Poll of Polls with seat projections: Is Fianna Fáil support underestimated?

Eoin O’Malley (20 February, 2011)

The three most recent polls by Red-C,  Millward Brown and Ipsos-mrbi in today’s Sunday Business Post and Sunday Independent and tomorrow’s Irish Times are broadly consistent and are also consistent with recent trends. Fine Gael’s position is solidifying (not surging) and Labour is slipping slightly (not falling). The Greens look unlikely to return any seats. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin also seem not to be moving. In fact it was the week between the 2nd of February and the 10th February is where there seems to have been movement (see below) not the week just passed. That’s not to say the final week of the campaign can’t see some significant changes. The results of the weighted poll of polls are

The weighted average estimates presented here are possibly more valid than any single poll because it should average out errors (assuming the errors in the polls are not all systematically in one direction). It means that the results of one poll won’t have a major impact on our overall assessment of the state of the parties. We will expect that some polls will have error above and beyond the margin of error. Even with the best will in the world some samples produced by polling companies are ‘rogue samples’ and produce results that are not good estimates. About one in twenty will be like this.

Polling isn’t all science – an important part is the art of the questioning and thinking about how the method might bias the estimates. We might consider that all polls are underestimating Fianna Fáil for a number of reasons. One is that people will be shy of admitting to vote for Fianna Fáil, particularly in face to face interviews because of a stigma attached the party now (this would affect Millward Brown and Ipsos-mrbi). Red-C and OI are open to correcting for this through political weighting (matching what party people say they voted for in the last election with the actual result). Both however say it’s not an issue because people’s responses are broadly similar to the actual result. Of course this assumes that people who are ashamed to say they would vote for them now, would also be ashamed to admit having voted Fianna Fáil in the past.

Another issue is that our elections are conducted using candidate-based ballots, whereas the polling companies ask what party you will vote for. It’s quite possible that many would say they’d never vote for Fianna Fáil but would be happy to vote for Pat Carey because he’s a decent fellow. They might not even consider these positions as being inconsistent. Some local polls which use ballot papers allow us to compare broadly. One in Cork NC and Tipp South seem to be broadly consistent with the regional trend from the national polls, but one in Dún Laoghaire indicates that Fianna Fáil is (at about 18%) much higher than the Dublin figures from other surveys would show. The difference here might be that there are two well-known candidates in Dún Laoghaire, where as the two more outspoken Fianna Fáil TDs for Cork NC and Tipp South are standing down or as independent.

It’s difficult to come to any firm conclusion about whether Fianna Fáil estimates are about right or systematically below the real vote intention. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see Fianna Fáil closer to 20 percent in the final results. This could be opinion poll underestimation manifesting itself as a surge on the last few days of the campaign. However this might not translate into a big jump in seats (from what is estimated here). This is because Fianna Fáil is not receiving transfers as it had in 2002, when it was both popular and transfer friendly.

On the weighted poll of poll figures, using Michael Gallagher’s method of projecting polls to seats we would expect to see Fianna Fáil return 25-29 TDs (incl. Seamus Kirk); Fine Gael would win 65-69 seats, a good deal lower than the estimates Adrian Kavanagh predicts; Labour would win 33-37 seats and Sinn Féin 17-21 seats. It’s difficult to say much about the smaller parties because local considerations and the geographical concentration of the vote matter most, but we can assume Others would win between 17 and 20 seats.

There has been some evidence in local polls and in the SBP-Red-C question on second preferences that Fine Gael is getting a lot of transfers and as by far the biggest party might be expected to get an even bigger seat bonus than is factored in. Even if the bonus gave it 12 seats more than it ‘deserved’ on a proportional basis (about what Fianna Fáil got in 2002), Fine Gael would still, at 75 seats, be eight seats shy of a majority.

On that basis, and given that it’s far from clear what type of independents might be elected, the Fine Gael-Labour coalition is still the most likely government to emerge. But it will not be a coalition of equals. This is not comparable to the government formed in 1992 between FF and Labour, which though the numbers might be broadly the same (FF had 68 and Labour 33) Fianna Fáil had a very poor election by its then very high standards and Labour had its best result ever. In 2011 Fine Gael will not be minded to concede as much as Reynolds was willing to give to Spring, and even though it still might be Labour’s best result ever and it could be the second largest party for the first time, Labour will be disconsolate at its failure to make a bigger breakthrough.

This is even more reason why Labour might be better advised to stay in opposition as I argued here.

In weighting the polls I take into account a number of issues (see here for details).

There is an element of arbitrariness in the weighting (and because I don’t have the full details of the polls, I’ve guessed things such as the dates of fieldwork), but in general it should give a better indication of the state of the parties.

