Newstalk “General Election 2011” prediction survey: A Commentary

Adrian Kavanagh, 21 December 2010 – latest updates: 30 December 2010

As an alternative perspective to the opinion poll results that have been published over the past few weeks and my constituency-level models and analysis of these, Newstalk 106-108 FM this  morning presented the findings of a prediction survey that was able to draw on the local knowledge that the poll figures and my poll analyses cannot tap in to. This survey involved asking personnel in local independent radios across the state to make their predictions as to how they saw the seats falling in their own local constituencies at the upcoming general election in Spring 2011. While this obviously is drawing on the subjective views of a number of different local commentators, it does have the advantage of offering a locally grounded perspective to complement the figures emerging out of recent opinion poll analyses. The findings are very interesting and intuitively seem to tally up better with how the general election results may pan out than has been suggested by the more recent opinion polls and the analyses of these. This survey was carried out a few weeks ago, so figures for Sinn Fein could be viewed as being under-estimated in the light of recent poll trends.

Based on this Newstalk survey, the number of seats to be won by each party at the next general election is predicted as follows: Fianna Fail 43, Fine Gael 63, Labour Party 40, Sinn Fein 6, Green Party 2, Independents and Others 12.

The destination of the seats in the different constituencies is predicted to fall as follows:

FF FG LB GP SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 2 2 1
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 2 1
Cork North Central 1 1 2
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 1 3 1
Cork South West 2 1
Donegal North East 1 1 1
Donegal South West 1 1 1
Dublin Central 1 2 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 2
Dublin North 1 1 1 1
Dublin North Central 1 1 1
Dublin North East 1 2
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin South 1 2 1 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 2 1
Dublin South East 1 1 2
Dublin South West 1 1 2
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 1 2
Galway East 1 2 1
Galway West 2 1 2
Kerry North-West Limerick 1 1 1
Kerry South 1 1 1
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois-Offaly 2 3
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 1 2
Louth 2 1 1 1
Mayo 4 1
Meath East 1 1 1
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-South Leitrim 1 2
Sligo-North Leitrim 1 2
Tipperary North 1 1 1
Tipperary South 1 2
Waterford 1 2 1
Wexford 2 2 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 43 63 40 2 6 12

The number of seats won by the different parties does not tally with the numbers that these parties would be expected to win based on recent poll results. The lower Sinn Fein figure is not surprising, given that this survey was taken before the impact of the “Doherty Drive” became evident in recent polls. The Fianna Fail figure is probably most notable, pointing to fact that the local observers collectively expect Fianna Fail to win more seats, and hence more votes, than the November/December opinion polls would suggest; the party would be expected to win just 26-27 seats based on the most recent Irish Times and Sunday Business Post polls. Indeed the seats levels to be won by the different parties based on the prediction survey are remarkably similar to the levels predicted to be won by the different parties based on the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll of 26th September 2010 – in which case the national support levels that might be associated with such support levels would probably rank the Fine Gael share of the vote to be in the low to mid 30s and the Fianna Fail and Labour shre to in the low to mid 20s, with the Greens at between three and four percent, Sinn Fein around eight or nine percent and the Independents and Others around the ten percent level.

I’ll now continue with my own comments on what the prediction survey says about the different constituencies and how these tally with the general trends observed in my more recent opinion poll analyses  – these views will of course be influenced by party’s candidate selections with up-to-date news about these available from the Irish General Election Facts and Figures blog.

Note: I’ll be updating this post on a hopefully regular basis over the coming days!

Carlow-Kilkenny (5 seats): In 2007 the two government parties won four out of the five seats in this constituency mainly due to poor vote management on the part of Fine Gael and Labour and also due to the tendency for “Carlow votes” to stay in Carlow; factors that especially helped Mary White to win the first ever “rural” seat for the Green Party despite winning less than half a quota in terms of first preference votes. It is very hard to see the Greens hold this seat in 2011 and at least one of the three Fianna Fail seats must be viewed as being vulnerable. The polls analyses and the prediction survey both have Fine Gael at two seats here (gain of one), but the survey awards two seats to Fianna Fail while the polls analyses award two to Labour. Given the ability of Fianna Fail to tap into the “local vote”, especially the “local Carlow vote” and, more importantly (!!!), the fact that Labour are currently just running one candidate here, Cllr. Anne Phelan, the prediction survey would seem to tally better with the likely election result. Between them the Greens and Sinn Fein will probably win between ten and fifteen per cent of the vote here and transfers from these parties will have a significant bearing here, unless the Sinn Fein or Green candidates succeeds in making it to the final count. Gain for Labour and Fine Gael, Loss for Green Party and Fianna Fail

