Sharp drop in Sinn Fein support: Second Irish poll

Sharp drop in Sinn Fein support: Second Irish poll


Sharp drop in Sinn Fein support: Second Irish poll

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Support in Ireland for Sinn Fein fell six percentage points to 28% in an opinion poll on Thursday, the second survey in the last two weeks to show a narrowing of its still wide lead ahead of an election due early next year.

Sinn Fein has led each of its two main rivals by around 10 percentage points for the last two years, putting the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army on course to enter government for the first time and lead the next coalition.

Despite falling on Thursday to its lowest level of support in three years in an Irish Times/Ipsos B&A poll, Sinn Fein was still eight points clear of Fianna Fail and nine clear of Fine Gael, the centre-right parties that currently share power.

The slip in support followed a four-point Sinn Fein fall to 25% in a Jan. 28 Business Post RED C poll, which put its nearest rival in that series, Fine Gael, within five points of the leftwing party.

However, Ireland's third major opinion poll series, conducted by the Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks, showed Sinn Fein slipping by just one point to 29% last week and maintaining a 10-point lead.

Neither of its two main rivals made more than a one percentage point gain in any of the three polls. The governing Greens and smaller centre-left parties advanced in Thursday's poll, while independent candidates, who tend to be more conservative, were the chief beneficiaries in the Jan. 28 poll.

A narrower Sinn Fein lead, if repeated at the next election, would make its task of forming a coalition much more difficult and buoy the current three-party government's hopes of returning to power.

Immigration topped the list of issues getting the attention of respondents in Thursday's poll, ahead of the long-time dominant theme of housing that Sinn Fein has particularly capitalised on.

"Even if the next general election is a year away, it is visible on the horizon, and a significant drop in support for Sinn Fein may be the first sign of cold feet, but it is far too early to say," Ipsos managing director Damian Loscher said.