Adrian Kavanagh, 10th January 2013
Today’s Paddy Power-Red C poll is the first major poll of the 2013 calendar year and the first such one since the Budget in December. As with the December 2nd Sunday Business Post-Red C poll, it does not make for pleasant reading for Fine Gael, with the party support levels down three percentage points on the previous such Paddy Power-Red C poll in May 2012. This poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent Sunday Business Post-Red C poll of May 17th 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 29% (down 3%), Labour 13% (NC), Fianna Fail 21% (up 3%), Sinn Fein 16% (down 4%), Green Party 3%/Independents, United Left Alliance and Others 18% (combined levels up 4%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 56, Labour 18, Fianna Fail 37, Sinn Fein 23, Green Party 1, United Left Alliance 4, Independents and Others 19.
This analyses used here are similar to previous posts which have applied a constituency level analysis (although with these using the constituency units used for the 2011 General Election) based on assigning seats on the basis of constituency support estimates and simply using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats, while also taking account of the factors of vote transfers and vote splitting/management (based on vote transfer/management patterns observed in the February 2011 election). Based on such an analysis and using the new constituency units (as defined in the 2012 Constituency Commission report) – the new constituencies which will be used for the next general election (assuming an election is not called in the following months before the Electoral Act putting the new constituency configuration into effect) – these analyses estimates what party seat levels would be, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election. These analysis suggests that Fianna Fail would seem to be the party most likely to be positively effected by the redrawing of the constituency boundaries and suggests that the party, in this context, would be gaining as a result of the boundary changes, in addition to the party’s improvement in its opinion poll levels relative to its 2011 General Election figures, irrespective of the impact of a reduction in Dail seat numbers from 166 to 158.
The constituency support estimates based on the Paddy Power-Red C poll figures, when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:
|Cork North Central||19%||22%||17%||23%|
|Cork North West||31%||40%||10%||12%|
|Cork South Central||34%||27%||12%||13%|
|Cork South West||29%||40%||10%||12%|
|Dublin Mid West||15%||26%||21%||19%|
|Dublin Bay North||15%||28%||20%||15%|
|Dublin North West||14%||14%||29%||34%|
|Dublin South Central||11%||18%||24%||23%|
|Dublin Bay South||13%||28%||17%||6%|
|Dublin South West||13%||25%||22%||20%|
|Cork North Central||2%||10%||8%|
|Cork North West||2%||0%||4%|
|Cork South Central||4%||0%||10%|
|Cork South West||3%||0%||6%|
|Dublin Mid West||6%||9%||5%|
|Dublin Bay North||3%||4%||15%|
|Dublin North West||2%||2%||4%|
|Dublin South Central||3%||17%||4%|
|Dublin Bay South||10%||2%||24%|
|Dublin South West||4%||5%||11%|
Based on these constituency estimates and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as outlined below. In the process the model has been amended to account for seats that might be allocated in the initial model solely on the basis of a large/small number of candidates contesting the election in 2011 or on the basis of very high 2011 support levels for certain independent candidates which would be unlikely to transfer into electing other independent candidates (e.g. Shane Ross in Dublin Rathdown), as well as to take account of vote transfers and vote management (e.g. discrepancies between votes won by party front runners and their running mates which would see potential seat wins fall out of a party’s hands). Taking all this into account, the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:
|Cork North Central||1||1||1||1|
|Cork North West||1||2|
|Cork South Central||2||1||1|
|Cork South West||1||2|
|Dublin Mid West||1||1||1||1|
|Dublin Bay North||1||1||1||1|
|Dublin North West||1||2|
|Dublin South Central||1||1||1|
|Dublin Bay South||2||1|
|Dublin South West||1||2||1||1|
|Cork North Central|
|Cork North West|
|Cork South Central|
|Cork South West|
|Dublin Mid West|
|Dublin Bay North||1|
|Dublin North West|
|Dublin South Central||1|
|Dublin Bay South||1|
|Dublin South West|
hould the seat estimates based on the Paddy Power-Red C poll figures pan out after the next general election however, the government parties would not have a sufficient combined number of seats to have a majority in Dail Eirean (74 seats), while a potential Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein alliance would have 60 seats. The only viable two-party coalition option would involve Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, a potential coalition government who would enjoy a comfortable majority in the smaller Dail Eireann with a combined seat number of 92 seats (majority of 26 seats). (A Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition option would be just about viable in numerical terms (79 seats), but just would not happen.) A potential Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Labour alliance would muster 78 seats based on this analysis, which would be just one seat short of the number needed to have a bare majority in Dail Eireann, but the potential election of five Fianna Fail gene pool independents (Clare, Kerry South (2), Offaly, Tipperary South) could offer possibilities here.
