Adrian Kavanagh (11 June 2010)
The Irish Times/Ispos MRBI poll, published in The Irish Times on Friday June 11th (also discussed here), rates Labour as the most popular political party in the state at present and also suggests that Sinn Féin will win that party’s highest share of the national vote since the 1920s. The poll figures offer a more sobering picture for Fine Gael, whose support levels now stand at just 1% higher than what the party won in 2007, while the threat of Electoral Armageddon hangs over the heads of the government parties, with Fianna Fáil likely to lose half of the its seats and the Green Party expected to lose all of the party’s six seats should these poll figures be replicated in a subsequent general election.
The proportion of seats won by parties in Irish general elections does not tend to measure up exactly to their actual share of the first preference vote (although the system is decidedly more proportional than its UK counterpart), mainly because party’s first preference votes need to be filtered through the system of Irish electoral constituencies. In order to address this question, I attempt to estimate what party first preference votes would be in different constituencies, assuming similar (proportional) change in party vote shares in all constituencies, as I did with the earlier RedC poll analyses. The only difference in this case is that my estimates are based on changing party supports levels regionally (based on party support by province figures referred to in the analysis by Stephen Collins) rather than nationally, given that regional breakdowns in support are, by and large, available for this poll. How does this work? Well, for instance, Fianna Fail’s share of the vote in Dublin is estimated in this poll to now stand at just two-sevenths of the level of support that the party won in 2007, while Labour support in the Dublin region is estimate to be over twice the vote share that the party won in the capital in the last election. So for any Dublin constituency, the Fianna Fail support levels would be estimated at two-sevenths of the percentage support levels achieved by Fianna Fail in 2007 in that constituency and the Labour support level would be estimated at twice the 2007 percentage support levels.
This of course is a very rough model, and ignores the fact that changing support levels between elections tend to vary geographically, even within specific provinces or regions, and also the impact that territory transfers, brought in by the 2007 Constituency Commission report, would have on vote share (although changing numbers of seats are taken account of). On the assumption that the base level of Labour support in Roscommon-South Leitrim and Mayo will have been added to by the recent acquisitions of John Kelly and Jerry Cowley (with the base level of Fianna Fáil support being similarly improved by the return of Beverley Flynn to the fold), I have added these candidates 2007 levels to the Labour (and Fianna Fáil) support levels in these constituencies to generate more realistic estimates there. Based on these estimated figures, I proceed to estimate the destination of seats in the different constituencies in each of the different region/provinces and then to aggregate these to complete the national estimates.
My estimates as to what parties’ shares of the first preference votes in the different constituencies would be:
|Cork North Central||14.6%||23.9%||29.0%||2.3%||14.3%||15.9%|
|Cork North West||31.5%||48.3%||16.7%||3.5%||0.0%||0.0%|
|Cork South Central||22.3%||30.3%||26.7%||6.8%||11.1%||2.9%|
|Cork South West||20.6%||36.9%||26.8%||5.2%||10.5%||0.0%|
|Donegal North East||34.3%||24.3%||7.5%||3.1%||21.3%||9.4%|
|Donegal South West||34.0%||24.4%||11.3%||3.4%||25.5%||1.4%|
|Dublin Mid West||13.6%||14.9%||32.9%||5.7%||17.3%||15.6%|
|Dublin North Central||18.0%||31.5%||21.7%||2.7%||7.0%||19.0%|
|Dublin North East||13.8%||24.0%||38.3%||3.0%||21.0%||0.0%|
|Dublin North West||15.8%||9.7%||47.8%||1.1%||23.0%||2.5%|
|Dublin South Central||10.1%||13.2%||46.9%||2.3%||14.0%||13.5%|
|Dublin South East||11.1%||21.7%||46.8%||6.8%||8.3%||5.4%|
|Dublin South West||12.2%||18.8%||45.4%||1.5%||17.2%||4.9%|
|Kerry North-West Limerick||11.9%||26.0%||23.8%||1.2%||33.4%||3.7%|
My guess-timate as to the destination of seats in all of the constituencies (Note: these figures assume that Fianna Fail are guaranteed a seat in Louth because Seamus Kirk, as Ceann Comhairle, will be automatically returned to the Dáil):
|Cork North Central||1||2||1|
|Cork North West||1||2|
|Cork South Central||1||2||2|
|Cork South West||1||1||1|
|Donegal North East||1||1||1|
|Donegal South West||1||1||1|
|Dublin Mid West||1||2||1|
|Dublin North Central||1||1||1|
|Dublin North East||1||1||1|
|Dublin North West||2||1|
|Dublin South Central||1||3||1|
|Dublin South East||1||1||2|
|Dublin South West||1||2||1|
|Kerry North-West Limerick||1||1||1|
(If only the national level poll trends are taken account of – in a similar vein to my earlier analyses of the Red C poll figures – a somewhat different result is produced – in this case the seat tallies are predicted to be: FF 34, FG 39, LB 57, GP 0, SF 7, OTH 9. Even when just takign account of geographical patterns at the macro/provincial level, notable difference in seat tallies are hence observed; this suggests that the geographical expression of national trends will have a significant bearing on the overall picture come election day and also underpins the limitations of analyses that just focus on national level trends.)
