There was worrying news for the government in the latest Irish Times / Ipsos MRBI opinion poll, which found a sharp drop in support for Fine Gael and a significant drop in satisfaction with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, while Sinn Féin consolidates its position as the largest party.
The five-point drop in support for Fine Gael to 22% is the party’s worst poll result since the disastrous February 2020 election. The 13-point drop in satisfaction with Varadkar indicates that Fine Gael has a serious problem with its public image and this has implications for the Coalition’s long-term survival.
Given that the poll also shows a remarkably high level of support for government performance on Covid-19, the only conclusion is that this achievement has not produced a sustained political dividend. Plus, the long Katherine Zappone affair wouldn’t have helped the Fine Gael. The good thing about the Coalition is that Fianna Fáil’s support has remained strong at 20 percent and there has even been a marginal increase in Green Party support. Satisfaction with the government itself has declined, but it still stands at a respectable level of 46%.
The results of the climate change survey indicate that the Coalition’s cohesion will be tested when it comes to implementing the measures necessary to meet the country’s carbon emissions targets. The poll shows massive public opposition to increased taxes on electricity, gas, gasoline and diesel. The public is also strongly opposed to risking the electricity supply and reducing the size of the national cattle herd. The only measure to fight climate change to receive majority support is to allow the use of more land for the construction of wind turbines.
The extent of public opposition to the measures that will be needed to meet the government’s climate goals is a stark warning of the level of unpopularity it is likely to face as it prepares to implement the climate agenda. This will inevitably create tensions between the Greens and their Coalition partners, as the current row over the roads program has shown. With Sinn Féin and other opposition parties poised to oppose carbon taxes, the shape of the coming battle is already clear.
To compound its problems, the public overwhelmingly supports President Michael D Higgins’ decision not to attend church service in Armagh to mark 100 years of Partition and the Northern State, although ministers have little hidden their disappointment faced with his decision. And just as the government signs a new international tax code, a clear majority expresses a desire to keep the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate.
Given the challenges the Coalition faces in maintaining public support as it attempts to address major political issues such as climate change and housing, the only option for the three parties is to stay together for as long as possible. .