Independents Day again: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (26th October 2014)

Adrian Kavanagh, 25th October 2014 

The latest Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (26th October 2014) suggests that the recent Budget has not amounted to any serious political gains for the government parties, a trend mirrored in the very similar support trends published in the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll of the same day. Fine Gael sees a two percentage point drop in the party’s poll levels in the Red C poll, while there is no movement in the Labour Party poll figures. Sinn Fein sees a drop in their support levels relative to the last such Sunday Business Post-Red C poll, but they still remain as the second most popular party in the state based on these poll figures. Following the by-election wins of earlier in the month, the Independents and Others grouping makes a notable five percentage points gain in this poll to leave it on a higher support level than that enjoyed by any of the larger political parties. The latest Sunday Business Post-Red C poll estimates party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous Sunday Business Post-Red C poll ): Fine Gael 26% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 20% (down 3%), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 8% (NC), Independents, Green Party and Others 28% (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 33, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 29, Labour Party 7, Independents and Others 41. (The latest Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll estimates party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous Sunday Business Post-Red C poll ): Fine Gael 25% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 19% (NC), Fianna Fail 18% (NC), Labour Party 9% (down 5%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), Independents and Others 25% (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 34, Fine Gael 48, Sinn Fein 28, Labour Party 8, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 39.)

The Independents and Others grouping would struggle to convert their currently high support levels into an equally high share of the total number of Dail seats. This is a very broad grouping, involving smaller left-wing parties or groupings, such as the Socialist Party/Anti Austerity Alliance or People Before Profit Alliance, the Green Party, left-leaning independents, “business” independents and Fine Gael or Fianna Fail gene pool independents. As such, vote transfer levels across this grouping will generally not prove to be as consistently strong as the strong intra-party vote transfer levels enjoyed by the larger political parties, who in turn may stand to enjoy a “seat bonus” in most general election contests. The share of the vote won by the Independents and Others grouping also tends to be shared across a larger number of candidates than would be the case with the political parties, with a significant number of these candidates also proving to have little or no chance of winning election. The main issue for this grouping when it comes to sustaining support levels into a general election contest has been to do with the electorate’s increasing focus on the composition of the next government, which has in the past often seen this grouping becoming increasingly marginalised, or being “squeezed out”, the closer one gets to polling day. The 2007 General Election would be a classic example here. But this Independents and Others grouping looks like containing a number of different alliances or groups within it that, come the next general election, could command three, or more seats, in the next Dail Eireann and thus be in a position to be a significant part of the next government. The different parties, alliances or groupings here include the Socialist Party/Anti Austerity Alliance, the People Before Profit Alliance, United Left, the Green Party, the Reform Alliance, a proposed new alliance of independents involving Shane Ross and the Independents Network.

Fianna Fail support levels remain just above the level won by that party at the 2011 General Election. But, as most electoral contests held since 2011 have shown, Fianna Fail have tended to perform better in actual elections than they have been performing in opinion polls. While the party still remains to win a Dail by-election (and indeed have not won one since 1996) during this period, they are better placed to win the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election in Spring 2015 than was the case with the six previous contests, while the Fianna Fail performance in the 2014 Local Elections exceeded expectations based on the opinion polls leading up to that contest (and indeed the exit poll taken on the day of that contest). Could it be the case that voters are more inclined to support Fianna Fail candidates than they are to support Fianna Fail, the party? In any case, despite the party’s disappointing poll standings, this analysis suggests that Fianna Fail would be well placed to make a number of gains at the next election (even with the overall reduction of Dail seat numbers from 166 to 158), with the increasingly fractured political landscape and the declining fortunes of Fine Gael and Labour creating an opportunity space for Fianna Fail seat gains (or, rather, regains).

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 point to remember here is that 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 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.