Even with a higher share of the national vote than Fine Gael, the model predicts that Labour might not emerge as the largest party in terms of the number of seats won. This is down, to a large degree, to the fact that there are a number of constituencies – particularly in the Border, West and Midlands regions – where Labour would still not be in contention for seats, even if their vote share was to be over three times that of their 2007 support levels, in line with the national trend predicted by the Irish Times/Isbos MRBI poll. Good vote management by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, in addition to the considerable amount of ‘wasted votes’ by weaker parties in different constituencies (including Labour in constituencies such as Cavan-Monaghan, Clare, Laois-Offaly and Sligo-North Leitrim), would see these parties winning more seats than their share of the vote would warrant in a number of constituencies. It should be added that judgments on seat allocations are simply based on the estimated percentage support levels however, and other factors, such as vote transfers, party discipline and the number of candidates running per party would have a significant impact on seat distributions, over and above this. In the case of Fianna Fáil, the total number of seats might be lower than the predicted allocation, if the party ends up running similar numbers of candidates to previous contests (2002, 2007) resulting in a splitting of an already reduced party vote, if votes transfers to decline in line with declining support levels, or if party discipline collapses in an “every man for themselves” scenario where TDs become solely focused on saving their own seats. Labour’s current support levels call for a bolder approach in candidate selection, particularly in the Dublin region where the party, on a projected 30% support level across the city, has a chance of winning two seats in all of the constituencies, apart maybe from Dublin North Central, and also would have a serious chance of winning three seats in Dublin South Central. The party’s prospects of emerging as the largest party in terms of seats after the next election demands, however, that they address their inherently weak areas of support in the Border, Midlands and Western regions. This would involve some constituencies where there is no great tradition of Labour support, but also constituencies such as Laois-Offaly and Cork North West where the party does have a tradition of support. The key to breaking through in these constituencies appears to lie in drawing in politicians from the independent ranks, or from other parties, such as Kelly in Roscommon-South Leitrim, who would have their own already established support bases to which the effects of a “Gilmore Gale” could be added to push the party into contention for a seat in those constituencies.
These poll results are disastrous for the Green Party and the Dublin support figure offers more cause for concern than the national figures does, given that the party main support lies there and given that five of the party’s six TDs represent Dublin constituencies. With the party’s support levels in its strongest region now effectively less than half of what it was in 2007 and with an expected fall-off in transfers from other party, the party simply is in a position where it is not in contention for a seat in any constituency, with the exception, maybe, of Galway West,
So who would be the main winners and losers in this scenario? The simulation would predict the election of a raft of new Fine Gael and Labour TDs, such as John Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny), Fidelma Healy-Eames (Galway West) and Mairéad McGuinness (Louth) for Fine Gael, and Ann Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny), Eric Byrne and Rebecca Moynihan (Dublin South Central), Eamonn Maloney (Dublin South West) and Alex White (Dublin South) for Labour. It also suggests that Sinn Fein would gains in constituencies such as Donegal North East (Padraig McLochlainn) and Donegal South West (Pearse Doherty), while Toireasa Ferris would be predicted to top the poll in Kerry North. On the other hand, the simulation suggest that a number of senior Fianna Fáil figures would lose their seats, including Pat Carey (Dublin North West), Brian Lenihan (Dublin West), Barry Andrews (Dún Laoghaire), Conor Lenihan (Dublin South West) and Seán Ardagh (Dublin South Central), with Mary Hanafin’s seat (Dún Laoghaire) also emerging as vulnerable.
In terms of government formation, despite Sinn Féin’s strong showing this simulation would discount the involvement of the smaller parties as potential coalition partners, leaving only three potential government options – Fine Gael/Labour (109 seats), Fianna Fail/Labour (94 seats) or Fianna Fail/Fine Gael (95 seats). If the latter is discounted as a potential government option, this leaves Labour with the choice of being a junior or equal partner in a Fine Gael-Labour government or becoming the senior partner in a coalition with Fianna Fail with Eamonn Gilmore as Taoiseach.
