Poll Shows Modest Gains for Government - III
By Roger Jupp, Managing Director, Lansdowne Market Research
The second instalment of the latest Irish Examiner/Lansdowne poll reveals some intriguing insights into the way voters view the alternative Taoisigh – Bertie Ahern and the leading contender, Enda Kenny. The comparison of the two's abilities is, of course, made difficult by the current Taoiseach's longevity in the role and the total absence of Enda Kenny's experience in that role. We can see from the results, however, that only 1 in 10 are unable or unwilling to offer an opinion about Enda Kenny if he were Taoiseach. This in itself indicates that the prospect is already capable of cool assessment.
Among the electorate as a whole, Bertie Ahern wins out on ability to do the job as Taoiseach, ability to take hard decisions and ability to guide the economy (this is not surprising in light of the significant rise in living standards and income since he came to power!).Yet, for all that, Bertie Ahern is not without popular blemishes. The public see no difference in the two men's ability to run a government, which controlled crime – perceived to be the third highest priority issue at the moment.In part, this could be because of a belief that the current administration is not working as well as it might.
Even more alarmingly, but predictably in light of the lack of confidence expressed in the Minister for Health in yesterday's instalment, a government headed by Enda Kenny would derive more confidence in managing the public healthcare system than the existing administration. This confirms the depth of public concern and, perhaps, scepticism about a quick fix to a major crisis. Any administration can expect little tolerance for a poor performance on healthcare.
Enda Kenny versus Bertie Ahern
It is, however, a matter for some disquiet for Bertie Ahern that Enda Kenny receives a greater confidence rating in respect of his trustworthiness. Ethical standards seem to be highly prized at the moment. One can only speculate as to the reasons behind Bertie Ahern's poor rating – the Tribunals? Healthcare? Crime? Wasteful spending? Not delivering on key promises? Only an election campaign will out the public's reasoning in full.
If we look at the party faithful for each of the two leaders, we can identify some notable differences. Enda Kenny's standing is as good as it gets. Fine Gael supporters award him a higher absolute score than Bertie Ahern among Fianna Fail supporters on every issue – except for a very narrow advantage on ability to do the job as Taosieach. The public cannot forget a decade of Fianna Fail at the helm.
Enda Kenny records his best score on trustworthiness, well ahead of the comparable score for Bertie Ahern, among the party faithful. Can there be factions within Fianna Fail who rebel against the hand of the party leader? Are the backbenches comfortable as the General Election draws near? Whatever the cause, Enda Kenny looks in good shape to hold his party together in the run-up to 2007.
A New Fianna Fail Leader?
In the event of an election for a new leader of Fianna Fail, Brian Cowen remains the odds-on favourite. Over 1 in 5 voters regard him as the natural choice, well clear of Dermot Ahern on 13% and Michael Martin on 12%. Mary Hanafin and Mary Coughlan come next, just ahead of Seamus Brennan. John O'Donoghue comes last of the 12 candidates we listed.
It is clear that many of the candidates have not really succeeded in developing a broad base of support across the country. Michael Martin is heavily reliant on Munster, for example, where he manages to get ahead of Brian Cowen in preference terms. This feat is matched by Mary Coughlan in Connaught/Ulster.
In all other demographic groups, however, Brian Cowen comes top of the next leader poll. His candidature would be hard to defeat, on the basis of this poll.