The constituency support estimates based on the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (26th October 2014), when using the new constituency units (as to be used at the next general election), are as follows:

Constituency FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 31% 31% 7% 20% 11%
Cavan-Monaghan 17% 25% 2% 45% 11%
Clare 23% 32% 6% 7% 32%
Cork East 20% 32% 15% 25% 8%
Cork North Central 16% 20% 11% 28% 25%
Cork North West 28% 40% 7% 16% 8%
Cork South Central 31% 27% 9% 17% 17%
Cork South West 27% 40% 7% 16% 10%
Donegal 17% 15% 3% 45% 21%
Dublin Central 15% 14% 12% 24% 35%
Dublin Mid West 13% 25% 14% 25% 24%
Dublin Fingal 16% 22% 12% 5% 44%
Dublin Bay North 12% 20% 10% 17% 42%
Dublin North West 11% 11% 11% 38% 28%
Dublin Rathdown 9% 21% 7% 5% 58%
Dublin South Central 10% 16% 16% 29% 29%
Dublin Bay South 6% 19% 10% 15% 50%
Dublin South West 11% 22% 14% 26% 27%
Dublin West 18% 22% 13% 13% 34%
Dun Laoghaire 17% 29% 14% 5% 36%
Galway East 22% 33% 5% 10% 30%
Galway West 19% 21% 5% 11% 44%
Kerry County 11% 24% 7% 21% 38%
Kildare North 16% 28% 14% 12% 29%
Kildare South 25% 29% 13% 13% 20%
Laois 30% 28% 5% 27% 9%
Offaly 24% 19% 2% 11% 43%
Limerick City 25% 35% 10% 17% 14%
Limerick 23% 44% 8% 8% 17%
Longford-Westmeath 22% 31% 11% 16% 19%
Louth 15% 22% 8% 39% 17%
Mayo 19% 52% 2% 14% 13%
Meath East 22% 33% 10% 19% 16%
Meath West 25% 33% 3% 32% 7%
Roscommon-Galway 13% 21% 4% 10% 52%
Sligo-Leitrim 21% 24% 3% 31% 21%
Tipperary 14% 20% 6% 10% 49%
Waterford 14% 29% 8% 19% 30%
Wexford 20% 27% 9% 12% 32%
Wicklow 10% 23% 6% 18% 43%

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:

Constituency 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 2 0 1 0
Cork North Central 1 1 0 1 1
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 1 1 0 1 1
Cork South West 1 2 0 0 0
Donegal 1 1 0 2 1
Dublin Central 0 0 0 1 2
Dublin Mid West 0 1 1 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 1 0 0 3
Dublin Bay North 0 1 0 1 3
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 0 3
Dublin South West 0 1 1 1 2
Dublin West 1 1 0 0 2
Dun Laoghaire 0 2 0 0 2
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 1 1 0 0 2
Kerry County 0 1 0 1 3
Kildare North 1 1 0 0 2
Kildare South 1 1 0 0 1
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 0 0 0 2
Limerick City 1 2 0 1 0
Limerick 1 2 0 0 0
Longford-Westmeath 1 1 0 1 1
Louth 1 1 0 2 1
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 0 1 0 1 2
Wexford 1 2 0 0 2
Wicklow 0 1 0 1 3
STATE 28 48 3 26 52

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:

Constituency 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 1 0 2 1
Dublin Central 0 0 0 1 2
Dublin Mid West 0 1 1 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 0 1 1 2 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 1 0 0 3
Kerry County 1 1 0 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 0 1
Kildare South 1 1 0 0 1
Laois 1 1 0 1 0
Offaly 1 0 0 0 2
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 1 0 1 3
STATE 33 48 7 29 41
% Seats 20.9 30.4 4.4 18.4 25.9

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 55 seats) would some distance short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats) while a potential Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail alliance (combined seat level of 62 seats) would come just slightly closer to this 79 seat target.  A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would also fail to amass a sufficient number of seats (combined seat level of 77 seats) to command a majority in Dail Eireann, although it would come very close to doing so, but such an alliance looks to be unlikely in the present political climate in any course. Based on these numbers, a potential Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition government would be the only alliance capable of mustering enough seats to form a two-party coalition without needing the support of a number of other Dail deputies (with a combined seat level of 81 seats). Two-party coalitions are proving to be very difficult prospects in this analysis due to the strength of the Independents and Others grouping in this polls – and indeed other recent polls – meaning that the support of a number of members of this grouping would be required to support most potential alliances, with the sole exception of a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance.

