Wednesday 25 April 2018

Michael D for President but David Norris for dinner

Ed Carty and reporters

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Michael D Higgins is on course to take a quarter of the vote, with independent candidate Sean Gallagher in second place in the race, according to an opinion poll.

With the top three completed by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness on 16pc, the PaddyPower/Red C poll backs up trends with the surprise performance by Mr Gallagher.

The poll also has Independent Senator David Norris falling back to fourth with 14pc of the vote, a drop of 7pc, having led a similar poll last week with a 21pc share.

The issue of clemency letters for his former lover has dominated his campaign and while the pollsters claim he is still liked by the public, and the most popular candidate for a dinner invite, his suitability for the presidency is in doubt.

Gay Mitchell, the Fine Gael candidate, follows with 10pc, a fall of 3pc in the past week - a startlingly bad show for the Government party. Independent Mary Davis also saw her vote decline by 3pc, leaving her in sixth place on 9pc, and Dana is last with 5pc.

The poll was carried out using 1,000 interviews between October 3-5 this week among adults across the country, including 908 Irish citizens. It was still running up to 9pm last night.

The figures - which put Michael D Higgins on 23pc and Sean Gallagher on 20pc - differ slightly from the Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll also published today but are within the 3pc margin of error.

Pollsters claimed the race for the Aras is a case of young versus old among the top two candidates.

They said Mr D Higgins needs to do better among younger voters and Mr Gallagher needs to persuade older voters more on his credentials.

Mary Davis was unchanged in the Irish Times poll at 12pc, while David Norris dropped 14 points to 11pc and Gay Mitchell dropped 12 points to 9pc. Dana, who was not in the last consideration, got 6pc.

Gay Mitchell and David Norris lay low refusing to comment today, however a spokesman for Mr Mitchell said he was ‘disappointed’ by the results.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he never commented on polls but it was the beginning of this poll in a serious fashion. He said he had spoken to the parliamentary party on Wednesday and urged everyone to get behind Mr Mitchell. “It’s never too late for a candidate to win an election,” he said.

Mr Higgins said his response is to compare the poll to the reception I am getting on the streets, in villages and towns and it was being replicated. However, he warned that there was still three weeks to go.

Richard Cole MD of Red C said that looking at FG voters Gay Mitchell was only securing 15pc of their firse preferencesce. Michael D Higgins got 27pc of FG vote and Sean Gallagher got 25pc.

In relation to the letters of clemency and David Norris, 59pc of Irish citizens said he should publish the letters and more than 25pc of his own supporters said he should publish

When it came to who people would least like in the Aras the poll found that 34pc don’t want Martin McGuinness whiel 16pc don’t want David Norris.

Asked who they would most like to invite to dinner – 19pc opted for David Norris while Sean Gallagher got 17pc.

Mary Davis said: “The polls are showing strong volatility. We are still three weeks out and this poll was taken in a very challenging time in my campaign, but I’ve managed to stay stable. I’m feeling quite comfortable at this stage.”

Dana said she didn’t take any notice of polls. “I’ve never been more than 6pc in any poll,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said: “What we are seeing in these polls is a snapshot rather than a reflection of the true figures. I’m performing quite strongly and that’s very pleasing,” he said.

A spokesman for Sean Gallagher said he will not be commenting on any polls.

Mr Higgins has overtaken Mr Mitchell in support among Fine Gael voters in the Irish Times poll with the latter only getting 21pc of his own party’s vote.

If Mr Mitchell only wins 9pc of the vote it will be considered a disaster for Fine Gael after its general election victory and high ratings in polls since.

Meanwhile it emerged today that the TV3 Presidential Debate was a ratings winner for the station.

More than 820,000 people tuned in over the course of the 90 minute debate on Tuesday night with an average rating of 367,000.

While TV3 3 gets over one million viewers for X Factor, the 820,000 figure is a major boost for Vincent Browne, the stations’s main current affairs anchor.

A total of 1.4m people tuned into the Late Late show last Friday night when the candidates also featured in a debate, with an average of 728,700 for the show hosted by Ryan Tubridy.

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