'These are not normal times': Fianna Fáil blames pandemic for poll slump

However Sinn Féin fails to capitalise on drop in support for Government parties
'These are not normal times': Fianna Fáil blames pandemic for poll slump

Perversely, while Fianna Fáil's support level has dropped, support for Taoiseach Micheál Martin has increased by three points. Picture: Julien Behal

The eight-point drop in support for the Government parties, as reflected in this week’s Ipsos/MRBI poll for the Irish Times, reflects the mounting public anger at how badly the Covid-19 pandemic is being managed at present.

But the poll also shows the lost support has not found an immediate home, reflected in a surge for independents, the traditional safehouse choice mid-term for floating voters.

The poll also showed a drop in public confidence in how the Government is managing Covid-19.

According to the poll, published on Wednesday night, a majority of voters say they think the Government is “not doing a good job” handling the pandemic.

Only 45% of respondents to the poll say the Government is “doing a good job” in its management of the Covid-19 pandemic, a drop of 13 points since the most recent poll in the series. Those saying the Government is “not doing a good job” have jumped to 51%, an increase of 15 points.

Party support, when undecided voters and those unlikely to vote are excluded, is as follows: 

  • Fianna Fáil 14% (down three); 
  • Fine Gael 30% (down five); 
  • Sinn Féin 28% (down one); 
  • Green Party 6% (up two); 
  • Labour 3% (down one); 
  • Social Democrats 3% (up one); 
  • Solidarity-People Before Profit 1% (no change); 
  • Aontú 1% (no change); 
  • Independents/others 13% (up five).

For Fianna Fáil, a poll rating of 14% is devastating, even more so by the fact it is on just 8% in Dublin. TDs from across the party, reflecting on the poll results, sought to project a level of calm, insisting the pandemic, and all that stems from that, has had a distorting impact on their support numbers.

“In normal times, a poll rating of 14% is a crisis. But these are not normal times. Things are bad, but they are not irretrievable. We clearly know the people are pissed off at us, and events of recent days won’t have helped. But we are not panicking just yet,” said one experienced TD. 

Perversely, while the party’s support level has dropped, support for Micheál Martin has increased by three points. Yet both Mr Martin and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly both received unfavourable ratings from more than 50% of voters, the poll suggests.

For Fine Gael, a drop of five points to 30% is bad but not critical and some TDs say this is merely the party returning to “more normal and sustainable” levels of support. 

“We clearly got a bounce from our handling of Covid and that is wearing off. So our numbers were always going to drop off a bit,” said one Fine Gael TD. 

However, what will be a concern is the continued slide in support for their party leader Leo Varadkar. The personal rating of Mr Varadkar slumped by 13 points, though at 52%, he is still the most popular of the party leaders. 

The Green Party has actually seen its support increase by two points to 6%. Despite the drop in support for the main Government parties, the poll shows Sinn Féin has failed to capitalise, with the party slipping back one point to 28%. 

There was further woe for the Labour Party, which now stands at just 3%, a long way off the 19.5% it won on election day 2011, 10 years ago this week. Serious questions need to be asked about its future on those numbers.

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