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Higgins and Gallagher in two-horse race for Aras


Presidential candidates, Michael D Higgins and Sean Gallagher

Presidential candidates, Michael D Higgins and Sean Gallagher

Presidential candidates, Michael D Higgins and Sean Gallagher

The fight to be the ninth President of Ireland is now a two-horse race between Labour's Michael D Higgins and Dragons' Den star Sean Gallagher, according to the latest Sunday Independent/ Quantum Research nationwide poll.

Several candidates including Mary Davis, Dana Rosemary Scallon and Senator David Norris have all seen large drops in support, while Martin McGuinness remains well behind the leaders.

The nationwide poll, conducted on Friday night, of 500 homes in every constituency across the country shows that Mr Higgins remains the front-runner on 36 per cent, up nine points on the previous poll.

But close behind him is Mr Gallagher, who has seen his support rise spectacularly from 9 per cent in mid-September to 29 per cent this weekend. His support almost doubled last week alone.

The bad news continues for Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell. Despite having the Fine Gael party machine behind him, his support has dwindled further, dropping from 10 per cent to 6 per cent.

The decision of the party not to back Enda Kenny's preferred candidate Pat Cox now looks like an almighty disaster, as Mr Mitchell is certainly heading for his first electoral defeat in 15 elections.

Several other candidates have seen a catastrophic collapse in support. Mary Davis fares the worst. In our last poll, her first-preference share stood at 12 per cent but now her support base is down to 4 per cent. According to those polled, it would seem that after two weeks of campaigning, voters have decided she is unelectable.

Dana Rosemary Scallon's support is also in meltdown; her vote has gone from 7 per cent to just 2 per cent. She now looks set to lose out on the €200,000 available to candidates who achieve a quarter of the quota.

Former front runner, Senator David Norris, has also seen his support decimated, down from 20 per cent last time round to 10 per cent now.

Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness has seen a marginal rise in his support from 11 per cent to 13 per cent, but it would seem he has far too much ground to make up between now and polling day.

Naturally enough, both Mr Higgins and Mr Gallagher are by far the two most transfer-friendly candidates with transfers coming from all sides. For example, 50 per cent of Mr Gallagher's second preferences would go to Mr Higgins and a virtually identical number of Mr Higgins' votes would go to Mr Gallagher.

Dana is the least transfer-friendly candidate.

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Elsewhere, Mr McGuinness's membership of the IRA was identified as the most important issue to voters in the campaign, which would explain why his campaign has not ignited as he would have hoped.

Interestingly, the second most important issue for voters in the campaign has been the sending of letters by Mr Norris, appealing for clemency for his former lover over his conviction of raping a 15-year-old boy.

This could largely explain the dramatic demise in his support since he returned to the race four weeks ago.

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