Cavan-Monaghan (5 seats): Fianna Fail currently hold three of the five seats here, but one of these was held due to Rory O’Hanlon holding post of Ceann Comhairle at time of last general election, effectively giving Fianna Fail an extra seat in this constituency. This seat is expected to be lost at the coming election with both the polls analyses and survey pointing to Fine Gael regaining their second seat here (despite the retirement of their incumbent deputy, Seymour Crawford), which they had lost in 2002 to independent, Paudge Connolly, and failed to regain in 2007 due to the constituency effectively becoming a four-seater. But the polls analyses suggest that Fianna Fail could lose a second seat here, this time to Sinn Fein’s Kathryn Reilly, although the local survey suggests Fianna Fail will hold two here; this may reflect the fact that the survey was take a few weeks before the most recent polls. In this case, the polls analysis may prove to be a better predictor of the final result.  Gain for Fine Gael and Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail lose two seats.

Clare (4-seat): This has been one of Fianna Fail’s stronger constituencies in recent elections with the party actually holding three of the four seats up to the loss of a seat to independent, and former Fianna Fail party member, James Breen in 2002, with Fine Gael taking the seat off Breen in the 2007 contest. Breen however fared much better in terms of vote share than a lot of the other successful members of the 2002 intake of independents did and would be well in contention to regain that seat in 2011. If he does, however, it may well be at the expense of Fianna Fail rather than Fine Gael. The polls analyses suggest Breen will take a seat off Fianna Fail – the local prediction survey also points to a Fianna Fail loss but this time to Labour. With the surprise Bhamjee win being the only significant Labour result in this constituency in well over half a century, my feeling is that the seat predictions in the poll analyses may be more reliable in this case. Of course, it is by no means an unlikely scenario that Fianna Fail could hold both seats here.  Independent gain, Fianna Fail loss, but a very close contest.

Cork East (4-seats): Cork East can be viewed as an amalgam of two two-seat constituencies with two seats usually being won by candidates in the northern part of the constituency and two by candidates in the south. One of the two Fianna Fail seats are vulnerable here and the location of the lost Fianna Fail seat will ultimately determine whether Fine Gael or Labour are the more likely to gain this seat. The intentions of the two Fianna Fail incumbents could determine the destination of the fourth seat;  if Ned O’Keeffe (in north of constituency) retires this could leave an opening for a Fine Gael gain while Labour would be looking to gain the Michael Ahern seat in the south of the constituency. The addition of a strong Sinn Fein or United Left Alliance candidate to the field could complicate John Mulvihill’s hopes of winning a seat.  Both the poll analyses and local survey prediction points to a Fianna Fail loss; polls analyses point to a Fine Gael and Labour gains with no seat for Fianna Fail,  and the local survey prediction pointing to a second seat for Fine Gael with just one loss for the party. Fianna Fail lose one seat, with close battle for fourth seat (and a gain) between Fine Gael and Labour with Fine Gael narrowly tipped at the moment.

Cork North Central (4-seats): If the “real election battle” is now viewed as being between Fine Gael and Labour in terms of a battle for relative influence within the next government, then Cork North Central will be prove to be a significant battleground constituency just like Cork East. Again Fianna Fail are at risk of losing a seat here – indeed, as with Cork East, the polls analyses suggest that both seats could be lost. The most recent of the polls analyses suggests that the two Fianna Fail seats could be lost, one going to either Fine Gael or Sinn Fein, and the other seat being lost to Others (United Left Alliance candidate, Mick Barry), while the local survey prediction points to just one Fianna Fail loss with Labour predicted to pick up this seat.  Fianna Fail to lose one seat with this falling to a left-leaning candidate, ironically Fine Gael transfers could see this seat fall to Labour’s John Gilroy just ahead of Sinn Fein’s O’Brien or the United Left Alliance’s Barry.