Finally, the C.M.A. provisions! It is important to take cognisance of the timing of this poll; there are still two years to run in the lifetime of the present Dail meaning that Fianna Fáil still has ample time to claw back lost ground. It is also worth noting that Fianna Fail support would, when it comes closer to polling day, be enhanced by the popularity of local representatives – the likelihood of people voting for individual Fianna Fáil candidates (rather than the Fianna Fáil party) would probably see support for this party registering at a higher level than polls are predicting – as well as its stronger local organisation network. Labour’s inherent weakness in rural and western parts of the state suggests that increased support for the party must plateau at a certain level – probably around the low 20s unless the Gilmore Gale assume hurricane proportions – and it is still worth noting that Labour remains a small party in organization terms, lacking at present the membership and financial levels to battle Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on a evle playing field. Ultimately, I still think we are in “Nick Clegg poll figures following the first leadership debate territory” (although Labour support levels have registered consistently high in a number of recent polls) and do not expect Labour to outpoll the two main parties come the next general election. Should this happen, then we are in serious political realignment territory and facing into the most dramatic change to the Irish political landscape since the founding of the State.
22 thoughts on “The Irish Times/Ispos MRBI poll: A Geographical Dissection”
An excellent post with some very interesting questions posed. I would tend to agree with your analysis regarding the Labour Partys ability to turn their popularity into seats. The party does not have an organisation big enough to deal with such a large surge in support. Your predictions for example have them picking up two seats in many consitiuencies when they have not even run two candidates in most of them previously. If the organisation can be built up or suitable candidates found remains to be seen.
A final note is just with regard to personal ideological beliefs. I wonder why so many posters on this forum find recent events exciting. Is it because of the changing political landscape or because many would be aligned to the political ideology of the party assumed to gain most from recent polls? I wonder if a similar, almost universially positive, attitude would be so common if it were Sinn Fein who were making these gains?
I’d be wary of going to such a low level in already-small poll. The sample size was 1,000, so you’re looking at between 20 and 25 voters per constituency surveyed.
It’s difficult to reasonably draw any conclusions from those numbers, as tempting as it is.
Figures are based on provincial support level figures and analysis is generated around changing support levels at provincial level since 2007 (thus based on sample sizes of presumably 200-300 respondents). They are not based on constituency level polling figures; I would not even have access to those anyway!
Sinn Fein did not exist in the 1920’s. The Sinn Fein from the 20’s was actually the party we now call Fine Gael.
It would be helpful to the promotion of informed discussion if you could either amplify your statement here or point to some sources that would do so – not necessarily online sources.
Interesting piece, certainly lot’s food for thought. Notwithstanding previous health warnings on the limited sample size it’s a good analysis.
The local factors probably need further weighting, for example, in a constituency like Dún Laoghaire it’s more likely Richard Boyd Barrett will be elected as opposed to a second seat for Labour.
To take account of local/constituency level factors, the only real option would be to carry out constituency level opinion polls, which themselves often carry serious health warnings! The local factor aspect is of course vitally important, but it could not be taken account of in an exercise such as this.
Would there be any chance of you accessing the partys internal polling information? While recent data may be sensitive perhaps they would be willing to give the data from ten years ago for example.
Have Labour got 54 candidates such that they could win 54 seats?
That’s another question entirely Johannes! (Although in 2007 GE, Labour did run 50 candidates and would be expected to run more in GE2012 anyway…)
What this analysis, as well as the recent polls, is suggesting is that Labour need to position themselves, both in terms of organisation and also candidate selection, in such a way that they can benefit from such a “Gilmore Gale” come polling day and not miss out on winnable seats due to runnign too few candidates…
This is of course a risky game – if the expect Gilmore Gale turns out to be more along the lines of the recent Clegg Cypher and Labour ends up in the mid to high teens, then seats would be lost by running too many candidates!!!
“This is of course a risky game – ->if the expect Gilmore Gale turns out to be more along the lines of the recent Clegg Cypher and Labour ends up in the mid to high teens, then seats would be lost by running too many candidates!!!”
Quite right. When people were throwing out these number of seats that were to be won you would be looking at 100% or thereabouts of candidates being returned. Unheard of.
The corollary of this is running too many candidates and cannibalising votes. While the numbers are good they have to be respected as to the dangers they bring.
Off hand suppose two candidates are run on the basis of the baove figures and 15% is achieved split 8% to 7%. They are immediately behind a candidate with 12% say going for a seat and would need 56% transfer rate from the eliminated candidate to level with the 12% candidate.