Below are the data and weightings used. I’ve also included polls from earlier in the campaign to show the trend over time. We can see that a shift took place between the 2nd and 10th February.

Poll FG Lab. FF SF Gr. IndOth weight fielddate
MBLSIndo 34 24 16 10 1 15 0 27-Jan-11
RedCSBP 31 20 19 13 2 15 0 27-Jan-11
MBIndo 30 24 16 13 1 15 0 30-Jan-11
RedCPP 35 19 20 11 3 12 0 01-Feb-11
IpsosIT 33 24 15 12 1 15 0 01-Feb-11
RedCSBP 34 21 20 12 2 11 0 02-Feb-11
RedCSBP 37 20 16 10 3 14 0.45 10-Feb-11
MBLIndo 38 23 12 10 3 16 0.4 13-Feb-11
OI 39 18 17 10 2 14 0.6 14-Feb-11
RedCSBP 39 17 16 12 2 14 1 16-Feb-11
MBLIndo 37 20 16 12 1 14 0.8 16-Feb-11
IpsosIT 37 19 16 12 2 14 0.85 17-Feb-11

18 thoughts on “Poll of Polls with seat projections: Is Fianna Fáil support underestimated?

  1. Alright I am finally going to declare the results as I see it:

    Fine Gael : 84
    Fianna Fail : 32
    Labour : 29
    Sinn Fein: 11
    Independents : 10

    I am taking all the good candidates that the people like, from all parties and none , to be elected, especially backbench Fianna fail candidates who have worked hard for their constituents like, for instance, John McGuinness TD who is the hardest-working constituency TD in Ireland , and on the same basis I am re-electing his constotuency colleague Bobby Aylward ( who is dead right now but not buried, we’re afraid to bury him just yet) .

    The Gael Force is now so strong as to bring in two Fine Gael in Dun Laoghaire , there it will end up with Sean Barrett , Eamon Gilmore, Mary Hanafin and MM O’Connor elected, BTW Three Fine Gael in Carlow -Kilkenny , with McGuinness and Aylward FF , no Labour candidate elected here, I see this happening despite the Labour percentage poll forecast in the polls because the main Labour candidate , Anne Phelan is still unknown at this stage in the Kilkenny City uirban area , and even less known in Carlow Urban.

    Then I think that the Micheal Martin bounce will kick in , especially throughout Cork constituencies.

    Changes are never that radical here down the country as they are in Dublin.
    I can see Independents mauling one another all over the country , nowhere more so than in Dun Laoghaire where a surging Ciaran Cuffe ( Green) will beat Boyd Barrett ( ULA) because Victor Boyhan the Independent there will do surprisingly well . Cuffe will live to fight another day, probably becoming the new leader of a Green Party with no TD.
    The Fine Gael surge is going to be the talk of the next week , the Irish people having quite wisely decided on Majority Government in Emergency , and as an old Fianna Failer I see it that way too.

  2. My grandmother thinks Charlie O’Connor is a good man and he does a Saturday evening mass reading. She’ll be voting for him. DSW has a young population but the 2007 turnout was lower than the national average so…

  3. Alan, your grandmother is right, Charlie O’Connor has always been one of the finest community politicians in Ireland, ever since I lived in Ashfield Park , Ballymount , and Charlie was starting up in Tallaght back in the Eighties.

  4. But here’s one to avoid:

    A mob orator, a class warrior, a demagogue like Hitler or Stalin.

    To vote for the likes of Boyd Barrett would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire, he is a poison in Irish politics, a canker to be cut out.

    His Socialist Workers Party are the real Nazis of our age: The Nazis had the same Party title, the National Socialist Workers Party!!!

    Boyd Barrett takes over where they left off , there is no overt racism ( though there is thinly-disguised anti-semitism as Alan Shatter TD and Cllr. Richard Humphreys have charged, Sean Dublin Bay Loftus actually calling them ‘ the Real Nazis) but all the rest of the nihilistic destructive policies are there.

    They have the most negative economic and financial policies in the Western hemisphere , they stand against everyting and for nothing as they now attempt to use the crisis to get themselves elected and carve a Soviet State out of Ireland.
    Avoid Boyd Barrett and his Socialistiche Arbeiter Partei Apparatus like the plague!


    • When people start realizing things are going to change, the sheep start bleating as they notice the gate’s swung open.
      Michael McGrath, if you’re looking for a version of the Nazis in Ireland look no further than the Blueshirte and Costello’s quotes about their impending victory.

      And shame on you for attacking a hard community worker in favour of the gombeen politicians you so love.
      It’s people like you who’ve elected idiots over and over again that have condemned the 26 counties to being such a failure.

