24th January 2020

Neither Leo Varadkar nor Micheál Martin can change things for the better, believe public — 360 poll

Results from the second in PR360’s 2020 Leader poll series, which tracks public attitudes towards the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders, show that 52% of respondents believe neither Leo Varadkar nor Micheál Martin can change things for the better, with clear public disillusionment across key campaign issues.

The second poll, undertaken last Friday (24 January) by Amárach Research among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, evaluated public attitudes towards Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin on key campaign issues, including housing, health, the economy and cost of living, crime, Brexit, and climate change.

Overview of findings


  • 27% of those polled believed Micheál Martin is best placed to tackle housing issues, compared to 20% for Leo Varadkar.

  • A majority (53%) believed neither leader is best placed to tackle housing challenges.


  • Both leaders were level at 23% among the public on who was best placed to tackle challenges in health.

  • A majority (54%) believed neither leader is best placed to address issues in health.

The economy and cost of living

  • Micheál Martin (25%) enjoys a slim lead over Leo Varadkar (23%) on who the public believe will deal with economic and cost of living challenges.

  • A majority (52%) chose neither.


  • Both leaders were level at 22% on addressing the challenges in crime.

  • A majority (56%) polled don’t believe either leader is best to address crime issues.


  • When asked who is best placed to address Brexit challenges, Leo Varadkar enjoys a clear advantage over Micheál Martin, with 42% backing the Taoiseach, compared to 18% for the Fianna Fáil leader.

Climate change

  • A majority 61% responded that neither leader was best able to address climate change, with Leo Varadkar (23%) enjoying an advantage over Micheál Martin (16%).

Relevance of campaign issues

  • 47% of respondents feel that the issues in the campaign so far are relevant to them, while 43% feel they are not.

Choice for next Taoiseach

  • A majority 57% responded that they would choose Micheál Martin as the next Taoiseach in a straight head-to-head choice, versus 43% for Leo Varadkar. This is up 2% on our previous poll, undertaken on Friday 17 January.

  • Micheál Martin was ahead across all demographics, including gender, age, social class, and region.

Dan Pender, Managing Director

“Our second 2020 Leader series poll gives a clear sense of where the public mindset is as the election approaches the halfway point. There is an appetite for change, but the public do not appear to see the change they’re looking for at this moment in time.

“There is clear indication of disillusionment with both leaders on the major challenges facing the country. With the exception of Brexit—a theme Fine Gael have been pushing hard in the first week of the campaign—a clear majority feel neither leader is the best person to address the important issues. The leaders will seek to intensify the policy focus this week, so it will be interesting to see which of the contenders can influence an unconvinced public on the big issues.

“There is only slight change from last week in terms of the public’s preferred choice for next Taoiseach. The poll was conducted after the first TV leaders’ debate. Micheál Martin has slightly increased his lead over Leo Varadkar and remains ahead among all demographics and regions.

“The week ahead is key. Will Leo Varadkar or Micheál Martin be able to make the case to voters on the issues that matter as the public starts to focus their minds? Or is there an opportunity for others to make gains? The race is too close to call.”

Amanda Glancy 360

Amanda Glancy, Director of Policy and Campaigns

“The level of disillusionment among respondents towards both main parties should be a concern for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“That fact that this poll finds that a majority do not have confidence that either leader can change things for the better on a range of key issues such as health, housing or crime is an issue for both parties.

“This lack of confidence in the ability of either leader to effect meaningful change is also likely manifesting itself through the poll’s further finding that the election campaign has not resonated with respondents to date.

“If this pattern of disconnection continues, there is a real possibility that voters on polling day may choose to vote on the basis of issues rather than along party lines.

“If so, it could mean that smaller parties such as the Green Party, associated with environmental issues, or independents focused on niche local issues, could poll well.

“We’re still almost two weeks out from polling day, but it’s clear that the challenge for party strategists will be how to get voters more engaged and to convince them that their respective leader represents real change.”

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