Some good news for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in latest Ispos-MRBI and Red C opinion polls, but not for Labour

pollAdrian Kavanagh, 13th June 2013

Opinion polls in the first part of 2013 all pointed towards significant gains in Fianna Fail support levels, leaving the party at its highest support level in opinion polls since the IMF-EU bailout in November 2010, with some of the polls rating Fianna Fail as the most popular party in the state ahead of Fine Gael.  While Fianna Fail and Fine Gael support levels have been seen to be relatively similar in recent polls, the latest poll, the Paddy Power-Red C poll (13th June) points to notable gains for Fine Gael, with this polls leaving Fine Gael some percentage points ahead of Fianna Fail in terms of national support levels. However, the figures in tomorrow’s Irish Times/Ispos MRBI confirms instead the trend of some recent polls, which have Fianna Fail some percentage points ahead of Fine Gael. The radically different figures in these two opinion polls not surprisingly produce different seat estimates based on my constituency level analysis! The Paddy Power-Red C poll (13th June 2013) puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings at (and relative to the  previous Paddy Power-Red C poll), as follows: Fine Gael 30% (up 4%), Fianna Fail 24% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 16% (NC), Labour 10% (down 1%), Green Party, Independents and Others 20% (down 1%). 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 59, Fianna Fail 44, Sinn Fein 21, Labour 11, Green Party, Independents and Others 22. The Irish Times/Ispos MRBI poll (14th June 2013) puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings at (and relative to the  previous Irish Times/Ispos MRBI poll of 8th February 2013), as follows: Fianna Fail  26% (NC),  Fine Gael 24% (down 1%), Sinn Fein 21% (up 3%), Labour 9% (down 1%), Green Party 2% (up 1%), Independents and Others 18% (down 2%). 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: Fianna Fail 51, Fine Gael 42,  Sinn Fein 33, Labour 10, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 22.

The 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. Due to unusually high/low support levels for some parties or political groupings in the previous election, the model may throw up occasional constituency predictions that are unlikely to pan out in a “real election”, but the estimates here cannot be seen as highly accurate estimates of support levels at the constituency level as in a “real election” party support changes will vary significantly across constituency given uneven geographical shifts in support levels. But the ultimate aim of the models are to get an overall, national-level, estimate of seat numbers and these are based on the proviso that an over-prediction in one constituency may be offset by an under-prediction in another constituency. I have made some further corrections to the base support figures for the different parties for this analysis to take better account of the impacts on support of the 2012 Constituency Commission report boundary changes with especial reference to the Dublin constituencies. For instance, these figures better reflect the weaker positions of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in Dublin Central after the moving out of the Ashtown area to Dublin West and the Botanic/Drumcondra area to Dublin North West, but also their stronger positions in Dublin West and Dublin North West. Fine Gael are assigned an extra seat in Dun Laoghaire on the basis that the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, will be automatically returned at the next general election and this constituency will effectively be rendered a three-seat contest at the next general election. **************************************** 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:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 38% 32% 8% 14% 8%
Cavan-Monaghan 23% 28% 3% 37% 9%
Clare 30% 34% 7% 5% 24%
Cork East 25% 33% 17% 19% 6%
Cork North Central 22% 23% 13% 23% 20%
Cork North West 35% 40% 7% 12% 6%
Cork South Central 38% 28% 9% 13% 12%
Cork South West 33% 41% 7% 12% 7%
Donegal 23% 18% 3% 38% 17%
Dublin Central 16% 13% 15% 24% 32%
Dublin Mid West 17% 28% 17% 20% 18%
Dublin Fingal 22% 28% 14% 5% 31%
Dublin Bay North 18% 29% 16% 16% 21%
Dublin North West 19% 16% 22% 32% 10%
Dublin Rathdown 13% 31% 9% 4% 42%
Dublin South Central 14% 19% 20% 24% 24%
Dublin Bay South 17% 33% 15% 7% 29%
Dublin South West 15% 26% 18% 21% 20%
Dublin West 25% 24% 15% 10% 25%
Dun Laoghaire 22% 32% 16% 4% 26%
Galway East 25% 37% 7% 8% 23%
Galway West 26% 28% 6% 9% 31%
Kerry County 16% 28% 8% 17% 31%
Kildare North 21% 30% 16% 9% 22%
Kildare South 31% 30% 15% 10% 14%
Laois 36% 29% 6% 21% 8%
Offaly 31% 21% 2% 9% 37%
Limerick City 32% 37% 11% 13% 7%
Limerick 27% 44% 8% 6% 15%
Longford-Westmeath 29% 34% 15% 13% 10%
Louth 20% 25% 9% 32% 13%
Mayo 23% 54% 3% 11% 10%
Meath East 28% 35% 11% 14% 12%
Meath West 24% 37% 7% 26% 6%
Roscommon-Galway 19% 34% 5% 9% 33%
Sligo-Leitrim 29% 28% 4% 26% 13%
Tipperary 20% 23% 8% 8% 41%
Waterford 20% 32% 10% 16% 23%
Wexford 26% 29% 11% 9% 25%
Wicklow 15% 33% 9% 16% 27%