      • What , although Boyd Barrett intruded on the good people of Kilkenny with his SWP Stormtroopers for two months every Saturday in April-May 1994 interfering with our local election to Kilkenny Corporation on the pretext that one of the candidates was a fascist , though his was a mission to set up an SWP Unit in Kilkenny, in which he failed , as elderly men and women with their brollies tackled him and his SWP Thugs on Kilkenny High Street!

        One wonders how safe the elderly of Dun Laoghaire will be from him and his motley rag-tag and bobtail crew if he is elected , or the rest of Dublin and Ireland either.

        Boyd Barrett is a megalomaniac who should seek help urgently , not election!

        People have a right to be protected from candidates like Boyd Barrett. That fellow is demented.

        Your description of candidates as ‘ Gombeen candidates ‘ suggests that you should perhaps have a good look at yourself in the mirror!
        Cop on , man , the last thing Ireland needs right now is a Trotskyist revolution led by Comrade-General Boyd Barrett !

  5. The Kilkenny candidate concerned had proposed an alternative person at a meeting of the Kilkenny Unemployed Action Committee to the then partner of an SWP member out in Callan , County Kilkenny, as Co-ordinator of the Noreside Resource Centre, that proposal carried democratically by open vote in the SIPTU Hall , Pattison-Boran Hall , Patrick Street, Kilkenny City . . Her partner did not then get the position , Boyd Barrett then arrived with his SWP Stormtroopers on vengeance mission to this fair and peaceful city and chastised it for eight Saturdays running!
    And you want vengeful tyrants lkike Boyd Barrett as a TD , you must be joking – the citizens of Dun Laoghaire – or anywhere else – are welcome to him , God help them 🙂

  6. There is a deep suspicion growing inside me, knawing at me now, that this time the polls are not right!

    Because there has never been an election like this one in Ireland since Independence.
    We have never had a major government party hit the deck and break its spinal column , we have never had a party surge to such dizzying heights all of a clap, this has never been seen before , and I suspect , ” You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet ! ”

    To my mind the biggest question the Irish People have to ask themselves now is how they want to share out the few bob that’s left before Armageddon! ”

    ( We have no Algorithm , not even a model, to work on yet, we are all equally at sea though some more than others ) .

  7. Hmmm all bets are off on FG getting overall majority just watched Enda being interviewed by Ursula Halligan and it was a dismal performance one of the worst ever. If people vote for that we deserve debt servitude, endless emigration and high unemployment and a disfunctional Dail. Of course what will come to our assistance is default. Merkel has just been hammered in a small but important German election because the ECB has been too kind to Greece and Ireland!

  8. Robert , I agree, Enda Kenny was DREADFUL , AWFUL, PATHETIC , so much so that I despaired and suddenly realised that even Cowan would be better!

    Half the time through that interview I suspected that it was not Enda Kenny but a trick by Vincent Browne, as he often pulls, I thought it was an actor with an Enda Kenny mask on 🙂
    In fact I’m still not sure if it was really Enda Kenny or a Vincent Crowne hoax!

  9. I’m inclined to go with Michael Marsh’s methodolgy. He should pop around to the office of the Professor of Computer Science in Trinity, Vinny Cahill, and ask Vinny to construct the algorithm to solve this unique election polling and make sense of it , that is missing all along!
    And if anybody could solve it, Vinny can.

  10. The prospect of a FG majority govt is sobering. FG might be seen as a more acceptable version of FF in a two-party system, but we don’t want or need that. It may be that the swing against FF has given FG just what it needs to be a majority govt, partly because a left-wing vote of around 40% is fragmented. But I agree with Garret Fitzgerald that a FG-Lab coalition might deliver a more stable govt. It has a good record and constitutes a kind of historic alternative. It also offers a kind of national government option (without FF, who must retire). Country before party, and as broadly-based a government as possible.

  11. O-RX that was obviously an intolerant jibe by you at Charlie O’Connor’s obviously sincere religious practices.

    It should be obvious to anybody that Boyd Barrett is unbalanced and therefore unfit for public office.

    I think. that said , that people would find it rather odd to see a group of Kilkenny-based anti-Trots arrive to take over the centre of Dun Laoghaire every Saturday in the run-up to this election to demonstrate , leaflet and poster against Boyd Barrett, and even more odd of the fellow who would dream up and execute such a scheme hectoring elderly ladies with brollies and 86-year-old men in stetsons, as happened in Kilkenny here , as organised and led by Boyd Barrett :
    That fellow is right off his head for everybody to see. He should go and get help.
    The fact that Madame Editor of the Irish Times ( who I worked with in the media long ago, me a photographer, in her Munster Express days) takes Boyd Barrett so favourably doesn’t say much for her judgement either!
    But then it takes all kinds…

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