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THE MORNING LEAD

Independent candidates overtake Sinn Féin as voters' top choice ahead of European elections

Independents and others have seen a large jump in support in recent weeks, according to a new opinion poll.

INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES HAVE overtaken Sinn Féin as the most popular choice for voters ahead of next month’s European Parliament elections, according to a new opinion poll.

The results from the latest poll by The Journal and Ireland Thinks show that almost a quarter of people (24%) plan to vote for candidates classed as ‘independents and others’ on 7 June, up from 17% last month.

The next most popular choice is Sinn Féin on 22% (down slightly from 23%).

The state of the other parties is as follows:

  • Fine Gael: 19% (down one percentage point)
  • Fianna Fáil: 16% (down one)
  • Green Party: 6% (no change)
  • Social Democrats: 5% (down one)
  • Aontú: 4% (down one)
  • Labour: 3% (no change)
  • Solidarity-People Before Profit: 2% (down one)

In a previous poll in the The Journal/Ireland Thinks European elections series last month, Sinn Féin was the most popular choice among voters with 23% of people saying they would back the party.

In the April poll, 15% of people said they planned to vote for independents and 2% intended to vote for ‘others’ – highlighting a large jump in support for these candidates in recent weeks.

The parties classed as ‘other’ include Independent Ireland, Rabharta, the Irish Freedom Party, Ireland First, and The Irish People.

In the May poll, Sinn Féin remains the most popular choice among younger voters (aged 18 to 34) at 26%, followed by independents on 19%.

Among voters who live with their parents, 27% said they would vote for Sinn Féin, followed by 21% who said they’d vote for ‘independents and others’, with much smaller percentages for other parties (for example, 14% said Fine Gael and 12% said Fianna Fáil).

Fine Gael is the most popular choice for voters aged 65 and older (30%).

Some 1,633 people took part in the poll between 2 and 7 May, and there is a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4%.

Likelihood of voting 

The vast majority of people who participated in the opinion poll said they plan on voting in the European elections with 85% saying they are ‘very likely’ to vote next month.

Most people across all age groups said they intend to vote – ranging from 79% among 18 to 34-year-olds to 88% in older age brackets.

However, it’s notable that just under half of eligible voters turned up at the polls in 2019.

A total of 73 candidates declared their intentions to run in the European elections before nominations closed at the start of the month.

There are 23 candidates running in both Ireland South (where five MEPs will be elected) and Dublin (which has four seats).

Some 27 candidates are running in the Midlands North West constituency (which has five seats). Several non-party candidates are running in each constituency.

Earlier this year, a report predicted that Eurosceptic, populist parties would top the polls in at least nine EU member states.

Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia are all expected to see anti-European candidates win seats in the European Parliament, according to the research.

Eurosceptic candidates have not garnered as much support in Ireland to date, but the outcome of next month’s elections – at both European and local level – are eagerly awaited amid growing tensions over issues such as migration and the refugee crisis. 

A recent Eurobarometer report found that 83% of the Irish public are optimistic about the future of the EU – the highest ranking among the 27 member states, where the average is 61%.

The Journal/Ireland Thinks series of polls is running each month ahead of the European Parliament elections in June. It will continue to explore voter intentions, measure Irish public sentiment towards the EU on a number of issues and highlight any potential opinion gaps between different demographics of Irish society on matters important to them.

***

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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