SUPPORT for Sinn Féin is higher than ever in Ireland, with the Dail’s most radical party now maintaining a 15-point lead over its centrist rivals, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
A new Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI opinion poll revealed that 35% of Irish voters now support Sinn Féin, up 3% compared to their last opinion poll in October.
Once thought unelectable, Mary Lou McDonald’s party is showing consistent electoral gains over the past year, while the two largest parties in government have just 20% of voter support – Fine Gael’s popularity dropped by 2% since the last poll and Fianna Fáil's remained the same.
Putting the new data into perspective, Sinn Féin’s gains were registered at the start of the year when a Sunday Times Poll put support for the party at 34%, while Fine Gael had 24% following, and Fianna Fáil 20%.
This suggests the electoral dial is moving, but slowly. Both polls support the trend that Sinn Féin are gaining the most electoral ground of the three main parties, while Fine Gael saw the largest drop in support.
Next in the rankings came the Green Party, who got the nod from 5% of voters, down 2% from the last poll.
The Green Party, who are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s current coalition partners, have endured a 2% drop to 5% since last year’s poll.
The poll drew from a sample of 1,200 adults from 5-8 December and reported a margin of error of 2.8%.
It excluded responses from undecided voters.
Respondents were polled on a wide variety of issues, 120 in total, which included their opinion of the Irish Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, a total of 57% of people believe that the Irish Government had done a "good job" during the pandemic, while 29% said it had done a "bad job".
Though support for the Government's handling of the pandemic has fallen sharply since October, when 74% of people believed it was doing a good job.
The responses to the latest poll were a mixed bag, with support shifting dramatically depending on the measures in question.
There was clear push-back against the re-introduction of measures such as closing schools (73% against), banning nursing home visits (70% against), closing non-essential retail (67% against), and closing bars and restaurants (66% against).
But other measures proved more popular, including limiting numbers in bars and restaurants over Christmas (69% in favour), continuing mask wearing for those aged 9 to 12 after Christmas (61% in favour), and banning international travel (54% in favour).