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Labour now biggest party - poll
When people were asked who they would vote for if there were a general election tomorrow, the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the previous Irish Times  poll on January 20th last were: Fianna Fáil, 17 per cent (down five points); Fine Gael, 28 per cent (down four points); Labour, 32 per cent (up eight points); Sinn Féin, 9 per cent (up one point); Green Party, 3 per cent (no change); and Independents/ Others, 11 per cent (no change).

The poll was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

Most of the research was conducted before the reports of the two banking inquiries were made public but after the controversy about the expenses claimed by Fianna Fáil Senator Ivor Callely.

Just 12 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way the Government is doing its job (down seven points) while 83 per cent are dissatisfied (up seven points).

On the party leaders Brian Cowen gets a satisfaction rating of 18 per cent (down eight points); Enda Kenny is on 24 per cent (down seven points); Eamon Gilmore is on 46 per cent (no change); John Gormley 21 per cent (down three points) and Gerry Adams 31 per cent (no change).

The surge in Labour support over the past six months is the outstanding feature of the poll and it gives credence to Mr Gilmore's claim to be regarded as a realistic candidate for the Taoiseach's office at the next election.

Fianna Fail has historically been the largest party since its formation in the 1920's and has generally polled 40%+ until relatively recently usually forming the Government either singly (or more latterly, as the main party in a coalition.

Labour has, by way of contrast, been historically known as the 10% part either in opposition or propping up a coalition led by either Fianna Fail or Fianna Gael - although there have been a couple of occasions when it has significantly exceeded 10%.

Thus the significance of Fianna Fail polling at 17% and Labour at 32% cannot be gainsaid.   It remains to be seen, of course, whether they would actually poll that in a general election and whether they could translate that into seats given that it is organisationally very weak in many parts of the country.

The other significant factor is that it is Labour and not Fine Gael (the main conservative opposition party) which is the main beneficiary of Fianna Fail's unpopularity.  Ireland might therefore buck the recent European trend of right wing parties making gains in the wake of the banking/financial/economic crisis.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 10th, 2010 at 04:22:38 PM EST

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