Adrian Kavanagh, 15th February 2011
The Millward-Brown opinion poll, published in the 16th February edition of The Irish Independent estimates party support as follows: Fianna Fail 12%, Fine Gael 38%, Labour 23%, Green Party 3%, Sinn Fein 10%, Others 16%. Based solely on these poll figures, my uniform-swing constituency level analysis models seat estimates for the different parties/groupings as follows: Fianna Fail 13, Fine Gael 78, Labour 42, Green Party 0, Sinn Fein 13, Others 20.
(Update: 17th February Daily Star poll: Fianna Fail 17%, Fine Gael 39%, Labour 18%, Green Party 2%, Sinn Fein 10%, Others 14% - seat estimates based on these figures: Fianna Fail 31, Fine Gael 77, Labour 31, Green Party 0, Sinn Fein 8, Others 18. Two points to note here: there is a level of support in mid-teens that Fianna Fail must not fall beyound otherwise their losses will accelerate, Fine Gael’s prospects of edging towards the magic 83-seat number decrease when Fianna Fail poll ratings improve.)
Based on the Millward-Brown poll figures, the model estimates party support in the different consituencies as follows:
|Cork North Central||9%||32%||23%||1%||10%||26%|
|Cork North West||19%||66%||14%||1%||0%||0%|
|Cork South Central||15%||45%||24%||2%||8%||5%|
|Cork South West||13%||54%||24%||2%||8%||0%|
|Donegal North East||16%||35%||13%||0%||28%||8%|
|Donegal South West||17%||37%||7%||0%||35%||3%|
|Dublin Mid West||11%||31%||28%||3%||15%||12%|
|Dublin North Central||12%||34%||16%||1%||5%||32%|
|Dublin North East||12%||32%||35%||1%||20%||0%|
|Dublin North West||14%||13%||45%||1%||22%||6%|
|Dublin South Central||8%||16%||38%||1%||12%||26%|
|Dublin South East||9%||28%||41%||3%||7%||11%|
|Dublin South West||10%||24%||40%||1%||15%||10%|
|Kerry North-West Limerick||8%||39%||21%||0%||25%||7%|
Based solely on these constituency-level estimates of party support, I would guesstimate the number of seats to fall to different parties/groupings in different constituencies as follows:
|Cork North Central||2||1||1|
|Cork North West||1||2|
|Cork South Central||1||3||1|
|Cork South West||2||1|
|Donegal North East||2||1|
|Donegal South West||1||1||1|
|Dublin Mid West||2||1||1|
|Dublin North Central||2||1|
|Dublin North East||1||1||1|
|Dublin North West||2||1|
|Dublin South Central||1||3||1|
|Dublin South East||2||2|
|Dublin South West||1||2||1|
|Kerry North-West Limerick||1||1||1|
Seat levels for different coalition options would stand as follows: Fine Gael/Labour 120 seats (majority of 74 seats), Fine Gael/”Right-leaning” Independents-Others 88 seats (majority of 10 seats), Fine Gael/Fianna Fail 91 (majority of 16 seats), Fianna Fail/Labour 55 seats, Fianna Fail/Labour/Sinn Fein 68 seats, “Left Coalition” 65 seats, Fine Gael/Green Party 78 seats, Fine Gael/”Right-leaning” Independents-Others/Green Party 88 seats (majority of 10 seats).
The Others grouping is a very broad church, involving a number of left-leaning independents and smaller parties (including the United Left Alliance grouping), as well as business/reform independents and disaffected former members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. The model would guesstimate that 10 of the 20 seats allocated to Others would fall to left-leaning independents/smaller parties, including six seats for United Left Alliance candidates (Barry – Cork NC, Daly – Dublin N, Collins – Dublin SC, Higgins – Dublin W, Boyd Barrett – Dun L, Healy – Tipperary S).
