Ipsos/MRBI: FF maintain a short lead whilst SF rejoin Ireland’s political peloton…

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So, the latest Ipsos/MRBI poll is out in the Irish Times. At this mid point in the term of the thirty first Dail, there’s not a lot of change to highlight. Fianna Fail at just two points ahead of Fine Gael is within the margin of error, but means steady as she goes.

The party will want to widen that gap before next year’s local elections, not least because Sinn Fein’s bump back up to 21% suggest they are also doing well out of Labour’s distress. As the MD of Ipsos MRBI Damian Loscher notes:

Fine Gael may have a little further to fall if pressure stays on the Government and the economy fails to recover in the short term. The Fine Gael vote dipped as low as 20 per cent on a number of occasions between 2003 and 2008, so the floor may be a few points away still.

The significance of local elections cannot be overstressed. Fine Gael’s widespread victory in part was built upon FF’s collapse in 2009. The buoyancy of sentiment in favour of both major opposition parties augurs well for a good local election campaign, which in turn would set them fair for a 2015/16 general election.

If there is a silver glimmer within the clouds for the government it is that positive sentiment has risen (if only by 3%). Negative sentiment remains at a startling 73% dissatisfied with the government’s performance.

But in truth, they were getting pretty awful ratings from the start. In a country still choking on private debt and fearful of what the banks will do with their homes should the government let them off the lease, there is little spare good will for any politician.

A quick glance at the actual poll figures (ie, with the undecided sown back in) confirms this impression:

Fine Gael, 16 per cent (no change);
Labour, 6 per cent (no change);
Fianna Fáil, 18 per cent (up one point);
Sinn Féin, 14 per cent (up two points);
Green Party, 1 per cent (no change);
Independents/others, 12 per cent (down two points);
Undecided voters, 33 per cent (down one point).

Sinn Fein’s pitch is directly at that dissatisfaction and this ‘rally’ in sentiment might suggest that it is starting to stick.  Labour’s low level civil war, and Brendan Howlin’s onerous ministerial task of announcing  every cut and efficiency drive inside the government makes SF’s job just a little bit easier in that regard.

By contrast, Fianna Fail must draw a robust governmental line and hope that it eventually takes them back into office. They may have Phil Hogan, James Reilly and Alan Shatter to score off, but their task is a more difficult one to pull of than SF’s, especially with such a small parliamentary team.

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