Poll: Give us Enda without Gilmore
Fine Gael leader most popular to be Taoiseach as Labour support implodes
A quantum leap in the popularity of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has taken place, to the extent that the public now want him to be Taoiseach -- and would prefer him to lead a government without the participation of Labour, a Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll has found.
In what amounts to an astonishing turnaround, 33 per cent say that Mr Kenny would be the best Taoiseach, five points ahead of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (28 per cent) and nine ahead of Labour leader Eamon Gilmore (24 per cent).
But as the election campaign enters its final week, potentially the most significant finding today is that more people say they would prefer Fine Gael to lead a government without Labour.
And more than half (51 per cent) are also of the view that Fine Gael and Labour are not compatible, up six points since our last poll was published on January 30.
In that time, 14 per cent of those who said they voted Labour in the last election now say they will vote Fine Gael instead -- up 7 per cent in almost three weeks.
Excluding 'don't knows' (14 per cent), the state of the parties is: Fine Gael (37 per cent) down one point; Labour (20 per cent) down three; FF (16 per cent) up four; Sinn Fein (12 per cent) up two; Greens (1 per cent) unchanged; independents/other (14 per cent) down two.
The poll has detected a level of fear and pessimism among the electorate that is stark: three-in-four believe the recession will last more than three years; eight-in-10 expect a reduction in their standard of living; seven-in-10 worry about their household bills; four-in-10 worry about losing their job, and almost three-in-10 worry about losing their home.
A massive 69 per cent say the Croke Park agreement is unrealistic; a majority (54 per cent) say there should be compulsory redundancies in the public sector and more than half (51 per cent) want the EU-IMF deal renegotiated as a priority.
These are the issues that are preoccupying the public, and from our poll, it is evident that they increasingly believe FG is the party that promises to deal with them best.
When asked to choose between eight possible alternative governments, a Fine Gael-Labour coalition attracted the support of 20 per cent of those polled.
But 16 per cent opted for a Fine Gael majority government and a further 12 per cent said they would prefer a government comprised of Fine Gael and independent TDs.
The finding means that a combined total of 28 per cent say they want a Fine Gael government without Labour against 20 per cent who say they would prefer a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
This finding, in particular, will encourage Fine Gael to persist with an aggressive strategy to maximise its vote in the final five days of the campaign, in an attempt to win an overall majority, which is quite achievable. The poll was taken among a representative sample of 1,015 adults at 93 sampling points throughout the country on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
It is, therefore, the first poll taken since the five-way leaders' debate on RTE, and at a time when exchanges became more strident between Fine Gael and Labour, which eventually saw the controversial intervention of Siptu president Jack O'Connor to urge a vote for Labour.
Despite -- or perhaps because of -- his intervention, today's poll reveals that the momentum is now firmly behind Fine Gael and that support for Labour is in serious decline.
In the space of a week, Fine Gael (38 per cent) has overtaken Labour (32 per cent) in Dublin, with Fianna Fail (10 per cent), Sinn Fein (6 per cent), independents/others (14 per cent) in the capital.
The trend is nationwide: Fine Gael is also comfortably ahead in the rest of Leinster (37 per cent), Munster (34 per cent) and Connaught/Ulster (41 per cent).
The public also wants the next Minister for Finance to come from Fine Gael, and would even prefer the current Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, to a Labour minister.
Asked who they wanted to be the next Finance Minister, respondents said: Michael Noonan (24 per cent); Richard Bruton (21 per cent); Brian Lenihan (15 per cent); Joan Burton (11 per cent); Pat Rabbitte (7 per cent); Ruairi Quinn (6 per cent); don't know/no opinion (16 per cent).
The stance taken by Fine Gael (62 per cent) and Labour (59 per cent) not to go into government with Sinn Fein is also strongly endorsed in the poll.