Cork North West (3-seats): Fianna Fail currently hold two of the seats here, with Fine Gael holding the other. Enterprise minister Batt O’Keeffe was forced to move into this constituency in 2007 after his Ballincollog base was moved into the constituency in the 2004 Constituency Commission report and he managed to win the second of the Fianna Fail seats here at the expense of one of the incumbents, Donal Moynihan. The safest of the Fianna Fail seats is however held by Michael Moynihan and he’s likely to hold this seat even if Fianna Fail are reduced to just one seat seat, as suggested by both the polls analyses and the local prediction survey. Fine Gael gain at the expense of Fianna Fail.

Cork South-Central (5-seats): If Cork North-West could prove to be one of the most predictable constituencies in General Election 2011, the same cannot be said of Cork South-Central. Had the government parties approached this election with a realistic or outside chance of re-election, then they would have been looking to pull back at least one seat off Fine Gael or Labour here.  South Central was a very good constituency for the opposition parties in 2007 with both of them making gains at the expense of Fianna Fail and the Greens. The polls analyses and local survey prediction suggest a further Fianna Fail loss, with the local prediction opting for a third Fine Gael seat, while the two most recent poll analyses being undecided as to whether the Fianna Fail seat will fall to Labour or Fine Gael. But this could prove to be a constituency where strong local candidates help Fianna Fail hold what it has, especially if the party’s fortunes improve somewhat in the coming months. Green Party Senator, and former TD, Dan Boyle will be expected to poll well also, as will Sinn Fein’s Chris O’Leary and ultimately their transfers will determine whether there is a change here, or not. In a strong “Gilmore Gael” context, a gain for Labour’s Paula Desmond at the expense of a Fianna Fail loss; without a Gilmore Gael expect Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to battle it out for final seat with possibly a no change scenario here (although Jerry Buttimer could oust one of his Fine Gael running mates).

Cork South-West (3-seats): Fine Gael regained their second seat here in 2007 from Fianna Fail, but both their incumbent deputies, who have represented the party here at every election in this constituency for the past 30 years, will retire at the next general election. Labour senator, Michael McCarthy, is a threat to the second Fine Gael seat as well as the sole Fianna Fail seat. Both the polls analyses and local prediction survey point to a Labour gain at the expense of Fianna Fail, but there may be enough residual Fianna Fail support in this constituency, added to the change of personnel for Fine Gael, to ensure this gain is at the expense of Fine Gael instead. Labour gain and Fine Gael loss.

Donegal North-East (3-seats): The “extended Fianna Fail family” held all three seats in this constituency between 1997 and 2007, with Joe McHugh regaining the Fine Gael seat in the 2007 contest. Now it seems as if Fianna Fail may be down to one seat at the next general election, with both the most recent polls analyses and local survey prediction suggesting that Fianna Fail will lose one of their two seats here to Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn. Sinn Fein gain at the expense of Fianna Fail.

Donegal South-West (3-seats): In a very tight electoral contest in 2007 Fianna Fail won two seats and Fine Gael one seat, with Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty narrowly missing out on a seat despite winning over 21% of the first preference votes cast. Doherty of course took one of the two Fianna Fail seats – the seat vacated to Pat “the Cope” Gallagher – in the recent by-election. While the polls analyses predictions suggest that Sinn Fein could take all two Fianna Fail seats in the next general election, the local prediction survey which suggest that Sinn Fein will just take one of the two seats won by Fianna Fail in 2007 seems a much more plausible scenario especially as Sinn Fein are likely to just run Doherty at the next general election. Sinn Fein gain and Fianna Fail loss (relative to 2007 position)