Just thinking about this a bit more; with Labour expected to contest every constituency at the next election (as indeed they did in 2007) and with the party planning to run two candidates in their stronger constituencies/the larger (5-seat) constituencies, I think it would be safe to estimate that Labour will probably have around 65 candidates in the field at the next election.
above figures ooops!
There is no possibility that the Labour Party will win anything like 54 seats in the next general election. In the run in to a general election FF will rapidly recover support. I suspect that FF will win at least 60 to 65 seats.
I disagree strongly with the methodology used in the Ipsos/MRBI poll. There were 23% don’t knows. The distribution of these is a matter for conjecture.
Labour will not win two seats in constituencies such as Cork East, Waterford. Just remember Nick Clegg.
Source of the constituency estimates is explained in this blog
Tipperary South 22.0% 21.2% 23.8% 1.2% 6.3% 25.6%
From Paddy Healy, Brother of Seamus and chief tallyman, former South Tipperary TD(lost by 59 votes)
representing Workers and Unemployed Action Group(Tipp South)
On the basis of above adjustment you have Seamus, Lab and Fianna Fail getting one seat each and none for Fine Gael!This prediction would not have great credibility in South Tipp
I assume you applied the Munster regional adjustment for Labour to the South Tipp Labour Candidate and the Munster regional adjustment for others to Seamus.
There are serious issues with this which have implications for other left candidates in other constituencies
In the Spring Tide Election, Seamus got a lift as well as established Labour TD,Michael Ferris.
Since then, Seamus has spent 7 years in Dail and has outpolled Labour by 2 to 1 in successive GEneral Elections. Seamus, unlike Jackie Healy Rae, is recognised as a labour movement candidate. I would therefore expect that the process that led to Labour tripling its vote as compared to last election would benefit Seamus at least to the same extent as it would benefit the Labour Party Candidate. Given the perceived close links between Fine Gael and Labour among the electorate, it is likely that a decline in Fianna Fail vote would in the first instance benefit Seamus. This is what happened in the bye-election in which Seamus was first elected to the Dail.Fine Gael did extremely well in most recent local elections as did WUAG(South Tipp)
It is probable therefore, that the Labour Party will fall below Fine Gael and that the outcome will be Seamus Healy 1, Fianna Fail 1, Fine Gael 1.
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Modified Constituency Predictions (PART 1)
From Paddy Healy
The predictions herein are based on the recent ipsosMRBI poll and the application of regional changes to party totals in 2007 election by Adrian Kavanagh. The coloration of “others” and personality factors were understandably not taken into account in Adrian’s constituency predictions.
If the ipsosMRBI poll were repeated in a general election, it would be the first election in which FF+FG garnered less than 50% of the total vote(45%) since FF entered the Dail. Interestingly the poll predicts that Lab+SF +various lefts would garner approximately 45% of the vote also. The predicted Labour vote is approximately 1.5 times the Labour Vote in the “Springtide Election”. Something big is happening out there!
Carlow-Kilkenny FF2 FG2 Lab1
This is a reasonable prediction based on the figures. Labour regains the seat once held bySeamus Pattison (former ceann-comhairle)
Cavan-Monaghan FF2 FG2 1(SF)
While this is probably correct, the SF vote is very near the FF vote. It is possible that SF will do somewhat better than predicted because of presence of sitting Sinn Fein TD and Dail leader, Caoimhin O Caolain. In that case SF could get 2 with a strong second candidate and FF 1 . I agree with prediction.
Clare FF1 FG2 1(other)
The other here is Breen (Ind FF) who lost his seat last time. If he doesn’t make it there could be two Fianna Fail unless Lab spring a “Banji” . I agree with prediction.
Cork East FF1 FG1 Lab2
This is a very urbanised constituency with many sizeable towns. FF +FG garner only 40% of vote here as opposed to 60% for Lab +SF. While reduced to 1 seat in last election, Labour previously held two seats here. Prediction Agreed.
Cork North Central FG1 Lab2 SF1
There is considerable change here since last General Election. Sinn Fein got the last of five seats in North Central Ward in local elections. Cllr Mick Barry (Socialist Party) headed the poll and Cllr Chris O’Leary,who has left the Greens, was also elected in another ward . Ted Tynan (Workers Party) was also elected in a neghbouring ward. It is difficult to believe that FFs Noel O’Flynn and Billy Kelleher will not secure 1 seat between them. There could be considerable leakage from Kathleen Lynch’s surplus. I am changing the prediction here to FF1, FG1, Lab1, Socialist Party 1
Cork North West FF1 FG2
The explosively expanding Ballincollig suburb is changing this constituency which also includes Macroom agus Gaeltacht Mhuscrai. Large numbers of public servants live in the area. Education is a huge issue for a young population on the university side of Cork City. If Bat O’Keefe runs he will not succeed. The predicted 48% for FG is impressive but short of 1.6 quotas needed to strongly indicate two seats. The Labour vote in last election on which the predicted vote is based was very low. However the probable Labour candidate is from Macroom. This constituency is vulnerable to a strong Labour or left candidate or even an independent Public Service candidate. However, on the basis of the current probable candidates , I agree with the prediction.
