Sinn Fein support holds steady

The results of an mrbi poll in today’s Irish Times (subs needed) show a slight drop in support for Sinn Fein, from 12% to 11% although party leader Gerry Adams’ approval rating has plummeted 9 points to 42%. Core support for the party remains unchanged at 9%.

Disapproval of Adams’ leadership of his party has also risen a whopping 14 points to 38%.

Bertie Ahern’s socialism approach seems to be working with Fianna Fail support up 3 points to 38% and satisfaction with the government now at a healthy 52%, up 9 points, the highest level of public support since the 2002 general election and approaching the level necessary to secure a third term in power. Satisfaction with Ahern is up 7 points to 60%, PD leader Mary Harney remains the same on 54%, Enda Kenny drops 2 to 44%, Labour’s Pat Rabitte is unchanged on 49% and the Green’s Trevor Sargeant is down 2 to 33%.

Apart from FF, coalition partners the PDs are the only other party to increase their support, up one to 4%.

Fine Gael are down 2 to 22%, Labour remain unchanged on 13% as do the Greens on 4%. Others are down 2 to 8%.

The poll was carried out on Monday and Tuesday of this week, before the IRA’s denial.

Ian McShane, managing director of TNS mrbi, deduces that the poll “only serves to strengthen the notion the ‘new’ Sinn Fein voter is unlikely to judge the party on the basis of the perceived actions of the IRA.

“Thus, despite the stated belief of both the Irish and British governments that the Northern Bank robbery was the work of the IRA, Sinn Fein’s potential vote remains unchanged.”

On the drop in support for Adams, McShane says that while the Sinn Fein leader’s personal rating has dropped 9 points, it is evident that looking at satisfaction levels with him since 2002 that his rating “has fluctuated from the low forties to the low fifties over the last number of years, while his party’s support has edged upwards over the same period”.

“The implication is that Sinn Fein is more likely than not to increase its representation in the Dail following the next election.

“In this regard, the degree to which the party’s candidate in the Meath by-election increases his share of the first-preference vote over the May 2002 general election could be a useful early indicator.”

  • peteb

    Worth noting too that the poll was also conducted before the impact of Mitchel McLaughlin’s latest performance could be felt.

  • Mick Fealty

    Pete, I’m not sure that that is as important as you seem to think. This is a good poll for Sinn Fein, after weeks of unprecendently bad publicity.

    It may even be that it’s done them some good in consolidating their anti-establishment credentials. The question is whether the controversy has let a few unwarranted hares off the leash.

    Also, whilst McShane’s explanation of the context of Adams’ drop in popularity is sound, I would add something else. You can see the party’s performance as measure of real political sentiment, whilst the performance rating of the leader is a more whimsical measure of a very contemporary political mood.

    Moods can fluctuate wildly, and still not endanger long term political success – witness President Bush’s approval ratings in the three months up the election.

    The question the psephological wonks in Sevastapol Street will want to keep asking is whether (if there is more turbulence ahead for the party) that dynamic moves across to the harder measure of party support.

  • Davros

    Mick – on the other hand, Ahern and FF have faced weeks of savage criticism over the issue of release for the Killers of Garda McCabe , and saw their support increase.

  • peteb

    I disagree Mick. The poll doesn’t take into account the events, and statements, of this week. That’s the point I made and I think it is relevant if the poll is being portrayed, as George’s heading seems to do, as indicating it’s ‘business as usual’.

    AS for Adams’ ‘popularity’ rating.. well, the argument that it’s a whimsical measure of public sentiment may be generally true.. but Sinn Féin have always based their campaigns on the ‘personality cult’ around him – for example, all the SF publicity for the European Election heavily featured Adams – the actual candidates seemed a secondary consideration in most part.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mmmm… can’t see that as a key government issue for the southern electorate… New cabinet, new faces… Bertie’s re-invention all seem more important… whereas it’s clear the Northern job is the major immediate issue for Sinn Fein…

    Although in truth, it may be too early to say…

  • Mick Fealty

    Pete, I think you may be trying too hard to read something into southern opinion that’s simply not there, yet…

  • peteb

    I agree that it is too early to tell, Mick. I’m simply pointing out that even with that, the events of this week are not factored into either the poll, or the interpretation of the poll.

  • George

    For those who don’t have access to the print edition of the IT, here’s Gerry Adams’ personal satisfaction ratings since 2002.

    Jan 05 – 42
    Oct 04 – 51
    June 04 – 43
    May 04 – 42
    Feb 04 – 51
    Sept 03 – 43
    May 03 – 48
    Feb 03 – 44
    Oct 02 – 52
    Sept 02 – 54

    in my view, the Mitchel and McDowell row and the IRA denial will have very little or no effect on the views of people south of the border. Most had already made up their mind. If there was a Dail election in May, I could see a big drop in transfers to SF but their first preference vote staying steady or rising slightly. However, this will be blown over by 2006 and as long as there is still a peace process for SF to flog they’ll do well in that Dail election.

    the McCabe affair hasn’t done any damage to Bertie mainly because of his and the Justice Minister’s reaction to the lack of commitment by the IRA to end all violence. Also, everyone knows he is the type of guy who looks for an agreement. Nothing is on or nothing off the table with him. That is one reason why he is so popular. Your average Irish person trusts him to at least try do the right thing. They believe him and McDowell when they say these guys will only get out if all violence, criminal or otherwise, ends.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    The Northern controversy was only a short time after the whole furore over the Mc Cabe releases. If SF were going to take a hit it was in this poll.

    The real story is the inablity of the PDs’ to increase their share. Despite having people like Harney and Mc Dowell hogging the media at every turn.

  • peteb

    Too early to tell, George, seems to be the watchword of the day.. although I suspect that Adams’ self-satisfaction rating is much higher than the poll records 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Pat, I’m not sure that’s news.

  • Ringo

    What the poll doesn’t tell us is how Sinn Fein will do regarding transfers from other parties. To date they are heavily reliant on first preference votes. They have been improving gradually, so it will be interesting to see if the soft SF vote – no 2’s and 3’s is affected by the recent events.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    maybe not news, but if the PDs can’t make hay while this particular sun is shining then the next general election could be their last.

  • Keith M

    Pat McL “the PDs can’t make hay while this particular sun is shining then the next general election could be their last.” If only I’d had a Euro for every time I’d head that in the last 15 years. The media were writing the party off before the last election saying they would return only one of two TDs. They got 8! By the end of this Dail, the PDS will have been in government for more of the previous 10 years than Labour and FG combined!

    For someone not from the Republic, it’s difficult to explain the niche the PDs fill. Many people in this country don’t trust FF with ower on their own (for good reason). They feel the PDS are a party who will keep FF in check. The same would apply to an FG/Labour/Greens coalition. Unless we get a global recession or Harney makes a (bigger) shambles of the health service, I think there’s more chance of seeing the PDs in government in 2007 than any other party.

  • PS

    Personally I think there’s a possibility that the only possible non-SF majority government will be that of FF and Labour which would leave things very interesting espicially if as expected Labour and FG go into the lection on a pact. It depends how well the independents do and whether a possible government can rely on their support.

  • mickhall

    Can I ask those who live in the south, why they think these days Labour and even the Greens seem to prefer FG as a potential coalition partner, rather than FF?