Dublin Central (4-seats): Probably the hardest constituency to call in the upcoming general election with Joe Costello of Labour probably being the only candidate who can be confident of returning to the next Dail. The degree of complexity surrounding the result here is also evidenced in the differing predictions of the most recent polls analyses (1FF 1LB 1SF 1IND) and the local prediction survey (1FG 2LB 1IND). With Bertie Ahern now not standing, the result may ultimately depend on who Fianna Fail selects to contest this constituency in 2011 (Just Brady? Fitzpatrick and Brady?) – and also on what the impact of Fianna Fail not selecting Mary Fitzpatrick; would she run as an independent – and whether Maureen O’Sullivan contests this constituency or not? With a well balanced team and the supporting gusts of the Gilmore Gale, Labour must have an excellent chance of winning two seats here (having won 4 out of the 11 council seats contested in this constituency area in the 20o9 local elections), but so too must Fine Gael with Paschal Donohoe consistently building up a support base in the area over the past six or seven years. And with a further four years to develop a constituency base and the “Doherty Drive” upsurge in Sinn Fein support nationally, Mary Lou McDonald must also be serious contender to win a seat here. So what does this mean for Fianna Fail, as well as Maureen O’Sullivan and the Gregory camp?  OK, just to stick my neck out here and on the basis that by-election results do not always repeat themselves, I’m going to go with a combination of the polls analyses and local survey take on this constituency, calling the first two seats as going to Costello and Donohoe, the third probably to McDonald (if the Doherty Drive can be sustained) and the final seat being won probably by a Fianna Fail candidate (or possibly even an Independent Fianna Fail candidate if Mary Fitzpatrick does not get selected to run here as an official Fianna Fail candidate along with Cyprian Brady) ahead of Labour’s Aine Clancy and Maureen O’Sullivan. But as the only predictable thing about this constituency is unpredictability, the actual result will more than likely be a somewhat different one! Fine Gael and Sinn Fein gain, Independent and Fianna Fail loss.

Dublin Mid-West (4-seats): This is a relatively new constituency, first emerging in the form of a three-seat constituency in 2002 (with seats won by Curran FF, Harney PD and Gogarty GP) and then gaining a seat in 2007, with the extra seat being won by Tuffy LB. Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald lost out on a seat here due to vote transfers, and with the Lucan electoral area poll-topper (from the 2004 and 2009 local elections), Derek Keating, also added to the Fine Gael ticket, Fine Gael have an excellent chance of gaining a seat here and possibly even two seats. The Harney seat, and probably most of her votes, will most likely fall to Fine Gael. The expected loss of the Gogarty seat will probably act to the advantage of the similarly Lucan-based Keating and Tuffy. John Curran was poll topper in Mid West in 2002 and 2007, but may have more of a struggle in 2011 if the tide nationally is going out on Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein’s Eoin O’Broin is likely to poll well, as is Gino Kenny of People Before Profit/United Left Alliance.  The local survey prediction is calling this as 1 FF 1 FG 2 LB, while the most recent polls analyses call the result as 1 FF 1 FG 1 LB 1 SF. These both agree that there will be at least one seat for Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in Mid West, and this seems a highly likely prospect, although John Curran may find he is vying for the third or fourth seat in Mid West in 2011, not the poll topping position. The destination of the fourth seat is a more contentious issue, with Labour and Sinn Fein, along with Fine Gael, in contention for this. Vote transfers may ultimately see this fall to Labour, although Fine Gael are likely to run them close. Gain for Labour and Fine Gael, loss for Green Party and Independent (Progressive Democrat).

Dublin North (4-seats): In the Spring Tide 1992 election, Labour probably threw away a seat in Dublin North because they ran just one candidate, Sean Ryan; the knock on effect was that Trevor Sargent’s Dail career began with this election to a large degree based on vote transfers from the Ryan surplus. With the Gilmore Gale expected to be more impactful than the 1992 Spring Tide Labour should have prospects of two seats here, but it is worth noting that Labour lost their seat in this constituency to Fine Gael in 2007.  Labour should regain that seat in 2011 (as otherwise the Gilmore Gale would be akin to a Gilmore Gentle Breeze) but may find gaining a second seat here as a step too far.  That said the Labour ticket is a strong geographically balanced one, as indeed is the Fine Gael ticket. The Socialist Party/United Left Alliance candidate, Claire Daly, is a strong prospect here too, but her chances have been undermined significantly by the moving of part of her Swords base to Dublin West in the 2007 Constituency Commission boundary revision. The boundary revisions also saw both of the Fianna Fail incumbents, Michael Kennedy and Darragh O’Brien, lose part of their political bases, leaving these seats as vulnerable as Fianna Fail support nationally ebbs. One of the Fianna Fail seats will probably be lost to Labour. Based on national support trends for the Green Party, Trevor Sargent would be expected to lose his seat here, but his local popularity may shield him against the national decline in Green support, possibly leaving him in the same position as in 1992 – as the only Green Party TD. The polls analyses predict  1 FF 1 FG 1 LB and 1 SP/ULA here, while the local survey prediction calls this as 1 FF 1 FG 1 LB and 1 GP. Ultimately the loss of the western part of Swords Town to Dublin West may mean that Claire Daly misses out here and Trevor Sargent holds his seat against strong challenges from the second Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail candidates;  the local prediction may have called this more effectively. Labour gain and Fianna Fail loss.

