The slow Fianna Fail march continues apace – Commentary on the Paddy Power-Red C poll (10th January 2013)

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:

Carlow-Kilkenny 34% 31% 11% 15%
Cavan-Monaghan 21% 28% 3% 38%
Clare 26% 34% 10% 5%
Cork East 22% 31% 22% 18%
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%
Donegal 21% 17% 4% 39%
Dublin Central 17% 16% 19% 20%
Dublin Mid West 15% 26% 21% 19%
Dublin Fingal 18% 25% 17% 4%
Dublin Bay North 15% 28% 20% 15%
Dublin North West 14% 14% 29% 34%
Dublin Rathdown 11% 29% 11% 4%
Dublin South Central 11% 18% 24% 23%
Dublin Bay South 13% 28% 17% 6%
Dublin South West 13% 25% 22% 20%
Dublin West 21% 23% 20% 10%
Dun Laoghaire 19% 30% 20% 4%
Galway East 22% 36% 10% 8%
Galway West 23% 27% 8% 9%
Kerry County 14% 27% 11% 17%
Kildare North 18% 29% 21% 9%
Kildare South 27% 29% 19% 10%
Laois 33% 29% 8% 21%
Offaly 28% 21% 3% 10%
Limerick City 28% 36% 15% 13%
Limerick 24% 43% 11% 6%
Longford-Westmeath 25% 33% 19% 13%
Louth 18% 24% 12% 32%
Mayo 21% 54% 4% 11%
Meath East 25% 34% 15% 14%
Meath West 22% 36% 9% 27%
Roscommon-Galway 17% 33% 7% 9%
Sligo-Leitrim 27% 28% 5% 26%
Tipperary 18% 22% 10% 8%
Waterford 17% 31% 13% 16%
Wexford 23% 28% 14% 9%
Wicklow 13% 32% 12% 16%
Carlow-Kilkenny 5% 2% 3%
Cavan-Monaghan 1% 0% 8%
Clare 3% 0% 22%
Cork East 2% 0% 4%
Cork North Central 2% 10% 8%
Cork North West 2% 0% 4%
Cork South Central 4% 0% 10%
Cork South West 3% 0% 6%
Donegal 1% 0% 17%
Dublin Central 3% 0% 25%
Dublin Mid West 6% 9% 5%
Dublin Fingal 14% 18% 4%
Dublin Bay North 3% 4% 15%
Dublin North West 2% 2% 4%
Dublin Rathdown 12% 2% 30%
Dublin South Central 3% 17% 4%
Dublin Bay South 10% 2% 24%
Dublin South West 4% 5% 11%
Dublin West 2% 23% 1%
Dun Laoghaire 7% 12% 9%
Galway East 1% 0% 23%
Galway West 3% 0% 30%
Kerry County 1% 0% 30%
Kildare North 3% 0% 20%
Kildare South 2% 0% 13%
Laois 1% 0% 7%
Offaly 1% 1% 36%
Limerick City 2% 2% 4%
Limerick 1% 0% 14%
Longford-Westmeath 1% 0% 10%
Louth 7% 0% 8%
Mayo 1% 0% 10%
Meath East 2% 0% 11%
Meath West 2% 0% 4%
Roscommon-Galway 1% 0% 33%
Sligo-Leitrim 1% 4% 9%
Tipperary 1% 11% 29%
Waterford 1% 0% 22%
Wexford 1% 1% 23%
Wicklow 2% 0% 25%

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:

Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 1 1
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 2
Dublin Central 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 1 1 1
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin Rathdown 2
Dublin South Central 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 1
Galway West 1 2
Kerry County 1 1 1
Kildare North 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 1 2
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-Galway 1 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1
Tipperary 1 1
Waterford 1 1 1
Wexford 1 2 1
Wicklow 1 2 1
STATE 37 56 18 23
 % Seats 23.4 35.4 11.4 14.6
Clare 1
Cork East
Cork North Central
Cork North West
Cork South Central
Cork South West
Donegal 1
Dublin Central 1
Dublin Mid West
Dublin Fingal 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1
Dublin North West
Dublin Rathdown 1
Dublin South Central 1
Dublin Bay South 1
Dublin South West
Dublin West 1
Dun Laoghaire
Galway East 1
Galway West 2
Kerry County 2
Kildare North 1
Kildare South
Offaly 1
Limerick City
Meath East
Meath West
Roscommon-Galway 1
Tipperary 1 2
Waterford 1
Wexford 1
Wicklow 1
STATE 1 4 19  
 % Seats 0.6 2.5 12.0

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.

