Adrian Kavanagh, 27th May 2014
What would the results of the next general election look like if people voted exactly the same way as they did in Friday’s local elections?
To some degrees this is just an interesting academic exercise. While the results of Friday’s elections do reflect the changing support patterns in Irish politics over the past few years, they do also reflect political factors that are unique to local election contests. People vote differently in different election contests, as a quick contrast of voting patterns at this weekend’s local, European and by-election contests quickly reveals. Parties whose votes are increased by a series of popular local election candidates may struggle to achieve the same vote share in a general election contest if these parties are running just one or two candidates. By contrast, a party who fares poorly at a local election contest may be able to compensate for this at a subsequent general election contest on the basis of the appeal of a popular Dáil deputy or election candidate. Independents also tend to fare better at local election contests. Given their smaller support organisations and given the fact that their support patterns are highly geographical (or localised), Independents are generally better placed to do well at local election contests than they are in contesting the much larger Dáil constituencies. Furthermore, the overall tally of votes for Independent candidates at local elections will be driven by their sheet number: after all, 582 independent candidates contested the 2014 Local Elections.
To work out what the result of the next general election would be in the highly unlikely case of everyone voting exactly the same way as they did on Friday (and of overall turnout remaining at the same disappointing level) I translated results for the 136 local election constituencies (excluding the still to be completed Ballybay-Clones) into the larger Dáil constituencies that these sit within. By aggregating the local election results into the different general election constituencies (and allowing for some degree of estimation, given the fact that there are not exact matches between general election and local election constituency areas in a number of cases), some interesting trends emerge here:
|Candidates||Fine Gael||Fianna Fail||Labour Party||Sinn Fein||Green Party||Independents and Others|
|Dublin Bay North||16.0%||19.3%||9.6%||21.0%||4.0%||30.1%|
|Dublin Bay South||25.3%||15.6%||18.7%||11.8%||10.2%||18.4%|
|Dublin Mid West||18.0%||11.2%||8.3%||25.1%||0.0%||37.4%|
|Dublin South Central||6.6%||9.3%||11.7%||26.7%||3.7%||41.9%|
|Dublin South West||18.1%||14.6%||11.3%||23.3%||3.4%||29.3%|
In a number of these general election constituency areas, the combined votes won by Independents and the Others groupings would be on a par with those won by the larger parties. Indeed, the Independents and the Others groupings would emerge as the largest political grouping in a number of these constituency areas, including Dublin Central, Dublin Fingal, Dublin South Central and Wicklow. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin would be faring strongly in a number of these constituencies also, although the Sinn Féin voting in some of these areas would not be as striking as some of their local election constituency results, in part reflecting the fact that they ran much fewer candidates than did Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in these elections. By contrast, the high support levels attributed to the Independents and the Others groupings are a reflection of the large number of candidates associated with these groupings, which in turn pushed up their overall votes if not necessarily their likelihood of translating these large vote numbers into similarly large shares of the overall seat numbers. Labour are seen to be struggling to win a sufficient number of votes in a number of these constituency areas, although it must be recognised that the party did not contest all of the local election constituencies (Labour did not contest 29 constituencies) and this does have a bearing somewhat on that party’s overall seat numbers. Indeed, given that the party ran candidates in all of the electoral areas (and ran multiple candidates in most of these with the exceptions of Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, Tallaght South, Waterford City South and Arklow) the constituency support estimates here for Fine Gael must be viewed as especially disappointing, leaving that party overshadowed somewhat by Fianna Fáil in this analysis. The Greens recovery at these local elections would not translate into Dáil seat gains based on these figures, but the party would be competitive at least in a number of constituencies, such as Dublin Bay South.
Translating these constituency support figures into support estimates brings some chilling news for the government parties.
|Dublin Bay North||1||1||0||1||2|
|Dublin Bay South||1||1||1||0||1|
|Dublin Mid West||1||0||0||1||2|
|Dublin South Central||0||0||0||2||2|
|Dublin South West||1||1||0||1||2|
On the basis of this analysis Fine Gael would stand poised to close to half of the Dail seats numbers won by them at the 2011 election, while Labour would be left with just three seats in the Carlow-Kilkenny, Dublin Bay South and Dublin Fingal. Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil would be well placed to make seat gains here, with the latter party faring better based on its stronger local election showing. The biggest political grouping on a strict application of the vote numbers into seat estimates would be the Independents and Others groupings. Of course, the seat estimate here would be severely over-estimated, given that the constituency votes are being driven in a large part by the large number of candidates associated with these different groupings. (And the other disclaimers noted in the first paragraph also need to be taken account of.) Hence, by extension, the number of seats that would fall to the larger political parties would increase. (In this regard, Sinn Féin’s number would undoubtedly increase as they would be the next best placed party to take a seat in a number of constituencies where seats are being allocated to the Independents and Others grouping.) But these figures do underpin no little degree of potential for significant gains – albeit not as dramatic as outlined here – on the part of this grouping with these coming mainly from the government parties. At this stage, now that we are counting down months and not years until the next general election, it is obvious that the government parties – if they wish to retain power at the next election – need to make up ground and to do so fast!!!