Dublin  North Central (3-seats): This is probably the Dublin constituency that Labour has fared poorest in over the past two decades and the party didn’t even come close to winning a seat here in 2007. On the other hand, it has been one of Fianna Fail’s strongest Dublin constituencies but the reduction in size of the constituency in the 2004 Constituency Commission report from a 4-seat to a 3-seat constituency saw Fianna Fail lose one of their two seats in the 2007 election. Richard Bruton is probably the only certainty in this constituency and his running mate, Naoise O Muiri, should also poll well.  The polls analyses suggest the status quo will hold but this is based on the very low Labour vote base from 2007. Aodhan O’Riordan is likely to prove to be a stronger Labour candidate than Derek McDowell and should edge the second seat here unless the Gilmore Gale ebbs significantly before the election. The final seat will most likely be between independent deputy, Finian McGrath, and Fianna Fail. There is a strong likelihood that this election may spell the end of the Haughey era and the local survey prediction suggests that Fianna Fail will be the losers here, but the addition of proven vote-winner and local Clontarf councillor, Deirdre Heney, to the ticket may mean that Heney and Haughey are able to tap into the natural Fianna Fail vote base in this constituency to a sufficient degree to edge out McGrath for the final seat.  Labour gain and Independent loss.

Dublin North East (3-seats): Again this is a constituency that was traditionally one of Fianna Fail’s stronger constituencies but in 2007 they lost their second seat here narrowly to Terence Flanagan. With an incumbency factor now working for him, Flanagan should be more secure here in 2011 as indeed Labour incumbent, Tommy Broughan, should. The polls analyses and local prediction survey suggest the Fianna Fail seat is vulnerable here.  The polls analyses suggest that Sinn Fein will take this seat, while the local survey prediction suggests a Labour gain. In 1992 Labour won two seats here with the same candidates, Broughan and Sean Kenny, but it was a four seat constituency back then and winning two seats in a three-seat constituency would prove to be a more difficult prospect. The changing of the electoral boundaries here will have a significant impact on the final result and the addition of the Portmarnock and Balgriffin areas could change the dynamics of the constituency sufficiently to advantage Fianna Fail if they go with a candidate based in this this area, such as Averil Power. If Fianna Fail can recover their support levels to some degree over the next few months in a constituency where they came close to winning two seats in 2007 they should just about hold off the Labour and Sinn Fein challenge. No change.

Dublin North West (3-seats): Both the polls analyses and local survey prediction are pointing to a Labour gain at the expense of Fianna Fail and this could well pan out as Labour will be well placed to gain transfer votes from the two Fine Gael candidates, Tormey and Breen. The polls analyses suggest that the second Fianna Fail seat here could also be lost, this time to Sinn Fein. If the present polls standings hold and the Doherty Drive is sustained, then Sinn Fein could well do it, but the party in Dublin has always found it difficult to increase their support base above the level required to get councillors elected to that required to get TDs elected, especially in the three-seat North City constituencies, and Fianna Fail may just manage to hold one of their seats. Labour gain and Fianna Fail loss.

