Michael D leads but 1-3 want David Norris for President
Few polled attached any negative images to him despite controversy
Michael D Higgins of Labour is favourite to win the presidential election but one in three voters want David Norris to re-enter the race, according to a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll.
Mr Higgins commands 32 per cent first-preference support, nine points ahead of the Fine Gael candidate, Gay Mitchell (24 per cent), followed by Mr Norris, who still has 18 per cent first-preference support even though he is not in the race.
Mr Norris ended his campaign to seek a nomination last month following the disclosure that he had sought clemency from a court in Israel for his then partner who has been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1997. However, the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll has found that, when asked, 34 per cent of those polled said they favoured the senator re-entering the race.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, last week moved the order for the presidential election, which will be held on October 27. The closing date for nomination of candidates, however, is September 28, which gives Mr Norris almost four weeks to reconsider his position.
An analysis of the poll shows that the level of support for Mr Norris to re-enter is almost twice the number who opt to give him their first preference.
The clear interpretation is that many people wish to see Mr Norris in the race for the presidency, even if they do not support him themselves.
When asked, 46 per cent said they did not favour a Mr Norris comeback, 34 per cent said they did and 21 per cent did not know.
Further analysis shows that Mr Higgins' strongest attribute is "honesty", but he has some weaknesses, particularly his age and relative lack of appeal to female and younger voters.
Mr Mitchell's strongest suits are "trust" and "honesty", but he also scores relatively highly as a perceived "uninspiring" and "conservative" candidate.
Mr Norris, however, stands out as a "vibrant" candidate, is also regarded as "inspiring" and "modern", and few people attach any negative images to him, despite the controversies which led to his withdrawal from the race.
Support for Mr Norris is spread quite evenly across demographic groups, but the west of Ireland (23 per cent) is clearly a weak area for him in terms of support.
His support base is mainly Dublin (37 per cent), the rest of Leinster (37 per cent) and Munster (34 per cent).
Of the other candidates, Mary Davis commands 13 per cent first-preference support while Sean Gallagher is on 11 per cent. Micheal O Muircheartaigh (6 per cent) had not announced his intention not to seek a nomination at the time the pollsters initially went into the field.
Ms Davis' best trait is her honesty, but her high "unknown" quotient remains a major impediment to her campaign. Mr Gallagher does well on "inspiring" and "modern", but, like Ms Davis, still suffers from being relatively unknown compared with bigger-name politicians.
The poll was conducted among a sample of 993 adults representative of the approximate 3.35 million adults aged 18 or over interviewed face-to-face in the home at 64 sampling points throughout all constituencies. Interviewing was carried out on and between August 18 and 30.