Cork South Central FF1 FG2 Lab 2
It is difficult to see any other outcome other than that predicted. Lynch(Lab) is extremely prominent. If Labour does not organise an even split of votes between two candidates on first count, the second seat could escape. Prediction Agreed.
Cork South West 1 1 1
If Michael McCarthy doesn’t win back Michael Pat Murphy’s seat for Labour this time, he will never make it! Prediction Agreed
Donegal North East FF1 FG1 SF1
Donegal South West FF1 FG1 SF1
When Neil Blaney(Junior) was independent FF, Fianna Fail had effectively five of the 6 seats in Co Donegal and won 4 in last election. Sinn Fein should get a seat in each constituency next time. FF reduced to 2 seats in Co Donegal-there really is something happening out there!! Prediction Agreed.
You are away off in Nt.Kerry-Wst. Limerick. Ferris has lost 1,000 votes to St.Kerry and there is nothing coming from Wst. Limerick. His core vote from GE 2007is slightly under 7,000 Votes(16.66% of a Quota)Given 8% over Munster in the MRBI Poll, 10 of the 13 Constituencies SF would be on 4%, giving 21% in the 3 others at best and in my estimates some of the 10 would be greater than 4%. Therefore Ferris is unlikely to achieve 21% on first count and also his present vote is already 80% belonging to FF. The only constituency that Labour will win 2 Seats in Munster is Cork Nt Central with FG 1, FF 1. No SF seat
As I state, the nature of the exercise is such that constituency boundary changes cannot be adequately accounted for. But just to answer this question, I will asses the impact in relation to Kerry North.
Instead of me being “away off” in my estimations, it is actually your figures that are not matching up with the real situation. Based on the tally figures published in “The Kerryman” in the week after GE2007, the actual amount of votes that lost by Ferris due to the boundary changes is not 1,000, but actually just 573. No doubt related to their candidate selection for the 2007 election, it is actually Fianna Fail who would be losing the most votes – they would be down 1,149 votes due to the loss of territory to Kerry South, while Fine Gael would be down 881 votes and Labour down 205 votes. Overall, the share of the vote held by Labour and Sinn Fein would actually be slightly higher (0.3% higher) relative to Fianna Fail (down by 0.7%) in the “reduced” Kerry North component of the new Kerry North-West Limerick constituency; in the area being lost to Kerry South FF would have taken 39.5% of the vote, with FG at 30.3%, LB at 7.0% SF at 19.7%, GRN 2.0% and OTHERS at 1.4% (as against constituency results: FF 31.3%, FG 32.3%, LB 10.9%, SF 20.4%, OTH 3.2%).
Repeating the analysis based on the amended Kerry North constituency area would leave FF standing at 11.6%, FG at 26.0%, LB at 24.3%, GP at 1.2%, SF at 33.2% and OTH at 3.8%.
The impact of the adddition of the West Limerick EDs is of course the main imponderable here. Again tally figures can be used here – using tally figures published in the “Limerick Leader” after the 2007 election, we can see that FF won 4,274 votes in the areas now being moved into the new Kerry North-Limerick West constituency, FG won 2,988 votes LAB won 196 votes, GP won 157 votes and OTH (PDs) won 110 votes (Sinn Fein did not contest Limerick West, so their potential level of support there cannot be estimated). Adding these to the fugures for the reduced Kerry North constituency, we get FF standing at 34.9% for the new Kerry North-West Limerick constituency area, FG at 33.6%, LB at 9.7%, GP at 1.9%, SF at 16.9% and OTH at 3.0%. Now replaying the above analysis based on these figures, we get estimates of party support as follows (with estimated first preference figures being based on the 2007 valid poll) –
Fianna Fail: 6,283 (14.2%)
Fine Gael 12,782 (28.8%)
Labour 10,014 (22.6%)
Green Party 557 (1.3%)
Sinn Fein 13,059 (29.5%)
Others 1,630 (3.7%)
In this scenario, Toireasa Ferris and Jimmy Deenihan would be comfortably elected on Count 1, with Arthur Spring being elected on Count 3 with transfers from the Ferris and Deenihan surpluses. Fianna Fail – especially given the assumption that their support would be divided between two candidates – would be well off the pace in this simulation.
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