March in like a lion but not out like a lamb for the larger parties: Analyses of March and early April opinions polls

Adrian Kavanagh, 1st March 2014

March had come in like a lion for the three largest parties in the state but definitely did not go out like a lamb. The latest Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll saw Fianna Fail, Labour and Fine Gael all losing significant levels of support relative to the previous such poll while Sinn Fein and the Independents and Others grouping made gains at the expense of these parties. The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll, taken some weeks later, produced a largely similar result, although support levels for Fianna Fail and the Independents and Others grouping did largely remain static in this. The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll of 4th April does offer better news for Fianna Fail (as well as the Independents/Others grouping) while mirroring the trends in other two polls as to the Fine Gael and Labour poll figures. The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll (4th April 2014) estimated party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous such poll): Fine Gael 25% (down 5%), Fianna Fail 25% (up 3%), Sinn Fein 21% (NC), Labour Party 8% (down 1%), Independents, Green Party and Others 21% (up 3%). 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 44, Fine Gael 44, Sinn Fein 32, Labour 7, Independents, Green Party and Others 31. The Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll (2nd March 2014) estimated party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous such poll): Fine Gael 27% (down 3%), Sinn Fein 22% (up 6%), Fianna Fail 21% (down 5%), Labour Party 8% (down 4%), Green Party 2% (up 1%), Independents and Others 20% (up 5%). 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 36, Fine Gael 54, Sinn Fein 36, Labour 4, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 27.  The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (30th March 2014) estimated party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous such poll): Fine Gael 26% (down 3%), Fianna Fail 22% (NC), Sinn Fein 21% (up 5%), Labour Party 9% (down 2%), Independents, Green Party and Others 22% (NC). 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 36, Fine Gael 49, Sinn Fein 33, Labour 8, Independents, Green Party and Others 32.

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Constituency support estimates for different parties and groupings form the basis of the general approach taken with this analysis, which seeks to ask the following question in relation to different opinion poll results – what do these poll figures mean in terms of the likely number of Dail seats won by the different parties and groupings? Although the Irish electoral system is classified as a proportional electoral system, the proportion of seats won by parties will not measure up exactly to their actual share of the first preference votes, mainly because geography has an impact here – these first preference votes need to be filtered through the system of Irish electoral constituencies (and the different numbers of seats that are apportioned to these). In order to address this question, I estimate what the party first preference votes would be in the different constituencies, assuming similar (proportional) changes in party vote shares in all constituencies to those that are being suggested by a particular opinion poll. This of course is a very rough model and it  cannot take appropriate account of the fact that changing support levels between elections tend to vary geographically, while it also fails to take account of the local particularities of the different regions in cases where no regional figures are produced in association with different national opinion polls meaning that there is no scope to carry out separate regional analyses based on these poll figures. Thus constituency support estimates for different parties/groupings will be over-estimated in some constituencies and under-estimated in others, but the expectation would be that the overall national seat figures figures estimated will be relatively close to the true level, given that over-estimates in certain constituencies will be offset by under-estimates in others. Based on these estimated constituency support figures, I proceed to estimate the destination of seats in the different constituencies. The constituency level analysis involves the assigning seat levels to different parties and political groupings 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). Due to unusually high/low support levels for some parties or political groupings in certain constituencies in the previous election, the model may throw up occasional constituency predictions that are unlikely to pan out in a “real election”, but of course 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 this model is to get an overall, national-level, estimate of seat numbers and these are based, as noted earlier, on the proviso that an over-prediction in one constituency may be offset by an under-prediction in another constituency.  Based on such an analysis and using the new constituency units (as defined in the 2012 Constituency Commission report), these analyses estimates what party seat levels would be, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election. For a variety of reasons (including the impact of high levels of undecided voters in a specific poll), the actual result of an election may vary from the figures suggested by an opinion poll, even if the poll is carried out relatively close to election day, or on election day itself as in the case of exit polls, but the likelihood of such variation is not something that can be factored into this model. 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 (unless he decides to retire from politics before this) and this constituency will effectively be rendered a three-seat contest at the next general election. (Changes in constituency boundaries as outlined in the 2012 Constituency Commisison report have been factored in to this analysis. An overview of the political impacts of these changes on the adriankavanaghelections.org elections commentary site suggests that Fianna Fail would seem to be the party most likely to be positively effected by the redrawing of the constituency boundaries, with the Labour Party being the party likely to be the most adversely effected by these changes.) Note that the approach used in this analysis is different to those of the constituency level analyses of the 2011-13 in that it now takes account of defections/changing party affiliations for people who were candidates in the 2011 General Election, as will be outlined in greater detail later in this post (and as such the seat estimates for this, and later posts, cannot be directly compared with those for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 analyses of post-General Election 2011 opinion polls). In cases where a General Election 2011 candidate has definitely left a party (or the independents ranks) to join another party or to become an independent, a portion of their 2011 will be taken away from the constituency base figures for their former party/grouping and added to those of their new party/grouping. The approach taken in the run up to the 2011 General Election was to assign all of the votes won by that candidate to their new grouping, but the actual 2011 results showed that this was an over-estimation of the likely impact  of such changes. For instance the Labour Party constituency estimates for Mayo and Roscommon-South Leitrim following the moves of Jerry Cowley and John Kelly into the Labour Party ranks were well in excess of the actual votes won by that party in those constituencies. In this approach, half of the votes won by a candidate in the 2011 contest will be assigned to their new party/grouping while the rest of the votes will remain assigned to their old party/grouping. Where a constituency boundary change is involved, meaning that part(s) of a candidate’s old constituency is now moved into another constituency/other constituencies, the base figures for all these constituencies will be recalculated to take account of this. For instance, the impact of Peter Mathews leaving the Fine Gael ranks means that the Fine Gael and Non Party base figures are altered in Dublin Rathdown, but also in the Dublin South-West and Dun Laoghaire constituencies. Note that this approach will not take account of candidates who have lost the party whip but who may ultimately return to the party at a later date or who have been temporarily suspended from their party, as in the cases of Brain Walsh (Fine Gael, Galway West) or Peadar Toibin (Sinn Fein, Meath West). This approach also takes account of those candidates who did not win Dail seats at the 2011 contest, including people like Fidelma Healy-Eames (Galway West), Eddie Fitzpatrick (Offaly), Jenny McHugh (Meath West) and Tom Fortune (Wicklow). In the wake of Patrick Nulty’s resignation, the correction made in Dublin West to the Labour and Independent/Non Party bases figures has now been reversed there.

