4th February 2020

Public believe Mary Lou McDonald is the most effective communicator among party leaders — 360 poll

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald is seen by the public as the most effective communicator among political party leaders by a considerable margin, according to the latest and final 360 2020 Leader series poll. 

Almost a third of respondents (32%) believe that Mary Lou McDonald has been the most effective communicator during the general election campaign, compared to 15% for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and 14% for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The poll was undertaken for 360 by Amárach Research on Friday, 31 January among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults.

Overview of findings

When the public were asked “Which of the main party leaders do you believe has best communicated to voters during the campaign to date?”, the response was:

  • Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin) – 32%

  • Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael) – 15%

  • Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil) – 14%

  • Eamon Ryan (Green Party) – 6%

  • Richard Boyd Barrett (Solidarity–People Before Profit) – 6%

  • Brendan Howlin (Labour) – 5%

  • Róisín Shortall (Social Democrats) – 3%

  • None of the above – 19%

Dan Pender, Managing Director

“At the outset of this election, we felt that the party leaders would play a critical role in the campaign. In an election where a clear majority of voters want change, Mary Lou McDonald is resonating as the best communicator with those who matter most: the voters.

“Her tone and ability to cut through appear to have struck a chord with people. She performed excellently in both leaders’ debates, has maintained strong message discipline, used relatable language, and handled attacks from opponents competently. She has looked comfortable throughout the campaign and has connected with voters on her message that Sinn Féin are the real alternative to the status quo.

“She has enjoyed some luck along the way, particularly in her first leaders’ debate. As yet, she has not come under the same level of scrutiny as Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar. However, given Sinn Féin’s momentum in the polls, and the circumstances of her involvement in tonight’s Prime Time debate, she can expect that to change between now and polling day.”

Amanda Glancy 360

Amanda Glancy, Director of Policy and Campaigns

“The poll makes interesting reading for the smaller parties, which have struggled to cut through in the campaign so far. The three-way battle between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin has dominated the airwaves, and the smaller parties have been squeezed out. We haven’t seen any breakthrough moment from them so far, despite some decent media performances.

“The decision to allow Mary Lou McDonald to take part in the final debate is likely to pique voter interest and create a new dynamic. It will also place additional pressure on both Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, as they will not want to be outshone by their ‘new’ challenger.”

Join the Circle

Get 360’s intelligent communications updates, insights, and research delivered to your inbox every quarter.