On these seat estimates, the next Dail could look something like this:

Carlow-Kilkenny: John McGuinness FF, Jennifer Murnane O’Connor FF, John Paul Phelan FG, Pat Deering FG, Kathleen Funchion SF

Cavan-Monaghan: Brendan Smith FF, Heather Humphries FG, Caoimghin O Caolan SF, Kathryn Reilly SF

Clare: Timmy Dooley FF, Pat Breen FG, Joe Carey FG,  James Breen IND

Cork East: Kevin O’Keeffe FF, David Stanton FG, Sean Sherlock LAB, Sandra McLellan SF

Cork North Central: Billy Kelleher FF, Dara Murphy FG, Jonathan O’Brien SF, Mick Barry SP

Cork North West: Michael Moynihan FF, Michael Creed FG, Aine Collins FG

Cork South Central: Micheal Martin FF, Michael McGrath FF, Simon Coveney FG, Chris O’Leary SF

Cork South West: Joe Carroll FF, Jim Daly FG, Noel Harrington FG

Donegal: Charlie McConalogue FF, Joe McHugh FG, Pearse Doherty SF, Padraig MacLochlainn SF, Thomas Pringle IND

Dublin Central: Mary Lou McDonald SF, Maureen O’Sullivan IND, Cieran Perry IND

Dublin Mid West: Frances Fitzgerald FG, Joanna Tuffy LAB, Eoin O’Broin SF, Gino Kenny PBPA

Dublin Fingal: Darragh O’Brien FF, James Reilly FG, Brendan Ryan LAB, David Healy GP, Clare Daly UL

Dublin Bay North: Averil Power FF, Richard Bruton FG, Larry O’Toole SF, Finian McGrath IND, Tommy Broughan IND

Dublin North West: Dessie Ellis SF, Emma Murphy SF, Roisin Shortall IND

Dublin Rathdown: Olivia Mitchell FG, Shane Ross IND, Deirdre Donnelly IND

Dublin South Central: Catherine Byrne FG, Eric Byrne LAB, Aengus O Snodaigh SF, Joan Collins UL

Dublin Bay South: Eoghan Murphy FG, Chris Andrews SF, Lucinda Creighton IND, Mannix Flynn IND

Dublin South West: Cait Keane FG, Pat Rabbitte LAB, Sean Crowe SF, Cathal King SF, Paul Murphy SP

Dublin West: David McGuinness FF, Leo Varadkar FG, Joan Burton LAB, Ruth Coppinger SP

Dun Laoghaire: Jennifer Cuffe FF, Sean Barrett FG, Mary Mitchell O’Connor FG, Richard Boyd Barrett PBP

Galway East: Michael Kitt FF, Paul Connaughton FG, Sean Canney IND

Galway West: Eamonn O Cuiv FF, Brian Walsh FG, Noel Grealish IND, Catherine Connolly IND, Seosamh O Cualain IND 

Kerry: Norma Foley FF, Jimmy Deenihan FG, Martin Ferris SF, Michael Healy Rae IND, Tom Fleming IND

Kildare North: Frank O’Rourke FF, Bernard Durkin FG, Emmet Stagg LAB, Catherine Murphy IND