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 follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 0 1 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0
Clare 1 2 0 0 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 1 1
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 2 0 0 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 2 1
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 0 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 2
Dublin Bay North 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin North West 1 0 1 1 0
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 1 2 0 0 1
Dublin South West 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 1
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 1 2 0 0 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1
Kildare South 2 1 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 1
Limerick City 2 2 0 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 0 1 0
Louth 1 1 0 2 1
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 2 0 0 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 0 0 1
Sligo-Leitrim 2 1 0 1 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 2 0 0 1
Wexford 2 2 0 0 1
Wicklow 1 2 0 1 1
STATE 44 55 8 21 30

These estimates also need to take account of the candidate and competition trends unique to the different constituency. Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of estimates here being based on support levels derived due to a large/small number of candidates contesting the election in 2011 or one candidate polling especially well in that election, 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), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 0 1 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0
Clare 1 2 0 0 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1 0
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 2 0 0 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 2 1
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 0 1
Dublin Bay North 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin North West 1 0 1 1 0
Dublin Rathdown 0 2 0 0 1
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 1 2 0 0 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1 0
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1 0 0
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 1 2 0 0 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1
Kildare South 2 1 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 1
Limerick City 2 2 0 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 0 1 0
Louth 1 2 0 2 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 2 0 0 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 0 0 1
Sligo-Leitrim 2 1 0 1 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 2 0 0 1
Wexford 2 2 0 0 1
Wicklow 1 2 0 1 1
STATE 44 59 11 21 22
% seats 27.8 37.3 7.0 13.3 13.9

Based on these seat estimates, neither a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 70 seats) nor a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein (combined seat level of 65 seats) alliance would have a sufficient number of seats to command a bare majority (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a TD from another political grouping would take on the role of Ceann Comhairle). Either coalition option would require the support of between 10 and 15 Independent/Smaller Party TDs to have a sufficient number of seats to have a majority in the Dail. Of course, a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government, based on these seat estimates would command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 103 seats). **************************************** The constituency support estimates based on the Irish Times/Ispos MRBI  poll figures, when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH GP
Carlow-Kilkenny 41% 25% 7% 19% 5% 3%
Cavan-Monaghan 23% 21% 2% 45% 7% 1%
Clare 33% 28% 7% 7% 22% 2%
Cork East 28% 27% 16% 25% 4% 1%
Cork North Central 23% 18% 12% 29% 18% 1%
Cork North West 38% 33% 7% 16% 4% 2%
Cork South Central 41% 22% 8% 16% 9% 3%
Cork South West 37% 34% 7% 16% 6% 2%
Donegal 23% 13% 3% 45% 15% 1%
Dublin Central 17% 10% 13% 30% 28% 2%
Dublin Mid West 19% 22% 15% 26% 14% 4%
Dublin Fingal 25% 23% 13% 6% 23% 9%
Dublin Bay North 19% 24% 15% 21% 20% 2%
Dublin North West 19% 12% 19% 40% 8% 1%
Dublin Rathdown 15% 26% 8% 6% 35% 9%
Dublin South Central 14% 15% 17% 30% 21% 2%
Dublin Bay South 19% 28% 14% 9% 22% 8%
Dublin South West 16% 21% 16% 27% 17% 3%
Dublin West 27% 19% 14% 14% 24% 2%
Dun Laoghaire 25% 27% 15% 5% 23% 5%
Galway East 28% 30% 7% 11% 24% 1%
Galway West 29% 22% 5% 12% 30% 2%
Kerry County 17% 22% 7% 23% 30% 1%
Kildare North 24% 25% 15% 13% 21% 2%
Kildare South 34% 24% 14% 13% 13% 2%
Laois 38% 23% 5% 26% 7% 0%
Offaly 33% 17% 2% 12% 36% 0%
Limerick City 35% 30% 10% 17% 6% 1%
Limerick 31% 37% 8% 8% 15% 1%
Longford-Westmeath 32% 28% 13% 17% 10% 1%
Louth 21% 19% 8% 40% 8% 5%
Mayo 27% 46% 2% 15% 10% 0%
Meath East 31% 28% 10% 19% 11% 1%
Meath West 26% 29% 6% 34% 4% 1%
Roscommon-Galway 21% 28% 5% 12% 34% 1%
Sligo-Leitrim 30% 21% 3% 32% 12% 1%
Tipperary 22% 19% 7% 11% 40% 1%
Waterford 21% 26% 9% 21% 22% 1%
Wexford 29% 24% 10% 12% 25% 1%
Wicklow 16% 27% 8% 21% 26% 2%