While this poll is obviously not good news for the government parties (and especially Fine Gael), they may be encouraged by the fact that their combined support levels are similar to what they stood on in the December 2nd The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (with the Fine Gael support level one percentage point higher than it was in this and the Labour support level one percentage point lower). Labour may be especially heartened by the fact their support levels have not dropped to any discernibly significant level in the wake of the December 2012 Budget, with the party still in the lower-to-mid teens poll numbers that they have been on for much of the previous eighteen months. The bad news for Labour is that a combination of factors have meant that they will find it harder to to translate support levels into seats at the next general election. First of all, the 2012 Constituency Commission boundary changes have probably more adversely effected them more so than any of the other parties or political groupings and an earlier analysis suggested these changes alone will cost the party at least four seats. The main problem from Labour arises from the increased competition from Sinn Fein (despite the party’s declining poll figures in recent months) and other left-leaning groupings, as well as Fianna Fail. This also means that they will no longer, in some cases, be able to rely on vote transfers from lower placed left-leaning candidates to edge them into winning seats in tight contests as in a number of constituencies on these figures these left-leaning candidates will now find themselves ahead of the Labour candidates and it could well be Labour who is providing the transfers to edge Sinn Fein, United Left Alliance or left-wing independent candidates into taking seats in these constituencies. Labour will also be likely to face the problem (similar to the Green Party in 2011) of not being as transfer friendly as they were in 2011, which will probably cost them some seats at the next general election. By contrast, Fine Gael are benefiting from the level of bias in the Irish electoral system that tends to favour the larger parties and their projected share of the seats is well in excess of their poll support levels figure, similar indeed to the degree of bias that acted in that party’s favour in the 2011 when it can to translating their vote figures into seat numbers in that contest. But it has to be noted that projected seat numbers for Fine Gael in this analysis and the previous one based on the December 2nd 2012 poll figures does point to a significant loss of seats for Fine Gael relative to the numbers won by the party in 2011 and indeed relative to the seat estimates projected for that party in most of the analyses carried out since the autumn of 2010.
In stark contrast to the unpromising political landscape they faced in late 2010 and 2011, Fianna Fail has enjoyed slow but sustained progress during 2012 and this carries into the first poll of 2013 – at the same time, Sinn Fein poll numbers have declined in recent months relative to the high levels enjoyed by the party in mid 2011. As well as their improved poll standings, Fianna Fail are well placed to benefit from the 2012 Constituency Commission boundary changes, with a previous analysis showing that these changes would have been likely to edge an extra few seats towards Fianna Fail (despite the overall reduction in Dail seat numbers) even if their poll figures had remained static. The catch-all nature of Fianna Fail support, which proved a curse when support levels fell below the twenty percent mark at the 2011 General Election, now again proves a blessing as on a national support level of 21% the party would now be well placed to win a seat in most Dail constituencies (with the exception of some 3-seat and 4-seat Dublin constituencies, but even in these constituencies Fianna Fail would be well in the mix to challenge for the final seat) and even two seats in their stronger constituencies, including Micheal Martin’s Cork South-Central constituency. Clever candidate selection, helped by a strong 2014 local election performances for potential new general election candidates, could put Fianna Fail in a strong position to push for even further seat gains (for example a potential Averil Power-Deirdre Heney ticket in Dublin Bay North could well help Fianna Fail’ challenge for two seats in that constituency, especially given the strong Fianna Fail support tradition in the Dublin North City area).
Based on these estimates, the Green Party would regain their old Dublin North seat in the new Dublin Fingal constituency at the next election and Green candidates would be predicted to be competitive in the Dublin Bay South and Dublin Rathdown constituencies. In the latter case, while Eamonn Ryan is not helped by the reduction in the constituency size of the old 5-seat Dublin South, the model would suggest that he would pose the most significant challenge to the second Fine Gael candidate here in the competition for the third seat in the new Dublin Rathdown constituency, especially if vote transfers to the Green Party return to the levels enjoyed by that party in the early-to-mid 2000s.
The model again suggests a strong showing for independent and smaller party candidates in terms of potential seat levels. Of the 19 seats estimated to be won by such candidates, 12 would be won by right-wing/centrist candidates and 7 by left-leaning candidates. Factoring in figures for the United Left Alliance, Labour, Greens and Sinn Fein, this would mean that the combined seat numbers won by left-leaning candidates on the basis of these figures would stand at 53, down somewhat on the combined number of seats won by these groupings in 2011 and well off the number (26 seats short) required to have sufficient numbers to form a left-leaning government.