bells that it could be heading for a wipeout similar to that suffered by the Green Party or PDs following coalitions with Fianna Fáil. The party has not been helped by its support for Mr Shatter despite — as its leader, Eamon Gilmore, admitted in the Dáil last week — having many unanswered questions surrounding events in the run up to the resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.