FG now in prime position to win the next election
Published 13/02/2010 | 05:00
AFTER a week when the party was dragged through the mire and engaged in old-style in-fighting, Fine Gael will be pretty pleased to find it is still in pole position to win the next general election.
But the questions over Enda Kenny's leadership will remain when the results of the Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll are analysed.
The acrimonious departure of celebrity TD George Lee hasn't had any adverse effect on the party's support, which continues to rise substantially.
Building on the results from last year's local elections, Fine Gael is up 4pc to 34pc.
In the local elections, FG won 45 extra city and county council seats to become the largest party in local government, with 338 seats.
The party is now achieving support levels not seen since the early 1980s and continues to consistently break the 30pc mark in a variety of opinion polls.
Fine Gael is going strong across a range of ages and backgrounds. As usual, it is stronger among the older and farming voters, but it is also gaining among 18 to 24-year-olds and professionals.
Based on the current support levels, the party would be looking at gaining up to an extra 10 seats in the next general election. The target of becoming the biggest party in the Dail would also be well on track.
However, Fine Gael's habit of pushing the self-destruct button remains.
Despite achieving the best levels of support in almost 30 years, the focus is still on the internal bickering.
His latest satisfaction ratings will do little to quell the doubts over Mr Kenny's leadership.
He continues to languish well behind his party's rise in support. In fact, he's going in the opposite direction.
At this point, the voters are more than two to one against the party leader, in terms of being satisfied with his performance.
His satisfaction rating of 26pc is down 3pc on a year ago. But his dissatisfaction rating has reached a record high of 61pc -- up another 4pc. Mr Kenny has got his lowest satisfaction rating since October 2003, when he was on 24pc.
Back then he was only in the job for a year and a lot of voters were still making up their mind about him, with 28pc in the 'don't know' category.
The party leader gained ground right up to the May 2007 general election, thereafter he took a major hit in support and has never recovered.
The dissatisfaction with Mr Kenny is across the board, with some peaks in the 35 to 49 age groups, those over 65, and those on higher incomes.
Dublin voters are also slightly higher than the average dissatisfaction rating at 65pc.