Dublin South (5-seats): This is yet another Dublin constituency that Labour currently don’t hold a seat in, but should be well placed to win one even with a mild swing to the party; they may enjoy prospects of actually gaining two seats on the basis of the 1992 result in Dublin South in which Eithne Fitzgerald won 17,256 first preference votes after having won just 4,134 first preference votes in the 1989 contest suggesting that the effects of a Gilmore Gale could be especially accentuated here.  Both the polls analyses and local survey prediction suggest that Fianna Fail will win one seat here and Fine Gael two, but they differ in terms of the destination of the other two seats; the polls analyses suggesting Labour will gain two seats here with the local survey prediction suggesting Labour will hold just one and Trevor Sargent of the Green Party will hold his seat. If Labour pick the right running mate(s) for Alex White and if the party’s national support is at 20% or higher, then they have every prospect of winning two here, especially as George Lee’s hasty departure from politics put an end to Fine Gael prospects of a gain here. Whether these Labour gains will be at the expense of one Fianna Fail seat and Ryan, or indeed both Fianna Fail seats, remains to be seen. Ultimately expects a serious scrap between Ryan, the second Labour candidate and the strongest Fianna Fail candidate for the last two seats here; if things are really bad for Fianna Fail on election day then they could be the big losers here, especially given that no Fianna Fail incumbents will be defending seats here. Two Labour gains and two Fianna Fail losses.

Dublin South Central (5-seats): A second seat in Dublin South Central should prove to be the easiest gain for Labour in the 2011 General Election should the Gilmore Gale start to blow, but could Labour actually win three seats here? It’s possible. In 2007 the party probably lost out to Aengus O’Snodaigh due to not running Michael Conaghan, allowing the Sinn Fein deputy to build up a sufficiently large local vote in Ballyfermot to edge out Eric Byrne; running Conaghan in 2011 should see Labour claim a larger chunk of the Ballyfermot vote.  Labour however lack a South West Inner City based candidate who could tap into the inner city apartment vote which ultimately could determine the destination of the final seats here; the party could well rue the controversial non-selection of SWIC councillor, Rebecca Moynihan.  With Sean Ardagh not contesting this election and with the party failing to win even one council seat in the three Dublin City electoral areas that make up most of this constituency, it looks as if Fianna Fail will lose one seat here and possibly even two.  Fine Gael won a seat in 2007 with less than a quota and are definitely not assured of a seat here, although Catherine Byrne’s higher profile as a front bench spokesperson may help her in retaining her seat. On basis of a Doherty Drive as suggested by recent opinion polls O’Snodaigh should hold the Sinn Fein seat, but if the Sinn Fein surge peters out by election day he could face a struggle to hold his seat, especially if votes are lost in the case of former party member, Louise Minihan, running as an Eirigi candidate. There will be a strong challenge also from Cllr Joan Collins, the People Before Profit/United Left Alliance candidate. The polls analyses and the local survey prediction differ significantly as to the result here; the polls analyses suggest three seats for Labour, one for Sinn Fein and one for Others, while the local survey prediction suggests one Fianna Fail seat, one Fine Gael seat, two Labour seats and one Sinn Fein seat. Ultimately Labour should expect at least two seats here and Fine Gael should hold Catherine Byrne’s seats, with the final two seats being contested by the other Labour candidates, O’Snodaigh, and the strongest of the Fianna Fail candidates. If things are bad for Fianna Fail on election day and the Doherty Drive is sustained to some degree, the last two seats may well fall to Sinn Fein and Labour with PBP/Eirigi transfers. Two Labour gains and two Fianna Fail losses.

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18 thoughts on “Newstalk “General Election 2011” prediction survey: A Commentary

  1. I don’t see FF with 43 seats in a GE – they’ll end up with 35 seats or less. But if this survey manages to keep FF off their guard then it has done its job.

  2. Yes, this is more like it, especially as you do not get radical changes in general elections from the Irish electorate.
    I would now give Sinn Fein 8 or 9 seats, also I do not think that the ULA leftist Independents will do that well, returning only one , Joe Higgins MEP.

    Otherwise the usual changeover from Fianna Fail to FG-Labour government.

  3. Adrian,
    You say
    “The findings are very interesting and intuitively seem to tally up better with how the general election results may pan out than has been suggested by the more recent opinion polls and the analyses of these.”
    My scientific method as aresearch physicist tells me that there couldn’t be a more unrepresentative sample of the population than the employees of local radio stations. So on that basis I would give the poll no credence whatever. As a person who hails from a provincial town, my intuition tells me that the views expressed are likely to lean heavily towards the conservative side. It is little more than wish fulfillment on the part of the Irish establishment!

  4. It seems to me we spend an inordinate amount of time speculating on election results based on very poor data: the prognostication of pundits or the extrapolation of national polls to local constituencies.

