Mary-Lou McDonald has failed to sway rural voters towards her party since becoming Sinn Féin president a new poll has revealed.
Despite being rated more highly than Gerry Adams, the election of Ms McDonald as party leader is not an incentive to vote Sinn Féin for 62% of farmers.
Just 7% of those surveyed as part of theannual poll strongly agreed that they would be more likely to vote for Sinn Fein now that Ms McDonald is party leader.
It had been expected that a change of leadership after almost 35 years would see a significant bounce in support for Sinn Féin, however, this does not appear to be the case in rural Ireland.
But Ms McDonald, who became president in February, enters the fold in a stronger position than her predecessor with an average satisfaction rating of 3.4 out of 10. Last year’spoll put former Sinn Féin president Mr Adams on 3.15 points.
The annual survey of farmers shows support for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is now at 5.54 points. This is down from his rating of 6.27 last year, however Mr Varadar still has a higher satisfaction rating than his predecessor Enda Kenny who received a rating of 5.42 in the 2016 poll.
With rumours of a general election mounting, Mr Varadar will no doubt be pleased with the satisfaction rating of key members of his Cabinet.
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has a satisfaction rating of 5.13 with those in core roles for farmers including Health, Agriculture, Education and Finance not far behind.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also polls strongly scoring 5.03 out of 10, but like Mr Varadkar his satisfaction rating is marginally down on 2017 when those asked about the Cork South Central TD gave him an average mark of 5.85.
Meanwhile, Brendan Howlin, who this week faced down calls to resign as leader from within his own party, has a satisfaction rating of 3.32. This is a drop for the Labour leader who scored an average of 4.46 among farmers last year.
Speaking at the Labour Party think-in yesterday, Mr Howlin dismissed his party’s poll ratings which have remained static since the 2016 general election and which remains at 1% in this paper’s survey.
It’s our job to talk to all those who believe and think like us and get us to give us number ones and then we won’t have any worry about opinion poll numbers,” said Mr Howlin.
Interestingly it appears that Mr Coveney was viewed as doing a better job when he was in the Department of Agriculture than the current Minister Michael Creed.
In 2013, 9% of the farmers asked said Mr Coveney was doing an “excellent” job as minister for agriculture, 44% described his performance as good, while 32% rated him as fair. This year just 1% of those polled gave Mr Creed over nine marks out of 10. But 55% of farmers marked Mr Creed between five and eight out of 10.
It would therefore appear that Mr Coveney was regarded as doing a better job in Agriculture; however, those conducting the poll pointed out that the question was asked differently in 2013 and so a direct comparison cannot be made.