13 thoughts on “The slow Fianna Fail march continues apace – Commentary on the Paddy Power-Red C poll (10th January 2013)

  1. Great analysis as usual. The FG/FF scenario is very interesting, though one would expect Labour to pick up (especially if some deal is done on the bank debt) and return the government with a slimmed-down majority. But if not, expect the civil war to re-ignite in the vicinity of Mount Street!

    FYI I don’t get the (oxymoronic?) title of this post. Isn’t ‘apace’ the opposite of ‘slow’? or is there a gag in there I’ve missed?!

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  5. Thank you, Adrian, for all of the above very helpful work. Can you please clarify what the letter C designates in the final column of your constituency breakdown? Change? Contested? eg in Dublin Bay South, are you suggesting the 4th seat is up for grabs between Lab and FF, or simply that there’ll be a 1-seat change? Or what? And in the State summary at end of the second column C = 1 means what?

    • Sorry John, that was a formatting issue – the column containing figures for Independents/Others was being cut out. I;ve done something to try and correct that problem in this latest revision.

  6. Ah ha! Totally clear now, many thanks. I was so flummoxed, I was beginning to think I was missing some profound new political construct.

    fwiw: Here in Dublin Bay South, the Inds/Others got 16 /18% in 2011, but split between 7 / 9 candidates they came nowhere. I don’t see any evidence (yet) that there will be one outstanding Independent who will command a Quota, and so fulfil your prediction. Yes, Labour’s second seat is very vulnerable, but the increase in FF’s poll ratings added to the Andrews 2011 – 11.23% puts the popular Councillor Jim O’Callaghan beyond 13% and in pole position to take that seat, in my view. Of course, anything can happen in the next few years, but if, as the RedC poll predicates the election were imminent, I’d bet on a FF regain there.

  7. It’s really a bit of a toss-up. I do take into account, as noted in the analysis, cases where estimates may be a factor of the numbers of candidates running rather than strength within a constituency, as would be the case when basing estimates on the independent support levels of 2011 especially. On weight of numbers identified in the constituency estimates here I’ve just about gone for a independent (Sommerville) win here, but on these numbers this would be a very tight contest here and the likelihood that the seat could go to Fianna Fail instead would be a very real one (or even the Green Party if vote transfers to the Greens improve to their early-mid 2000s levels)

  8. No argument, Adrian, but to enrich your analysis with local gen, I can inform you that Sommerville hasn’t dipped a toe in the political waters here since the GE. Even then, he trailed Andrews’ all-time nadir by 1600 first prefs, and came a poor fifth. Nor is there any evidence of the Greens at work here, Gormley clearly having retired. As you say in your general text, the Locals next year will give the best indicator, but we have nobody from the Greens nor any Independents apart from Mannix Flynn doing any footwork at the moment. The Green vote here was very Young Fine Gael anyway, and Eoghan Murphy (FG) has reclaimed them. Mannix has not reached beyond his Local area, nor shown any sign of increasing his vote by the 4000 he needs to be in the running as a TD. FF’s chances are better than a toss up as things stand, so FG 2, Lab 1 and FF 1 is still my bet. But it is a fickle and self-regarding constituency, and early days yet.

  9. Correction: Sorry, Sommerville came a poor 6th, with FF only losing out by some hundreds of votes. So even a slight swing back….

  10. The vote for others is remarkably high at 18% as against 15.4% in the General Election of 2011. However the gain is much greater than indicated by these figures. As I have previously pointed out, the valid comparison is with the outcome of opinion polls outside of general election time. The vote for others in General Elections is always swollen by the presence of extremely localised and single issue candidates whose votes return to traditional sources on transfer. For example the vote for others in the Red C poll of September 20 2010 was 9%. Fianna Fail had already fallen to 24% in that poll.
    The proportion of the vote for others has doubled since then. Has this been taken into account in the projections? The number of “ others”elected in 2011 was 19. The projection of 23 others based on this poll seems meagre.
    Incidentally Seamus Healy TD( South Tipperary) is not now a ULA TD. He represents the Workers and Unemployed Action Group.
    Adrian is predicting a ULA loss in Dun Laoire where the ceann-comhairle is automatically re-elected making it effectively a 3 seat constituency.

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