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The Irish Times view on latest Ipsos MRBI poll: Serious soul-searching needed for Fine Gael

Sinn Féin continues its inexorable march with 35 per cent support

The seemingly inexorable rise of Sinn Féin is the most striking feature of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll which shows that the party now commands the support of 35 per cent of the electorate. This represents an increase of three points since the last poll in October.

Sinn Féin is now a full 15 points ahead of its nearest rivals, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, both on 20 per cent. While the two main coalition parties have failed to gain from broad public support for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic – which is also revealed in the poll – Sinn Féin's model of opposition politics and relentless promise of change continues to gain traction.

What is most remarkable about the party’s continued momentum is that it is now the most popular among the wealthiest AB voters where it is well ahead of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It has scored highly among working class voters for a number of years but this is the first time it has pulled ahead among the middle class as well. The only social group in which it does not lead is among farmers.

In age terms the party has a massive advantage among the under 35s but it is also ahead among those aged between 35 and 64. It is only among the over 65s that it falls into second place behind Fianna Fáil. In regional terms it has seen a big jump in support in Dublin where it is now well ahead of all others.


The Government parties will be relieved that the next general election may be as long as three years away but the manner in which Sinn Féin has built on the position it secured in last year’s general election, as the most popular party in the State, indicates that a radical transformation in Irish politics is now a distinct possibility.

Fine Gael has fallen again in this poll and is now at 20 per cent. It has not polled lower since December 2014 and needs to engage in some serious soul searching to explain why this is happening at a time when its performance in government should be yielding some dividend.

Fianna Fáil is on the same percentage share but can take some satisfaction that it appears to have stabilised at 20 percent and is benefiting to some degree from leading government. However, the Greens have dropped two points despite the party's success in converting the coalition to its climate change agenda.

The public appears to be unimpressed with any of the Government's achievements and remains focused on its failures, notably the housing shortage. Labour is becalmed at four per cent while other smaller parties also appear to be losing support to Sinn Féin. The message for its rivals is that they face a huge challenge to win back public support and to slow the march of Mary Lou McDonald and her colleagues. As matters stand, the only factor in their favour may be time.