FF romps into lead as Labour implodes
Martin most popular while 74pc of voters dissatisfied with the Coalition
SUPPORT for Fianna Fail has soared six points to 29 per cent and Micheal Martin is comfortably the most popular leader in the country, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.
In contrast, a massive three-quarters (74 per cent) of voters are dissatisfied with the Coalition Government.
The recent fall in support for Fine Gael (now on 25 per cent) has steadied somewhat, but Labour (9 per cent) continues to haemorrhage support at an alarming rate.
As the Government awaits the decision of trade unions on the new Croke Park deal, the poll also found that 39 per cent of Labour supporters are dissatisfied with Eamon Gilmore's leadership.
Mr Gilmore (17 per cent) is by far the most unpopular leader overall, a finding which may prompt a Labour leadership heave unless the decline can be arrested and reversed before the next election.
With support at less than half that recorded in the general election two years ago, however, Labour now finds itself in a position remarkably similar to the Green Party, whose support imploded in the course of the last administration.
The rise in support for Fianna Fail comes mostly at the expense of Independents (16 per cent), who are down three points since the most recent comparable poll last month.
In the Sunday Independent today, Paul Moran of Millward Brown writes: "Let's look at recent findings – when Fianna Fail were down, Independents were up and vice versa. The war for the 'softer' vote has many theatres of battle."
Sinn Fein, meanwhile, will be pleased with its showing in this poll. At 20 per cent, it has more than twice the support of Labour and is breathing down the neck of Fine Gael.
This latest polling was carried out nationwide between March 4 and 14 and, therefore, to some extent, it took account of the controversy surrounding the removal of penalty points from the driver's licence of Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan'.
The government partners may have hoped for a boost in support at the end of a week that saw strong demand for Irish debt on bond markets. This is seen as a precursor to Ireland's emergence from the bailout deal.
But the poll indicates that voters are more concerned with the effects of ongoing austerity policies, specifically the property tax, for which initial demand indications were sent out by the Revenue Commissioners last week.
The tax is certainly an issue on the doorsteps in Meath East, where a by-election will take place on March 27.
Today's poll will come as a huge boost to Fianna Fail candidate Thomas Byrne, but will be of concern to Fine Gael's Helen McEntee who is now at risk of losing the seat held by her late father.
In terms of satisfaction with the party leaders, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin (36 per cent) is the most popular, followed by Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams (28 per cent), Fine Gael's Enda Kenny (26 per cent) and Labour's Eamon Gilmore (17 per cent).
Fianna Fail's glow will be tempered somewhat, however, by the finding that a majority are dissatisfied with Mr Martin's leadership in the key age groups, 25-44 and 45-54.
This finding may help to explain the desire for a new political party. Nearly half (46 per cent) of voters said there was a need for a new party, rising to 54 per cent among 35-to-44-year-olds.
When voters were asked about their preferred coalition options, none of seven possible combinations polled strongly. Twenty-five per cent chose the 'don't know' option, while a further 20 per cent rejected all combinations.
In the Sunday Independent today, Mr Moran writes: "Undoubtedly the headline result is the performance of Fianna Fail.
"The party is in the process of rebranding itself. As with any rebranding, there will be successes and setbacks. They may be on a high in this poll, but the key to their success will be to maintain a consistent momentum over time."