Kildare South: Sean O Fearghaill FF, Martin Heydon FG, Paddy Kennedy IND

Laois: Sean Fleming FF, Charlie Flanagan FG, Brian Stanley SF

Offaly: Barry Cowen FF, John Foley IND, John Leahy IND

Limerick City: Willie O’Dea FF, Michael Noonan FG, Kieran O’Donnell FG, Maurice Quinlivan SF

Limerick: Niall Collins FF, Dan Neville FG, Patrick O’Donovan FG

Longford-Westmeath: Robert Troy FF, James Bannon FG, Gabrielle McFadden FG, Paul Hogan SF

Louth: Liam Reilly FF, Fergus O’Dowd FG, Gerry Adams SF, Imelda Munster SF, Tomas Sharkey SF

Mayo: Dara Calleary FF, Enda Kenny FG, Michael Ring FG, Michelle Mulherin FG

Meath East: Thomas Byrne FF, Regina Doherty FG, Darren O’Rourke SF

Meath West: Shane Cassells FF, Damien English FG, Peadar Toibin SF

Roscommon-Galway: Frank Feighan FG, Denis Naughten IND, Michael Fitzmaurice IND

Sligo-Leitrim: Eamon Scanlon FF, John Perry FG, Michael Colreavy SF, Margaret Gormley IND

Tipperary: Michael Smith FF, Tom Hayes FG, Michael Lowry IND, Mattie McGrath IND, Seamus Healy WUAG

Waterford: Adam Wyse FF, John Deasy FG, David Cullinane SF, John Halligan IND

Wexford: John Browne FF, Liam Twomey FG, Paul Kehoe FG, Mick Wallace IND, Mary Farrell IND

Wicklow: Andrew Doyle FG, John Brady SF, Stephen Donnelly IND, Billy Timmins IND, Joe Behan IND

NB: This is by no means a scientific list! The inclusion, or non-inclusion, of people on this list by no means indicates that I think they would be the ones to take a party seat/nomination at the next general election – I am merely including some of the “likelier suspects” based on recent elections.  Sitting TDs (and the strongest of these, in 2011 General Election first preference vote terms) tend to be favoured when compiling this list. Where a TD has formally announced that they will not be contesting the next general election, they will not be included on this list, e.g. Joe Higgins (SP, Dublin West). In cases where there is no sitting TD, City/County Councillors and/or Senators (or recent local/general election candidates) will tend to be included here (and I will “try” to alternate between potential candidates up to a point in time when parties have actually finalised their candidate selections for specific constituencies). In short, where’s there’s no sitting TD or obvious candidate (i.e. someone who narrowly missed out on a seat in 2011 and followed this up with a strong performance in the May 2014 elections or election to the Seanad) I assign the “party” or “independent” seat by picking from the ranks of “likely suspects” based on most recent local election/general election results and “try” to alternate between these in different posts…

Given the improved support levels for Sinn Fein relative to the 2011 General Election, the seat estimates based on these constituency-level analyses suggest a significant improvement in that party’s seat levels relative to those won by the party at 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. While Fianna Fail support levels in this poll are seen to be only marginally higher than their 2011 support levels, the favourable changes made (in their perspective) in the 2012 Constituency Commssion report, in addition to the impact of the loss of support for the government parties, means that they would be winning ten, or more, extra seats if these support levels were to be replicated at the next general election. The same very applies very much 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 a significant number of 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 at least 16 of the 30 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.)


About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email:
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3 Responses to Independents Day again: Constituency-level analysis of the Sunday Business Post-Red C opinion poll (26th October 2014)

  1. Ciaran says:

    Adrian, you have 2 named SF candidates winning seats in Dublin Mid-West ie Eoin O’Brien and Danny O’Brien but in the number of seats won in the area you have FG 1, lab1, SF1 and others 1. Is this Danny O’Brian a typo or do you believe SF will take 2 seats?
    I’m know of one Independent candidate who will be running but I will let them annouce it!

  2. Pingback: Who wants to put together a government in 2015/16? Harder than it was two weeks ago… | The Cedar Lounge Revolution

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