By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The sleaze fallout from the payments-to-politicians allegations has hit support for Fianna Fail and caused voter satisfaction with the government to plummet by 16 points in five months.
While Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s own personal satisfaction rating has dropped by 11 points, he still has a huge 70 percent approval — way above his main rival, Fine Gael’s John Bruton, who is stuck at 47 percent, unchanged since last October.
The MRBI/Irish Times poll is bad news for politics generally with 61 percent believing that the type of behavior being revealed at the Tribunals is common to most politicians and a huge 78 percent believe it is still going on and has not been purged from the system.
Only 15 percent believe the Tribunals will restore public trust in politics. A majority of 51 percent think an election should be called if the allegations made to the Tribunals are proven in coming weeks.
Fianna Fail support is down 8 points to 48 percent, with Fine Gael being the main beneficiary, up 5 points to 25 percent.
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The Progressive Democrats have doubled to 4 percent, but the Labor Party, despite its amalgamation with Democratic Left, has only gone up 2 points to 14 percent.
PD leader Mary Harney’s rating has gone up by 2 points to 64 percent and Labor’s leader, Ruairi Quinn, has increased his profile by 4 points to 55 percent.
Though the government satisfaction rating is down to 52 percent, leaders probably expected it would be worse.
Government Chief Whip Seamus Brennan said he was "quite staggered" by the fact 78 percent believed the sleaze was common to all politicians.
"That is a message to all politicians," he said. "We have to restore confidence in the political system."
He said the drop in support for the government followed "four months of an absolute torrent of allegations" being dealt with by the taoiseach and the tribunals.
He said the most important thing was to get to the bottom of any allegations, "root them out" and restore some sort of faith in the Dail and politicians.