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 follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH GP
Carlow-Kilkenny 3 1 0 1 0 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0 0
Clare 2 1 0 0 1 0
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 1 1 0
Cork North West 2 1 0 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0 0
Cork South West 2 1 0 0 0 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 1 0
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1 0
Dublin Mid West 1 1 0 1 1 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin North West 1 0 0 2 0 0
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2 0
Dublin South Central 0 0 1 2 1 0
Dublin Bay South 1 1 1 0 1 0
Dublin South West 1 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1 0
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 1 0
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1 0
Galway West 2 1 0 0 2 0
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2 0
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1 0
Kildare South 2 1 0 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0 0
Offaly 1 0 0 0 2 0
Limerick City 2 1 0 1 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 2 1 0 1 0 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0 0
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 0 0 1 0
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3 0
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1 0
Wexford 2 1 0 0 1 0
Wicklow 1 1 0 1 2 0
STATE 49 39 8 30 30 1

These estimates also need to take account of the candidate and competition trends unique to the different constituency. Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of estimates here being based on support levels derived due to a large/small number of candidates contesting the election in 2011 or one candidate polling especially well in that election, 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), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF OTH GP
Carlow-Kilkenny 3 1 0 1 0 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0 0
Clare 2 1 0 0 1 0
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 2 0 0
Cork North West 2 1 0 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0 0
Cork South West 2 1 0 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 2 1 0
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1 0
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0 0
Dublin Fingal 2 1 1 0 1 0
Dublin Bay North 1 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin North West 1 0 0 2 0 0
Dublin Rathdown 1 1 0 0 1 0
Dublin South Central 0 0 1 2 1 0
Dublin Bay South 1 2 1 0 0 0
Dublin South West 1 1 1 2 0 0
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1 0
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1 0 0 0
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1 0
Galway West 2 1 0 0 2 0
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2 0
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1 0
Kildare South 2 1 0 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 1 0
Limerick City 2 1 0 1 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 2 1 0 1 0 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0 0
Mayo 1 2 0 1 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0 0
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 0 0 1 0
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3 0
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1 0
Wexford 2 1 0 1 1 0
Wicklow 1 2 0 1 1 0
STATE 51 42 10 33 22 0
             
  32.3 26.6 6.3 20.9 13.9 0.0

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 52 seats) would fall well short of the number of seats required to command a bare majority (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a TD from another political grouping would take on the role of Ceann Comhairle). But a two-party Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein coalition would be feasible (combined seat level of 84 seats), with a sufficient number of seats to command a comfortable majorty in the 158-seat Dail without needing the support of independents or the smaller parties. Of course, a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government, based on these seat estimates would also command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 93 seats).

************************************************

Despite their declining support levels relative to the earlier Paddy Power-Red C poll figures, the seat estimates based on this constituency-level analysis still suggest a significant improvement in Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein seat levels relative to those won by these parties and groupings in the 2011 contest (especially given that the fact that there will be eight less seats in the next Dail has been factored into this analysis), effectively pointing to significant gains on the part of the Dail opposition since 2011. Of course this trend is especially heightened based on the analysis of the decidedly more favourable Irish Time/Ispos MRBI poll figures! The same applies to the Independents and Others, but it is worth noting that, as opposed to the parties, the Independents and Others grouping is a very broad church and includes a range of parties, groups and individuals with very different ideological perspectives, including the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit alliance and the Green Party, as well as left-leaning independents and Fianna Fail-gene pool independents. Looking at the constituencies where this grouping is predicted to win seats in this model, it can be seen that left-leaning parties and independents would take 12 of the 22 seats being assigned to this grouping.