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The constituency support estimates based on the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll figures (4th April 2014), when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:

FF FG LAB SF
Carlow-Kilkenny 39% 28% 7% 19% 8%
Cavan-Monaghan 22% 23% 2% 45% 8%
Clare 32% 31% 6% 7% 24%
Cork East 26% 29% 15% 25% 6%
Cork North Central 22% 19% 11% 29% 19%
Cork North West 37% 36% 6% 16% 6%
Cork South Central 40% 24% 8% 17% 12%
Cork South West 35% 36% 6% 15% 7%
Donegal 22% 14% 3% 46% 15%
Dublin Central 21% 14% 12% 26% 26%
Dublin Mid West 18% 24% 14% 26% 18%
Dublin Fingal 24% 23% 12% 6% 35%
Dublin Bay North 18% 20% 10% 19% 33%
Dublin North West 15% 11% 11% 40% 22%
Dublin Rathdown 14% 23% 8% 6% 50%
Dublin South Central 14% 16% 16% 31% 22%
Dublin Bay South 9% 20% 11% 18% 41%
Dublin South West 16% 22% 15% 27% 21%
Dublin West 26% 21% 14% 14% 26%
Dun Laoghaire 24% 29% 14% 5% 28%
Galway East 31% 32% 5% 10% 22%
Galway West 27% 21% 5% 12% 34%
Kerry County 17% 24% 7% 23% 30%
Kildare North 23% 27% 14% 13% 22%
Kildare South 33% 26% 13% 14% 14%
Laois 38% 25% 5% 26% 6%
Offaly 34% 19% 2% 12% 33%
Limerick City 32% 32% 9% 16% 10%
Limerick 31% 41% 7% 8% 12%
Longford-Westmeath 30% 29% 11% 16% 14%
Louth 20% 20% 7% 40% 12%
Mayo 25% 49% 2% 14% 9%
Meath East 29% 31% 10% 19% 11%
Meath West 32% 29% 3% 31% 5%
Roscommon-Galway 20% 22% 4% 12% 42%
Sligo-Leitrim 28% 22% 3% 31% 15%
Tipperary 22% 21% 7% 11% 40%
Waterford 20% 28% 8% 21% 23%
Wexford 28% 26% 9% 12% 24%
Wicklow 15% 24% 6% 20% 35%

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 2 1 0 0 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 1 1
Cork North West 2 1 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 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 0 1 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
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 2 1 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 1 0 1 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 2 1 0 1 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 0 1 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 1 1
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1
Wexford 2 2 0 0 1
Wicklow 1 1 0 1 2
STATE 44 44 6 29 35

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 (as in the large number of independent candidates competing in constituencies such as Wicklow or Laois-Offaly in 2011) or one candidate polling especially well in that election (e.g. the Shane Ross vote in Dublin South/Mick Wallace vote in Wexford) in a manner that would not amount to an extra seat for another member of the same party/grouping. Vote transfer patterns and vote management issues (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) also need to be accounted for. Taking these concerns into account, the amended 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 2 1 0 0 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 2 0
Cork North West 2 1 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 1
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 2
Dublin Bay North 1 1 0 1 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
Dublin South West 1 1 1 2 0
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 1
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 2 1 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 1 0 1 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 2 1 0 1 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 0 1 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1
Wexford 2 2 0 0 1
Wicklow 1 1 0 1 2
STATE 44 44 7 32 31
% Seats 27.8 27.8 4.4 20.3 19.6

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 51 seats) would fall far short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats); while a potential Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein alliance (combined seat level of 76 seats) would come relatively close to this 79 seat target.  To have a sufficient number of seats required to command a majority in Dail Eireann (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a deputy from another party/grouping takes on the Ceann Comhairle role), a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein (or Fine Gael-Labour) alliance would need the support of at least three (twenty eight) or more, TDs from the independent ranks or from another political grouping to be able to form a government. A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would also have an insufficient number of seats (combined seat level of 76 seats) to command a majority in Dail Eireann, but such an alliance looks to be unlikely in the present political climate in any course. Ultimately, based on these numbers a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government would be the only viable two-party coalition and such an alliance would command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 88 seats).  The reason why such two-party coalitions would appear to be difficult prospects could of course be attributed to yet another very strong showing (in support and seat estimates terms) for the different groupings associated with the Independent and Others grouping.

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The constituency support estimates based on the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll figures (30th March 2014), when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 35% 29% 8% 19% 8%
Cavan-Monaghan 20% 24% 2% 45% 8%
Clare 28% 32% 7% 7% 25%
Cork East 23% 30% 16% 25% 6%
Cork North Central 19% 20% 12% 29% 19%
Cork North West 33% 38% 7% 16% 6%
Cork South Central 36% 25% 9% 17% 12%
Cork South West 31% 38% 7% 16% 8%
Donegal 20% 15% 3% 46% 16%
Dublin Central 18% 15% 13% 26% 28%
Dublin Mid West 16% 25% 16% 26% 18%
Dublin Fingal 21% 23% 14% 6% 36%
Dublin Bay North 15% 21% 11% 18% 34%
Dublin North West 13% 11% 13% 40% 22%
Dublin Rathdown 12% 23% 9% 6% 51%
Dublin South Central 12% 17% 18% 30% 23%
Dublin Bay South 8% 21% 12% 17% 42%
Dublin South West 14% 22% 16% 27% 21%
Dublin West 23% 22% 15% 13% 27%
Dun Laoghaire 21% 29% 16% 5% 29%
Galway East 27% 33% 5% 11% 24%
Galway West 24% 22% 6% 12% 36%
Kerry County 15% 25% 8% 22% 31%
Kildare North 20% 28% 16% 13% 23%
Kildare South 29% 28% 15% 14% 15%
Laois 35% 26% 6% 27% 6%
Offaly 31% 20% 2% 12% 35%
Limerick City 29% 33% 11% 17% 11%
Limerick 27% 43% 8% 9% 13%
Longford-Westmeath 26% 31% 12% 16% 15%
Louth 18% 21% 8% 40% 13%
Mayo 22% 51% 3% 14% 10%
Meath East 26% 32% 11% 19% 12%
Meath West 28% 31% 3% 32% 5%
Roscommon-Galway 17% 23% 5% 12% 44%
Sligo-Leitrim 25% 24% 4% 32% 16%
Tipperary 19% 21% 8% 11% 41%
Waterford 18% 29% 9% 20% 23%
Wexford 25% 27% 10% 12% 26%
Wicklow 13% 24% 7% 20% 36%

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 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 1
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 2
Dublin Bay North 1 1 0 1 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
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 2 1 0 0 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 0 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 0 0 1
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 1
Limerick City 1 2 0 1 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 0 1 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 0 1 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 1 1
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1
Wexford 1 2 0 0 2
Wicklow 0 2 0 1 2
STATE 37 49 6 30 36

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 (as in the large number of independent candidates competing in constituencies such as Wicklow or Laois-Offaly in 2011) or one candidate polling especially well in that election (e.g. the Shane Ross vote in Dublin South/Mick Wallace vote in Wexford) in a manner that would not amount to an extra seat for another member of the same party/grouping. Vote transfer patterns and vote management issues (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) also need to be accounted for. Taking these concerns into account, the amended 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 0 1 1
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 1
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 2
Dublin Bay North 1 1 0 1 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
Dublin South West 1 1 1 2 0
Dublin West 1 1 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 1
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 1 1 0 1 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1
Kildare South 1 1 1 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 1
Limerick City 1 2 0 1 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 0 1 0
Louth 1 1 0 3 0
Mayo 1 3 0 0 0
Meath East 1 1 0 1 0
Meath West 1 1 0 1 0
Roscommon-Galway 0 1 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 0 3
Waterford 1 1 0 1 1
Wexford 1 2 0 1 1
Wicklow 0 2 0 1 2
STATE 36 49 8 33 32
% Seats 22.8 31.0 5.1 20.9 20.3

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 57 seats) would fall well short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats); while a potential Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein alliance (combined seat level of 69 seats) would come somewhat closer to this 79 seat target.  To have a sufficient number of seats required to command a majority in Dail Eireann (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a deputy from another party/grouping takes on the Ceann Comhairle role), a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein (or Fine Gael-Labour) alliance would need the support of at least ten (twenty two) or more, TDs from the independent ranks or from another political grouping to be able to form a government. A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would have more than a sufficient number of seats (combined seat level of 82 seats) to command a majority in Dail Eireann, but such an alliance looks to be unlikely in the present political climate. Ultimately, based on these numbers a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government would be the only viable two-party coalition and such an alliance would command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 85 seats).  The reason why such two-party coalitions would appear to be difficult prospects could of course be attributed to yet another very strong showing (in support and seat estimates terms) for the different groupings associated with the Independent and Others grouping.

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The constituency support estimates based on the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll figures (2nd March 2014), when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP OTH*
Carlow-Kilkenny 34% 30% 7% 20% 4% 5%
Cavan-Monaghan 19% 25% 2% 47% 1% 7%
Clare 27% 34% 7% 8% 3% 22%
Cork East 22% 31% 15% 26% 2% 4%
Cork North Central 18% 21% 11% 31% 2% 18%
Cork North West 31% 39% 7% 17% 2% 4%
Cork South Central 34% 27% 8% 18% 4% 9%
Cork South West 30% 40% 6% 16% 3% 5%
Donegal 19% 15% 3% 48% 1% 15%
Dublin Central 18% 15% 12% 27% 3% 25%
Dublin Mid West 15% 25% 14% 27% 5% 14%
Dublin Fingal 20% 24% 12% 6% 13% 25%
Dublin Bay North 15% 22% 10% 19% 2% 32%
Dublin North West 13% 12% 11% 42% 1% 21%
Dublin Rathdown 12% 24% 8% 6% 11% 40%
Dublin South Central 12% 17% 16% 32% 3% 20%
Dublin Bay South 7% 21% 11% 18% 9% 34%
Dublin South West 13% 23% 14% 28% 4% 18%
Dublin West 21% 23% 12% 14% 2% 28%
Dun Laoghaire 20% 31% 14% 5% 7% 23%
Galway East 26% 35% 5% 11% 1% 22%
Galway West 23% 23% 5% 13% 2% 33%
Kerry County 14% 26% 7% 23% 1% 29%
Kildare North 19% 29% 14% 13% 3% 21%
Kildare South 28% 29% 13% 14% 0% 15%
Laois 33% 27% 5% 28% 0% 6%
Offaly 30% 21% 2% 13% 0% 35%
Limerick City 28% 35% 9% 18% 0% 10%
Limerick 26% 45% 7% 9% 0% 13%
Longford-Westmeath 25% 32% 11% 17% 0% 15%
Louth 17% 22% 7% 41% 0% 12%
Mayo 21% 52% 2% 15% 0% 10%
Meath East 25% 34% 10% 20% 0% 12%
Meath West 27% 32% 3% 33% 0% 5%
Roscommon-Galway 17% 24% 4% 12% 0% 43%
Sligo-Leitrim 24% 24% 3% 33% 0% 16%
Tipperary 18% 23% 7% 12% 0% 41%
Waterford 17% 30% 8% 21% 0% 23%
Wexford 24% 28% 9% 13% 0% 25%
Wicklow 12% 25% 6% 21% 0% 35%

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 GP OTH*
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 0 1 0 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0 0
Clare 1 2 0 0 0 1
Cork East 1 2 0 1 0 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 2 0 0
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 3 0 0
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 0 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 1 0 1 0 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 0 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 1 0 0 0 2
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 0 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 0 2
Dublin South West 1 1 1 2 0 0
Dublin West 1 1 0 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 0 1
Galway East 1 1 0 0 0 1
Galway West 1 1 0 1 0 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 0 2
Kildare North 1 2 0 0 0 1
Kildare South 1 2 0 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 0 1
Limerick City 1 2 0 1 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 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 0 1 0 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 1 0 2
Waterford 1 1 0 1 0 1
Wexford 1 2 0 1 0 1
Wicklow 0 2 0 1 0 2
STATE 36 53 4 36 1 28

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 (as in the large number of independent candidates competing in constituencies such as Wicklow or Laois-Offaly in 2011) or one candidate polling especially well in that election (e.g. the Shane Ross vote in Dublin South/Mick Wallace vote in Wexford) in a manner that would not amount to an extra seat for another member of the same party/grouping. Vote transfer patterns and vote management issues (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) also need to be accounted for. Taking these concerns into account, the amended seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF GP OTH*
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 0 1 0 0
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 0 2 0 0
Clare 1 2 0 0 0 1
Cork East 1 2 0 1 0 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 2 0 0
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0 0
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 3 0 0
Dublin Central 1 0 0 1 0 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1 0 0
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 0 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 1 0 1 0 2
Dublin North West 0 0 0 2 0 1
Dublin Rathdown 0 2 0 0 0 1
Dublin South Central 0 1 1 1 0 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 0 2
Dublin South West 1 1 1 2 0 0
Dublin West 1 1 0 1 0 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 0 0 0 1
Galway East 1 1 0 0 0 1
Galway West 1 1 0 1 0 2
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 0 2
Kildare North 1 2 0 0 0 1
Kildare South 1 2 0 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 1 0 0
Offaly 1 1 0 0 0 1
Limerick City 1 2 0 1 0 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 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 0 1 0 0 0 2
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 0 2 0 0
Tipperary 1 1 0 1 0 2
Waterford 1 1 0 1 0 1
Wexford 1 2 0 1 0 1
Wicklow 0 2 0 1 0 2
STATE 36 54 4 36 1 27
% Seats 21.7 32.5 2.4 21.7 0.6 16.3

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 58 seats) would fall well short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats); while a potential Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein alliance (combined seat level of 72 seats) would come somewhat closer to this 79 seat target.  To have a sufficient number of seats required to command a majority in Dail Eireann (79 seats in a 158 seat Dail, assuming a deputy from another party/grouping takes on the Ceann Comhairle role), a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein (or Fine Gael-Labour) alliance would need the support of at least seven (twenty five) or more, TDs from the independent ranks or from another political grouping to be able to form a government. A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would have more than a sufficient number of seats (combined seat level of 90 seats) to command a majority in Dail Eireann, but such an alliance looks to be unlikely in the present political climate. Ultimately, based on these numbers a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition government would be the only viable two-party coalition and such an alliance would command a very strong Dail majority (with a combined seat level of 90 seats).  The reason why such two-party coalitions would appear to be difficult prospects could of course be attributed to yet another very strong showing (in support and seat estimates terms) for the different groupings associated with the Independent and Others grouping.

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

Given the improved support levels for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein relative to the 2011 General Election and figures in earlier (during 2010 and 2011) opinion poll figures, the seat estimates based on these constituency-level analyses suggest a significant improvement in Fianna Fail and especially Sinn Fein seat levels relative to those won by these parties and groupings in the 2011 contest (especially given that the fact that the eight fewer seats in the next Dail has been factored into this analysis), effectively pointing to significant gains on the part of the main Dail opposition parties since 2011. The same also applies to the Independents and Others grouping, 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 and the People Before Profit alliance as well as left-leaning independents, but also politicians located in the centre-right of the political spectrum, including Fianna Fail/Fine Gael-gene pool independents and people such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly. 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 15 of the 31 seats being assigned to this grouping with the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll, 14 of the 27 seats being assigned to this grouping with the Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll and 15 of the 32 seats being assigned to this grouping with the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll.

The seat level estimates in all of these analyses for the Labour Party are stark (highlighting the fact that the PR-STV system is proportional, but only to a limited extent), but most notably in the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll. 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, as has been shown in similar analyses of recent Sunday Independent-Millward Brown and Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI polls. Based on the analysis of this latest Sunday Independent-Millward Brown poll and other polls covered in this post, 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 (as in the 1997, 2002 and 2007 General Elections) by transfers from lower placed candidates from the smaller left-wing parties. But on these constituency-estimate figures outlined in these analyses Labour Party 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.)

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5 thoughts on “March in like a lion but not out like a lamb for the larger parties: Analyses of March and early April opinions polls

  1. There is nothing too surprising about this poll. With each and every group that has comes before the PAC comes the horrible realization, that this government are remarkably similar to the one the electorate got rid of in February 2011. Enda Kenny is on the record of the house saying “taxing family homes would be immoral” yet that is precisely what he has precisely and immorally gone and done. Taxing people’s water after they have already been taxed for it’s provision is also equally immoral and cynical, as is doing an underhand deal with trade unions to protect all employees previously involved with the provision of the leaky water system, a deal that professor John FitzGerald has estimated will lead to 2,000 or 3,000 employees too many being employed by Irish Water. This is just the latest manifestation of what Paul Hunt refers to as the rentiers. SF are going to have rich pickings from the mega disenfranchised voter.

    FG/Labour have made the classic mistake, believing that bullying tactics of Revenue, leading to relatively high compliance rates, meant that people did not abhor this tax. I have yet to speak to anyone elderly or young that support either tax. There is an element amongst highly paid public servants that the tax is necessary, to protect their salaries and pensions, but this minority constituency are not the people who will decide the next election. The next election is going to be decided by groups of people who know they have been abandoned and betrayed. For instance, the cynical disposal of IBRC mortgagees to vulture capitalists offering less than those whose mortgages are being sold. Denying people a chance to bid on their own mortgages. This is a blatant attempt by the coalition government to put clear blue water between these mortgages and potential law suits. The state abjectly failed to regulate these mortgage products despite trumpeting claims to the contrary, that these mortgage products had been regulated. This also gives a green light for similar ‘disposals’ by other banks, including those that no longer operate within Ireland. The line “we must get the best return for the taxpayer” is at best disingenuous and at worst treacherous. I thought all these people were/are tax payers? The electorate’s patience has now been frittered away, this government is skating on very thin ice. The prospect of an even more massive swing to SF cannot be ruled out.

    • Hi, Robert,

      I have a feeling that SF will do well in the local and Euro elections – similarly to UKIP in England, Geert Wilders crew in the Netherlands, le Front National in France and the other populist, xenophobic, chauvinistically nationalist factiors throughout the EU – because it will allow many voters to give the mainstream parties a good, well-deserved kick in the back-side that is relatively costless in terms of actual governance. The mid-term performance of these outfits generally flatters to deceive when it comes to general elections.

      However, on your reference to my reference to rentiers, I fear that you, like so many others, are grabbing the wrong end of the stick. I’m frequently annoyed by, but more generally amused by – and perfectly understand – the antics of leading economic practitioners and commentators such as John FitzGerald, While never, of course, soiling their mouths by mentioning economic rents – i.e., returns and rewards in excess of those that would be captured in genuinely competitive markets and under efficient and equitable public administraton – they focus invariably on the rewards secured by the staff of public sector and semi-state entities relative to those secured by their counterparts in other occupations or in other jurisdictions. Not surprisingly, nothing is better guaranteed to provoke the ire of these workers and their unions, and governments, invariably, get the message and either comfirm the continuing certainty of these rewards or add to the mess of pottage.

      But while these frequently unjustified rewards add to the cost burden imposed on the vast majority of citizens as taxpayers, final consumers and service users, the imposition is negligible when compared to the gross inefficiencies and officially authorised fraud perpetrated by government and its agencies. The establishment of Irish Water as a semi-state within Bord Gais provides a classic and current example. The net assets of the water service networks of the 34 local authorities, reportedly valued at €11.5 billion, are being transferred as a ‘gift’ from all taxpayers to Bord Gais with the net proceeds of the sale of the Bord Gais energy supply business (much less than €1 billion) being the only compensation. All citizens have paid for these assets in general taxation. But now the CER will set revenues that will recover not only these likely inflated operating expenditures, but also the full return of, and return on, these net assets. Water service users will end up paying for these assets twice – and all for the ultimate benefit of Bord Gais. Despite previously overvaluing the electricity and gas networks to generate surplus unjustified revenues for the ESB and Bord Gais, in this instance the CER is seeking to impose the responsibility to value the water networks on Government – where, of course, it belongs. Naturally, there will be some glorious fudge to conceal and downplay this officially authorised fraud, but it will prove almost impossible to hide it completely.

      Just imagine the economic impact if this net €10 billion were applied efficiently in the public interest. But don’t expect our leading economic practitioners and commentators to highlight this. I think we all understand why they don’t.

  2. What would happen if both FF and SF/IRA got the same seats in the GE – how would they decide which was the main opposition party?

    Although the chances of it actually happening or these polls being the same come the GE are remote?

    Who do people vote for when they see FF hasn’t really changed, FG and L are no different to FF. It’s easy to say SF or some Ind when asked in a poll but do people really think SF/IRA (do we have to keep up the pretence that they are not one and the same?) would be fit to be in government when it came to the crunch while certain types of people are still running it and while the young generation who claim to be untainted by that past, are happy to share a platform without that past being accounted for.

    It would seem that in the locals the only valid choice to vote for a actual independent candidate and in the Euro election, the only credible vote is a vote, with a little reluctant but acceptance that they’ve had their punishment and by 2007 it was too late to stop what happened anyway, for the Greens.

    That still leaves the problem of who a responsible credible voter can vote for in the 2016 GE.

    By marching in NYE Enda Kenny has proven that he is not a man of integrity because he had the chance to stand up for inclusiveness and he baulked so he’s not a man of substance and the style of governance in 2014 is no better than it was by 2011, so a second term won’t change anything.

    • Not a man of integrity? Sure this is the same man that said “taxing family homes would be immoral” and then went ahead and taxed them. Unless integrity is all about how many FG TD’s and senators can fit on the head of a pin then obviously he has zero integrity. If the English language means anything or words mean anything then he has no integrity.

      What I am waiting patiently for, is SF to tell me that they are going to get rid of water tax and property tax. So far, they have mumbled they are against them, but when you ask them to state that clearly there is a lot of wriggle, barrister speak employed, such as Oh, yes! “We are certainly against the property tax as presently constituted”. Sinn Fein are being disingenuous neither are they out there campaigning against either of these two manifestly unjust taxes. They obviously feel it might frighten their middle class vote a constituency of voter outside the public sector, that is growing all the time.

      • I smile when I hear Irish people moaning about water or property bills. I have no sympathy and the people moaning about them are as is usual in Ireland, missing the point. The infastructure for a clean and safe water supply costs money, water is a utility, like gas or electricity and the debate should actually be about how can these services be provided as efficiently as possible without obscene profits being taken – is there anywhere in the world where these are provided by modern, well run, efficient and transparent not for profit utility companies or semi states?

        Instead of moaning (but not actually doing anything about it) about modest property and utility charges, why are childcare costs so high, why is health care so dear, why are mortgage/rent costs so high?

        If rent/mortgage should be no more than 40% of net income (which of course would mean the banks being made to declare why they haven’t reviewed each single account holder’s entire financial situation to see who can afford their debts and who needs a write-down, with people having to accept the reality that some people get debts written off and that boil is lanced once for all). Bills should be about 10%, living costs 20% and long term savings 15% and short term savings 15% there is much to be done to change things in Ireland.

        Where is the demand for continent style social housing and fixed rents? Where is the demand for a NHS paid for from direct tax that is free at the point of use to everyone and with no tax relief at all for private healthcare. Also why does the state still pay pension tax relief, why should those who have no pension subsidise those who do if everyone still gets the same state pension etc.

        Water and property charges are the least of the issues facing Irish people.

        SF/IRA won’t get rid of any of these charges or taxes but they and all candidates and parties should be pressed on what structural changes they will make. But anyone even thinking of voting for SF/IRA needs to be confronted to explain how exactly they can vote for a party like that while it refuses to accept its past – if no prison is the price of peace then that can be a price worth paying but not having to account for the past is a price too far.

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