An opinion poll in tomorrow's Sunday Business Post shows strong support for the Presidential bids of Labour's Michael D Higgins and Senator David Norris.

The Red C poll sought the opinions of 1,000 people from around the country and was taken as the final list of candidates remained unknown.

In order to account for this the poll gave participants two sets of ballot papers.

The first ballot featured the five confirmed candidates, while the second added the names of Senator Norris, Dana Rosemary Scallon and Fianna Fáil Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú.

In the five-person ballot Labour's Michael D Higgins came out on top with 27% of the vote.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and Independent Mary Davis picked up 20% of the vote each, Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell got 18% and Independent Sean Gallagher got 15%.

However, the introduction of the three extra candidates made a significant difference with Senator Norris topping that poll on 21%.

Mr Higgins came in second here with 18%, Mr McGuinness was third with 16%, Ms Davis and Mr Mitchell received 13%, Mr Gallagher got 11% and Ms Scallon received 6%.

Senator Ó Murchú, who has since withdrawn from the nomination process, received just 1% of the vote.

With 12 county councils due to meet next week to discuss Presidential nominations, it is widely expected that both Senator Norris and Ms Scallon will become formal candidates for the Presidency.

The results from both polls show that Senator Norris will clearly have a big impact if he does become a candidate, although the survey also shows that he does poorly on transfers, as does Mr McGuinness.

Meanwhile Mr Higgins, and to a lesser extent Ms Davis, do well on transfers, which could prove to be crucial in a tight contest.

Áras race impacts on party support

The Presidential contest also seems to be having an effect on party support, with the Sunday Business Post / Red C poll showing big increases for Sinn Féin and Independents.

Since the last such poll in May support for Fine Gael has dropped six points to 33%, Labour is down three to 16%, Fianna Fáil is down one to 15%, Sinn Féin gains four to 15% while Independents and others gain 8% to reach 21%.