The Ispos MRBI figures do not offer much comfort to the government parties, although the relative stabilisation in support levels for the government parties around the high 30s/low 40s level in the Red C poll points towards the possible return of the government parties to power, albeit with a very much reduced, and indeed very narrow, majority, should these support levels be improved on further by a few percentage points at an actual general election. That said, the seat level estimate for Labour is quite stark (highlighting the fact that the PR-STV system is proportional, but only to a limited extent). Previous analyses have, moreover, suggested that, especially given the increased competition on the Left from Sinn Fein, other smaller left of centre parties and left-leaning independents, that it will be a struggle for Labour to win seats in most, if not all, constituencies if the party’s national support levels fall below the ten percent level it stands at in this opinion polls. Labour would be in serious trouble if their national support levels fall below ten percent as the party is also facing a “perfect storm” from electoral geography and changed competition levels. These factors include the reduction in Dail seat numbers (from 166 to 158) and other changes made to general election boundaries by the 2012 Constituency Commission (which militated against Labour while seeming to advantage other parties, but notably Fianna Fail) as well as the increased competition the party now faces on the Left from Sinn Fein, other smaller left-wing parties and left-of-centre independents, as well as from Fianna Fail. When Labour support levels fell to similarly low levels in the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s, the party was in a position to be helped in the 1997, 2002 and 2007 General Elections by transfers from lower placed candidates from the smaller left-wing parties, but on these figures Labour candidates would find themselves polling below candidates from Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, the Workers and Unemployed Action Group or the People Before Profit Alliance, or left-leaning independents, in a number of constituencies. Instead of being in a position to possibly benefit from vote transfers (which themselves would be likely to dry up in any case), the Labour candidates would now in a number of cases be eliminated before the final count and would be providing the transfers to see candidates from other left-of-centre political groupings over the line. (If we look at the 1987 case study – we see Labour won 6.5% of the vote in the 1987 General Election and won 12 seats, but it is also worth noting that they did not contest nine constituencies in that election, whereas their 7% national vote is being distributed across all forty constituencies in this analysis, as with the most recent general elections in which Labour has contested all constituencies. In two of the twelve constituencies in 1987 where Labour won seats – Dublin South-Central, Dublin South-West, Galway West and Wexford – vote transfers were crucial in ensuring Labour won these these seats – i.e. Labour candidates were outside the seat positions on the first count but overtook candidates with higher first preference votes as counts progressed due to transfers from other candidates.

Constituency FPV Total Poll Quota % FPV Lab/quota
Carlow-Kilkenny          7,358          57,485          9,581 12.80 0.77
Cork South-Central          4,862          56,259          9,377 8.64 0.52
Dublin South-Central          4,701          51,692          8,616 9.09 0.55
Dublin South-East          3,480          38,270          7,655 9.09 0.45
Dublin South-West          5,065          41,454          8,291 12.22 0.61
Dun Laoghaire          6,484          55,702          9,284 11.64 0.70
Galway West          3,878          52,762          8,794 7.35 0.44
Kerry North          6,739          34,764          8,692 19.38 0.78
Kildare          7,567          53,705          8,951 14.09 0.85
Louth          6,205          46,809          9,362 13.26 0.66
Wexford          5,086          52,922          8,821 9.61 0.58
Wicklow          7,754          46,003          9,201 16.86 0.84

Voting statistics for constituencies in which Labour won seats at the 1987 General Election.

The table above shows that there was no constituency in 1987 in which a Labour candidate exceeded the quota and indeed successful Labour candidates, Ruairi Quinn and Michael D. Higgins won seats in their constituencies despite winning less than half of the quota in their first preference votes. In addition, Dick Spring came within a handful of votes of losing his seat in Kerry North.)