    Would it be too difficult to organise a much more accurate poll by recruiting at least one volunteer in each constituency and furnishing them with simulated ballot papers listing all known/likely candidates in alphabetical order as on a real ballot paper paper?

    The volunteer’s job would be to stop a random cross-section of constituents in the street (controlled for gender/age/urban/rural) and and ask them to fill in the ballot paper 1,2,3,4, in order of their choice as they would in the real election. It would then be possible to gauge local factors, personalities, transfers patterns etc.

    Of course it would be impossible for each volunteer to obtained sufficient completed ballot papers to achieve a statistically significant result within the 2 day period polls are normally conducted in. However if they polled continuously – when spare time allows – over a period of weeks sufficient ballots could be received in each constituency for a reasonably significant result.

    There then remains two methodological problems. A poll conducted over (say) 3 weeks cannot capture sudden spikes in party/candidate support and tends to average trends. Secondly, the number of ballots collected could vary considerably from constituency to constituency depending on the availability of volunteers.

    However if all the ballots collected nationwide in (say) a given week are aggregated, there would be more than enough data to analyse national/regional trends in first and lower preference votes, transfer patterns etc. which could be overlaid and used to adjust whatever more limited data is available at local level.

    Opinion polls are often adjusted using “likely voter” models so adjusting a local sample (too small to be statistically significant as a standalone survey) by using national/regional trends in first and lower preference votes would not necessarily take form the “scientificity” of the results.

    Qualified statisticians here could probably design a model which would provide reasonably robust results at local level – at least sufficient to identify trends – and which would not require many thousands of simulated ballots to be collected each week.

    Would this be a projects a political science association like this would have the resources to undertake? Are there not sufficient people with sufficient social science training to conduct a random survey using simulated ballots in each constituency?

  5. The local results are more realistic but the huge unknown unknown is still how many more sitting TDs are not going to stand again and how that impacts on voting intentions – plus I think the heat of the actual campaign will see huge swings up and down between all parties as people swing from determination to vote out one lot and panic about what the new lot will bring.

  6. Adrian, You say “The findings are very interesting and intuitively seem to tally up better with how the general election results may pan out than has been suggested by the more recent opinion polls and the analyses of these.” My scientific method as aresearch physicist tells me that there couldn’t be a more unrepresentative sample of the population than the employees of local radio stations. So on that basis I would give the poll no credence whatever. As a person who hails from a provincial town, my intuition tells me that the views expressed are likely to lean heavily towards the conservative side. It is little more than wish fulfillment on the part of the Irish establishment!

  7. I’m still looking forward to finding out who that other will be whom you’re predicting will be elected in Mayo. Happy New Year everybody. It’ll be good gas for anyone with an interest in politics next year. Pity the country is at stake though.

    • Tom you need to revise your prediction. There’s already 50 too many in the Dail and you’re trying to increase it by 3. There are only 166. Your prediction is not that far from mine. I don’t believe all this guff about FG getting 78 seats. The only difference between FF and FG is one letter of the Alphabet.

  8. I think a more accurate way of creating a prediction is to look at the betting in Paddy Powers. I also think a lot of people are becoming cute with the pollsters. 20 years ago they would answer honestly and quickly. With most people claiming that they can see no difference in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael I suspect a large proportion of the electorate will vote erratically. Gilmore is 20/1 in the bookies to become Taoiseach. So someone must think there’s enough seats out there to get a majority for Gilmore between Sinn Fein, Independents and Labour. I’ll stick to my prediction of January 28th above. But I think this will be a shock result next Saturday with Labour alone calling the shots. Gilmore for Tanaiste or Gilmore for Taoiseach. It’ll be down to him if he can swallow his pride and talk to Adams, with the prize being to lead the country. And that’s going to be a poision Chalice!!!

  9. The only difference between FF and FG is one letter of the Alphabet. It’s going to be a scary place to live in if people don’t get the message before 25th. We need a left leaning goverment if we are to stop immigration and stop death because of the cold and tens of thousands lining up on trolleys in our hospitals. Another 5 years of FFG would be a nightmare.

  10. This may go against top quality theory as actual hyperlinks in the content of a well-known weblog post will be definetely kept with little authority to pass on though the hyperlinks in the written content of an unpopular weblog post may move on a lot more authority.

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