Sunday 17 December 2017

Presidential poll shock: David Norris and Gay Mitchell slump in ratings

Higgins leads as Gallagher support surges

David Norris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
David Norris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

David Norris and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell have suffered catastrophic drops in support in the race for the Aras while Labour's Michael D Higgins has stretched his lead to 23pc.

The results of the latest poll provide a huge boost for Independent candidate Sean Gallagher, who is now in second place on 20pc.

Senator Norris' support has slumped to just 11pc. But the poll will send shockwaves through Fine Gael, whose candidate Mr Mitchell is now in second last place on 9pc -- just ahead of Dana Rosemary Scallon on 6pc.

With just 21 days left until polling day, he is facing the humiliating prospect of finishing well behind Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness -- who is performing well at 19pc.

In the previous poll in July, Mr Mitchell was second with Mr Higgins. But the latest survey indicates that his 'negative campaigning' against Mr McGuinness has been counter-productive.

His campaign has managed to turn off even loyal Fine Gael voters -- who appear to have deserted him. He suffered the second largest fall in support of any candidate, with a 12pc drop.

There is equally grim news for Mr Norris, whose support level has plummeted to 11pc. He had been leading the race to succeed Mary McAleese in the previous poll in July.

But that was before he had to quit the race when it emerged he had sent letters pleading for clemency for his former partner, who had been found guilty of the statutory rape of a teenage boy in Israel. Mr Norris managed to mount a comeback but his support level has dropped by a massive 14pc.

And the 'Irish Times'/Ipsos MRBI poll was taken before the Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Mr Norris received a disability payout for 16 years while out of work from Trinity College, even though he was a "full-time" senator for the entire period.

Mr Norris later confirmed he was getting paid disability because he had hepatitis, but did not say what type of hepatitis it was.

Labour candidate Mr Higgins will be hoping to pick up transfers if Mr Norris is eliminated -- having cleverly made an appeal to Dublin city councillors to support the Trinity senator's nomination. He remains the current favourite to win the race.

Independent Mary Davis -- who has been forced to defend her earnings from state boards -- remains unchanged at 12pc. She cannot be ruled out just yet -- but fellow Independent Sean Gallagher is now in a far stronger position.

The Gallagher campaign will be jubilant about his 7pc rise in support to 20pc, which puts him in contention for the presidency alongside Michael D Higgins. He has run one of the lowest cost campaigns of any candidate -- opting not to put up any posters or billboards.

But his promise to use the presidency to attract jobs is obviously resonating with voters at a time of record unemployment. He may also be benefiting from his Fianna Fail past to some extent -- because loyal Fianna Fail voters have no party candidate to support.

The previous 'Irish Times'/Ipsos MRBI poll in July showed an 11pc support level for Fianna Fail's Eamon O Cuiv -- who was included as a possible candidate at that stage.

Although Sinn Fein will be satisfied with Mr McGuinness's strong showing at 19pc, its candidates traditionally have a poor record of attracting the transfers that will be needed to win the election.

But it is an indication that the party's decision to put him into the race is justified -- and that it is building its profile at the expense of Fianna Fail.

Dana, who was not measured in the last poll, attracts just 6pc support.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will face questions today about whether his party has already thrown away the opportunity to win the presidential election for the first time.

He is due to announce 92 new marine jobs aboard the Celtic Explorer in Dublin's Docklands.

Mr Mitchell himself has maintained that the support from voters on the ground is much better than his opinion poll results -- but he and his campaign will be shocked by the latest findings.

Irish Independent

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