The changing seat numbers for the parties in the different analyses points to one reason why the Irish electoral system is not entirely one hundred percent proportional – thus underpinning the rationale behind this series of constituency level analyses of polling figures – as the manner in which constituency boundaries are drawn, or redrawn, can act to gives certain parties a significant advantage in terms of translating their vote tallies into seat wins. This knowledge, of course, formed the basis for the gerrymanders that marked the partisan boundary redrawal system which existed up to the 1977 General Election, with the party/parties in government being in a position to be able to redraw election boundaries in a manner that would allow them to pick up extra seats. In simplistic terms, in the 1960s and 1970s this amounted to the main government options seeking to create constituency units with odd-numbers of seats in the regions of the state where their support levels were highest (where a 50% share of the vote would be sufficient to allow them win 2 seats in a 3-seat constituency or 3 seats in a 5-seat constituency) and constituency units with even numbers of seats (i.e. 4-seat constituencies) where their support levels were weaker as a 40% share of the vote would be sufficient to allow them win 2 seats out of 4. Since the introduction of independent boundary commissions following the 1977 General Election, partisan influences no longer can skew the boundary drawing process in favour of a government party, or government parties, but as the example here shows a significant redrawal such as that envisaged in the 2012 Constituency Commission report will probably tend to disproportionately advantage, or disadvantage, certain parties or political groupings. Similarly, as the range of constituency level analyses prior to the 2011 General Election displayed, a party’s ability to take advantage of such disproportionality in the system, whether arising from constituency boundaries or a tendency for the Irish system to favour the larger parties, is dependent on that party maintaining its support at, or above, a certain level, as a fall in support for that party, even if relatively minimal, can lead to disproportionate level of potential seat losses if party support levels fall below a certain “tipping point”. This concept of a “tipping point” is especially notable in the case of Fianna Fail. When the party’s support level fell below 20% in the latter part of 2010, this meant that the party – especially given its traditional catch all nature of support – was now in a position where it was struggling to win seats in a number of three-seat and four-seat constituencies, as well as five-seat constituencies in the Dublin region, where Fianna Fail support was notably weaker in 2011. The boundary changes associated with the 2012 Constituency Commission report acted to ensure the party would actually gain seats, irrespective of gains in support levels, as suggested by previous posts. With party support now over 20%, and with a very fractured political environment in which significant vote levels are being won by a number of different parties and political groupings, as opposed to the more straight-forward political landscape of the early 1980s, Fianna Fail is now in a position where it can expect to win seats in most of the larger (four and five seat) constituencies and will be competitive in most three-seat constituencies, especially in rural Ireland. This is translating into a disproportionate gain, relative to support trends, in seat levels for Fianna Fail. The level of seat gains suggested for Fianna Fail in this analysis also underpins the extent of “near misses” that the party endured in a number of constituencies at the last general election, meaning only a slight increase in support in a  number of constituencies would translate such “near misses” into seat gains, especially with the assistance of the recent boundary changes in a number of cases. Unlike Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein prospects of transforming vote gains into seat gains is stymied by the party’s weakness in certain constituencies, in which the party is likely to remain uncompetitive even if it should gain a few extra percentage points in terms of support levels. The more regional nature of the Sinn Fein support base is ideal for translating smaller levels of support into seat levels in its stronger areas, but it means the party may struggle to make the significant levels of seat gains on the basis of further increases in support that Fianna Fail could hope to make. Ultimately the political landscape of the next Dail will be determined by what levels of support these parties are standing on when the next election takes place (which could be as late as Spring 2016) but it will also be shaped by the different parties’ geographies of support, and the extent to which these support geographies might entitle these to a “bias” in terms of seat levels relative to support levels, or see the parties winning fewer seats that their support levels would suggest.

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3 thoughts on “Some good news for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in latest Ispos-MRBI and Red C opinion polls, but not for Labour

  1. The evidence shows that when it comes to actually voting there is a large difference between saying you’ll support SF and actually doing so. Plus there will be range of new constituencies and possible even more current TDs will retire in 2015/16 than in 2011 – half of the cabinet are unlikely to stand again. Plus if the issue of debt relief has finally been faced up and the trokia are gone and there is a sign of improvement then it’s all to play for for FG and the ultimate card it has is that whatever about how angry you might be at FG for not sorting out the mess it inherited, are you really prepared to have FF back in office again? Do you really want to take that chance.

  2. We all like to pick and choose the polls that suit us; however, looking at all published polls, there is a glaring issue re quantifying and treatment of Undecided voters. In 2013, the Red C average is 19.0; Ipsos/MRBI is 33.5. The average for All polls is 26.3. The net effect is that Red C figures are based on a more robust level of core votes, than other polling companies. There are some differences in methodology – Red C eliminate those least likely to vote; they also take some account of past voting history, in distributing Undecided voters; by comparison, other polling companies actually include people who say they ‘Will Not Vote’ in their Undecided category, and don’t exclude them from consideration when excluding Don’t Knows. Does it make a difference? Well – according to 2012/13 averages, MRBI (and Millward Brown) consistently overstate FF and understate both FG and Labour, by comparison with Red C. In 2013, Red C’s average for FG is 28.1, over 7 polls, whereas MRBI’s is 24.5, over two polls. Red C average for FF is 23.9, MRBI is 26.0. Adrian talks about the ‘trend of some recent polls’, showing FF as the leading party – of 17 polls this year, FG lead in 10, including four of the last six, or six of the last ten – and were level in one. It is noticeable though, that FG is the biggest party according to all seven Red C polls this year. FF was ahead in six of the 10 done by other companies, and level in one. That pattern is pretty striking – and there should be more focus on why different polling companies are tending to throw up different results, with some degree of consistency.

    • Actually – minor correction.
      FF ahead in 6 of 7 Red C this year, level in 1
      Of last six polls, FG ahead in 2, level in 2.
      Of last ten, FG ahead in 4, level in 2.
      Of the six poils where FF were in the lead, margin was 1, 2, 4, 3, 3, 2

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