If the two polls this morning are anything to go by, not a great deal has changed. Micheal Martin’s got a bounce, and possibly quite a significant one given he tops the poll as prefered Taoiseach in the SBP poll. Note this is not the usually, largely meaningless, who’s doing well as party leader question.
But the headline figures are not much changed from what we already know:
SBP / RedC : FG 33% -1 Lab 21% -2 FF 16% -1% SF 13% -1 Greens 2% Ind 15% +5
The figures in the Sunday Independent reflect changes from last September:
Fine Gael (34 per cent) up four points; Labour (24 per cent) down 11 points; Fianna Fail (16 per cent) down six points; independent/other (15 per cent) up seven points; Sinn Fein (10 per cent) up six points; Greens (1 per cent) down one point.
Jody Corcoran in the Sindo (going out on a limb suggesting FG might want to go it alone as a minority government) notes that Martin’s lead as leader is not yet affecting the party’s ratings:
His election, therefore, would appear to have done nothing to shore up support for Fianna Fail in the capital. The party is facing decimation in Leinster and wipeout in Dublin, where Fine Gael and Labour look set to divide the spoils.
But it’s hard to disagree with Garrett FitzGerald (who filed his copy on Friday evening/afternoon):
First of all I am convinced that the polls have recently been underestimating Fianna Fáil support – because in the present hostile atmosphere some party loyalists must be reluctant to admit to pollsters that they intend to vote for Fianna Fáil candidates.
Next, the apparent risk of a Fianna Fáil meltdown may energise at least as many party activists as it may discourage. Moreover, the post-1980s breakdown of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael party structures in many constituencies, and their replacement by individual candidate campaigns, could work in favour of Fianna Fáil. Activists will push the claims of the individual candidate and the party’s name will appear in very small type – if it features at all!
Finally, at national level, Martin clearly intends to cash in on his undoubted debating skills – which were most notably displayed in the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign. On that occasion he alone among Fianna Fáil ministers showed a capacity to challenge effectively the many anti-Lisbon campaigners – successfully refuting the many claims they were making about the effects of that treaty.
FitzGerald points to Martin’s cool performance under fire during the Lisbon referendum (though I suspect that coolness came from letting Dick Roche take a lot of the day to day strain for the government. He is undoubtedly the nearest thing FF have to a class act just now.
But his job will be survive this election as the lead party of opposition and take them as far from the nightmare position of being numerically close to Sinn Fein in the 31st Dail. He’s already got to work on that objective by cutting his party’s candidature down to a more sustainable size, by standing down Noel O’Flynn in Cork North Central, leaving just one candidate for the party.
Footnote: Keep an eye on Jonathan O’Brien in that constitutency on the day. He’s been making steady progress since 2002, and his might be one of a number of off the radar advances for Sinn Fein if things come good for them. Certainly we might expect to see some stray FF voters go that direction.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty