Commentary on voting trends in 2011 General Election

Adrian Kavanagh, 28th February 2011

Party Support trends: The big story in this election is no doubt the extent of the swing against the government parties, with Fianna Fail and the Green Party losing a combined total of over half a million of the votes those parties won in 2007. Fianna Fail have lost over 470,000 of the votes that they won in 2007 – despite the fact that over 150,000 more people turned out to vote in this election than in 2007 – with a percentage swing of 24% away from the party.

Where did the Fianna Fail votes go to? Part went to Fine Gael, with a percentage swing of just under nine per cent to this party, but the most significant chunk of Fianna Fail’s lost votes appear to have gone to left-leaning parties and candidates, with Labour support up by over nine per cent, Sinn Fein support up by three per cent and support for the United Left Alliance and left leaning independents up by around four to five per cent. This highly significant swing to the left means that left of centre parties and candidates accounted for over forty two per cent of all the votes cast in Friday’s election.

The swing against Fianna Fail seems to have been consistently around the twenty four per cent level in all of the main regions – with the exception of Connacht-Ulster where the loss of support was less than twenty per cent – although Fianna Fail did experience even more significant support losses in some urban working class constitiuencies, such as Dublin North West where the party support level fell by over thirty seven per cent and the party lost the two seats it won in 2007.  

Fianna Fail’s highest vote share by constituency came in Carlow-Kilkenny (28.1%) and their lowest was in Dublin South (9.4%).

Fine Gael’s highest vote share by constituency came in Mayo (65.0%) and their lowest was in Dublin North West (16.8%), the one constituency where they failed to win a seat in this general election. By contrast, Labour’s highest vote share by constituency came in Dublin North West (43.2%) and their lowest was in Mayo (4.9%).

The Green Party recorded their best result in an election where they failed to win a seat for the first time since the 1987 General Election in Dublin North (8.5%), while Mayo (0.4%) represented the party’s worst result in a very bad election for that party.

Sinn Fein’s best result was in Donegal South West (33.0%) and their lowest share of the vote was won in Dublin South (2.6%), although the party also failed to contest five constituencies. The United Left Alliance’s best result was Tipperary South, where Seamus Healy won 21.3% of the vote, with the grouping’s worst result recorded in Laois-Offaly where the party just won 0.8% of the total vote. The best result for Independent and Other candidates (not including the ULA) was recorded in Kerry South (41.1%).

The constituency with the highest turnout rate in this election was Roscommon-South Leitrim, at 79.7%, with the lowest turnout level being recorded (as in 2007) in Dublin South East (60.5%).

Swings to and from the parties by region:

Fianna Fail – Dublin (-26.3%), Leinster (-25.7%), Munster (-23.9%), Connacht-Ulster (-19.6%), the commuter belt/”breakfast roll man” constituencies (-27.2%)

Fine Gael – Dublin (11.2%), Leinster (9.5%), Munster (8.5%), Connacht-Ulster (5.3%), the commuter belt/”breakfast roll man” constituencies (13.3%)

Labour – Dublin (14.8%), Leinster (7.8%), Munster (8.7%), Connacht-Ulster (5.4%), the commuter belt/”breakfast roll man” constituencies (9.7%)

Sinn Fein – Dublin (1.2%), Leinster (4.5%), Munster (2.4%), Connacht-Ulster (4.1%), the commuter belt/”breakfast roll man” constituencies (4.6%)

Voter Turnout: Voter turnout in this election was up by over 150,000 relative to the 2007 contest, amounting to a percentage increase of just over three per cent, leaving the national turnout level over the seventy per cent mark for the first time in decades. The most notable increase, as in 2007, was in the usually lower turnout Dublin region where turnout increased from 62.9% to 68.1%. Turnout was up from 67.0% to 68.9% in Leinster, from 69.1% to 71.3% in Munster, and from 69.7% to 71.3% in Connacht-Ulster. At a constituency level, the biggest increase in voter turnout came in the Dublin North East constituency where turnout increased by over fifteen per cent. There was also a significant increase in the turnout level in Dublin South, where turnout increased by over elevent per cent, as well as in Cork North Central. Significant increases in turnout in some working class areas were reported on Friday with turnouts in parts of the North Clondalkin increasing by around twenty per cent, for instance.  

Votes for Female candidates: At just 86 out of 566 candidates, the percentage of female of female candidates (15.2%) running in this election was over two per cent lower than the 2007 figure, although – at over 18% of the total number of candidates – the percentage of female candidates selected by the political parties was roughly similar to the 2007. One third of a million votes were cast for female candidates in this election, amounting to just under fifteen per cent of all the votes cast in this election and marking a slight percentage decline (0.3%) on the 2007 figure.  Dublin was the strongest region for female candidates, with 21.4% votes cast for female candidates, followed by Connacht-Ulster (15.5%), Leinster (13.3%) and Munster (10.4%). Dublin Central, where two female candidates were elected just ahead of two other female candidates, was the constituency with the highest female share of the vote (44.7%), followed by Dun Laoghaire (34.9%) and another constituency where two females were elected, Dublin Mid West (34.2%). There were four constituencies with no female candidate in this election; Cork South West, Kildare South, Limerick and Roscommon-South Leitrim.

Younger candidates: At least 67 candidates – just over one in ten – in this election were aged between 21 and 35. These young candidates won a combined total of just under three hundred thousand votes in this election, amounting to 13.2% of the total share of the vote. As opposed to the success rate of female candidates, younger candidates fared weakest in the Dublin region, winning just 9.8% of the votes cast in this region, with highest vote shares being won by younger candidates in Munster (14.5%), Leinster (13.9%) and Connacht-Ulster (14.6%). That said, the best constituency result in terms of vote share for younger candidates in this election came in Dublin South East, where 42.7% of votes were cast for younger candidates culminating in the election of Lucinda Creighton and Eoghan Murphy.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Department of Geography, NUI Maynooth
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One Response to Commentary on voting trends in 2011 General Election

  1. Pingback: Determinants of TD Tweeting « Skibbereen Eagle

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