As noted a number of times previously, this is a very rough model based on a “uniform swing” assumption – assuming that the national swing from the 2007 general election support levels to current opinion poll support levels would be replicated exactly in each constituency. As a result, it can over-inflate constituency support estimates in constituencies where parties/groupings were already starting from a very high base; e.g. Fine Gael in Mayo, Labour in Kildare South, Others in Dublin Central, Galway West, Tipperary North and Wicklow. But, in terms of the overall national estimation of seat estimates it could be argued that the over-estimation of support levels in some constituencies is compensated for by under-estimating the probable party support levels in other constituencies; e.g. Fine Gael in Dublin Central and Wicklow, Labour in Dublin North Central and Louth - hence, the award of an extra seat to a party in an “over-estimated” constituency may be compensated by the “non-award” of a seat in an “under-estimated constituency”. The high national support level for the Others grouping probably cannot be adequately illustrated as, given that it is based around 2007 support patterns, it cannot detect areas where new independent and small party candidates did not do well in 2007 but may poll exceptionally well in this coming election; e.g. Donegal North East, Wexford.
Fianna Fail’s percentage share of seats won is well below their admittedly disappointing percentage share of the vote in this poll – Fianna Fail would be winning 19 seats if their percentage share of seats was similar to that. This can be related to the party’s geography of support; their traditional catch-all pattern of support means that there are no dramatic regional variations in party support. This catch-all support pattern was a strength for the party when their national support level was polling in the high 30s and low 40s (and indeed my earlier poll analyses awarded Fianna Fail significant seat bonuses even when polls were estimating their support levels to be in the mid 20s), but it is a decided handicap for Fianna Fail when the party’s support levels fall to such a low level. When party national support levels are as low as this, a small party will win seats by relying on high support levels in some constituencies (balanced with very low support levels in others). For the smaller parties such as Sinn Fein and the Green Party, such uneven geographies of support are usually a strength – if they were winning similar levels of support everywhere they would be struggling to win any seats at all. But if party support levels are evenly spread in relative terms, as is the norm with Fianna Fail, then that party will find itself with support levels below the quota in most constituencies. It also ties in with my earlier stated idea that there is for every party a “tipping point” in their national support levels below which seat losses will be particularly exacerbated as happened with Fine Gael in the 2002 election. It is also worth noting that this model does not take account of the fact that Fianna Fail’s loss in support will be accompanied by an equal decline in vote transfers from other parties. Furthermore, as Fianna Fail are running more than one candidate in all constituencies, the party’s declining support will be split between two or more candidates; a factor that could even see Fianna Fail seat losses being further exacerbated.
To make matters worse for Fianna Fail, one of the 13 seats allocated to the party in this model would be Seamus Kirk’s seat in Louth, held by virtue of his position as Ceann Comhairle. On these seat levels, the Fianna Fail parliamentary party would look something like this: Michael Martin, Barry Cowen, John Moloney, John McGuinness, Michael Moynihan, Mary Coughlan, Michael Kennedy, Maria Corrigan, Sean Power, Willie O’Dea, Niall Collins, Declan Breathnach and Seamus Kirk.
Labour’s relatively high estimated seat levels, relative to their share of the vote and to the findings in previous poll analyses, may be explained by a political competition factor – while support for Fianna Fail once again shows a decline, after a mini Martin-mo surge in late January, and the “Doherty drive” surge in Sinn Fein supports starts to ebb somewhat, Labour support remains fairly constant and they now start picking up seats that were previously assigned to Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail in the previous weeks’ analyses.
The model predicts that Fine Gael would win 78 seats and the reality is that the party will likely win a second seat in Wicklow which the poll fails to detect (of course, there may be other constituencies where the Fine Gael vote is over-estimated and the seats predicted here may not fall to the party – possibly the third seats in constituencies where the party is predicted to win three out of four seats, while the high level of Fine Gael seats predicted within Cork may not arise following the election of a Fianna Fail leader from that county). Over and above the 79 seats level, are there any other constituencies where Fine Gael could realistically win extra seats to push them closer to an overall majority? The most likely contenders would include a seat in Dublin North West, second seats in Dublin North, Galway West and Meath East, a third potential seat in Wicklow. As the party’s national support levels edges closer to the 40 per cent mark and the “Kenny Krusade” gains pace, the prospects of an overall Fine Gael majority increase, but on the present high-30s poll levels it must be said the party effectively requires a perfect storm of good fortune in terms of vote transfers and political opportunity spaces across a number of constituencies in order to hit the magic 83 seat mark.