Sinn Fein and the Government Parties make gains: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (26th March 2015)

Adrian Kavanagh, 26th March 2015 

Nearly two weeks after the last series of Red CMillward Brown and Behaviour & Attitudes opinion polls, the first Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll of 2015 continues the trend of improving fortunes for the government parties, although the combined level of support being commanded by Fine Gael and Labour is some percentage points lower than that recorded by these parties in the Red C and Behaviour & Attitudes polls. This new poll offers more good news for Sinn Fein while support levels for Independents and Others remains strong, despite falling somewhat. Fianna Fail will be concerned about their continued low levels of support in this opinion poll and other recent polls, especially as this Ipsos MRBI poll points to a notable drop in support levels for that party since the last such poll in late 2014. This Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll estimates party support levels as follows (and relative to the previous such Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll): Independents and Others 28% (down 4%), Fine Gael 24% (up 5%), Sinn Fein 24% (up 2%), Fianna Fail 17% (down 1%), Labour Party 7% (up 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: Fianna Fail 28, Fine Gael 46, Sinn Fein 40, Labour Party 4, Independents and Others 40. 

Although their combined support levels drop by four percentage points, this poll marks another strong showing by the Independents and Others grouping, even though their support level has fallen by two percentage points. It is worth noting that seat levels for the Independents grouping can be notably harder to glean than would be the case for the larger political parties. First of all, opinion polls usually measure support for Independents and Others and not just Independent candidates. A number of smaller parties and alliances, including Renua Ireland, the Anti-Austerity Alliance/Socialist Party and People Before Profit Alliance – as well as the Green Party in the case of some opinion polls – are included within this very large and diverse grouping. The nature of this grouping means that support levels do not usually translate as neatly into seat gains as would be the case with parties such as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Vote transfer levels across this grouping will generally not prove to be as strong as the extent of intra-party vote transfer levels enjoyed by the larger political parties, who in turn often enjoy a “seat bonus” at most general election contests. Votes for Independents located in the centre-right of the political spectrum (such as the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael “gene pool” independents or people such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly) are probably more likely to be transferred to the two main parties (or else be shaped by local candidate factors) than they are to go to left-leaning independent candidates. In a similar vein, Renua Ireland and the centre-right independents are probably less likely to draw large numbers of vote transfers from left-wing independents than candidates from Sinn Féin, the People Before Profit Alliance or Socialist Party are. Furthermore, votes won by the Independents and Others grouping tend to be shared across a larger number of candidates than would be the case with the larger political parties, with a significant number of these candidates also having little or no chance of winning seats. For instance, candidates from the Independents and Others grouping won 20.4% of the vote in Laois-Offaly at the 2011 General Election, but, with this constituency being contested by eleven candidates from this grouping, none of these went on to win a seat here. (By contrast, Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley won a seat there with 10.8% of the vote.) At this year’s local elections, 583 independent candidates and 139 candidates from the “Others” (smaller parties/alliances) grouping combined to win 26.6% of the national vote, emerging as the largest political grouping in terms of vote share. But, with this vote being divided up between a much larger number of candidates than Fine Gael (468) and especially Fianna Fáil (415), this grouping accounted for a smaller number of Council seats (225) than the number won by Fianna Fáil (267) or Fine Gael (235).

The main issue when it comes to sustaining current support levels for the Independents and Others grouping into the next general election relates to how the electorate tends to become increasingly focused on the composition of the next government in the months leading up to this contest. The precedent in recent electoral contests shows that significant changes in public opinion can occur in the months leading up to a general election. In the past, such changing support trends have often seen this grouping becoming increasingly marginalised, or “squeezed out”, the closer one gets to polling day, especially when election contests are perceived to be close, as was the case with the 2007 General Election. However, the Independents and Others grouping includes a number of alliances or groupings that could possibly command five, or more, seats in Dáil Eireann after the next election. Such alliances/groupings could be in a position to play a significant role within the next government. Falling into this category on the left of the political spectrum would be the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit Alliance. By contrast, Renua Ireland would also be well placed to challenge for similarly high seat levels, while another key player here, of course, will be the proposed new alliance of independents, involving Shane Ross, John Halligan, Michael Fitzmaurice, Finian McGrath and others. If these groupings can portray themselves as groupings that could be potentially strong actors within the next government, then they are less like to get “squeezed out” in the run up to the next election when decisions as regards government formation weigh heavier on political choice.

Looking at Renua Ireland, in particular, on these figures (again, allowing for the different provisos involved with the Independents and Others grouping, as noted above) the new party would seem to be very well placed to win seats in Dublin Bay South (Lucinda Creighton), Offaly (John Leahy) and Wicklow (Billy Timmins) and would be strongly placed to challenge for seats in Dublin Bay North (Terence Flanagan) and Dublin South-West (Ronan McMahon), as well as Cork East (Paul Bradford). Given the level of new candidates that will be run by this party, further potential seats gains for Renua Ireland would be more difficult to pin down in this analysis, given the nature of the model being used.

This poll marks a very strong showing in this poll by Sinn Fein and on the basis of these support levels the party would be not only gaining the “low hanging fruit” – those constituencies where the party would only need a swing of a few percent to make gains in – but also gaining the fruit located higher up the tree! The main concern for Sinn Fein must focus on the need to maintain these support levels in the remaining months up to the next general election. But the party also faces concerns that Sinn Fein support levels measured in opinion polls does not convert neatly into similar support levels in actual electoral contests, as evidenced in the City and County Council elections of May 2014 where the national average support level for Sinn Fein was a few percent lower than that registered in opinion polls around the time of those contests. The remaining evidence of transfer toxicity also poses concerns for Sinn Fein and the fact that Sinn Fein candidates can struggle to win vote transfers off candidates from other political groupings could prove costly in tight electoral contests, as evidenced in the Dublin West and Dublin South-West by-elections of 2014. That said, if Sinn Fein were to win 24% nationally in the next general election, the party would probably be in a position where they would not be requiring transfers in order to win seats in a number of their target constituencies, as suggested in this analysis. As Sinn Fein did not contest some constituencies in 2011 (e.g. Clare, Dublin North, Dun Laoghaire, Kerry South, Limerick (County)), the estimates for these constituencies (or their “successor constituencies”, as in the case of Dublin Fingal and Kerry County) are undoubtedly under-estimated here. Indeed the results in these areas in the May local elections suggest Sinn Fein are probably in a much stronger position in these areas than would be suggested by the results of this analysis, as would notably be the case with the Limerick County and Dublin Fingal constituencies.

Fianna Fail support levels in this poll are actually at the same level of support 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 has not yet won 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 May 2015 than would have been the case with the six previous contests. Furthermore, 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. Vote transfer patterns of course cannot be accounted for in the constituency support estimate figures, but I do try to control for these somewhat in my set of amended seat allocations.

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 Early 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 case of Anne Ferris (Labour, Wicklow), as was also the procedure with the earlier cases of Brian 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 Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll (26th March 2015), 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 29% 29% 7% 24% 11%
Cavan-Monaghan 15% 22% 2% 51% 10%
Clare 22% 31% 6% 9% 33%
Cork East 19% 29% 14% 30% 8%
Cork North Central 15% 18% 9% 33% 25%
Cork North West 28% 38% 6% 20% 8%
Cork South Central 30% 25% 8% 21% 17%
Cork South West 26% 38% 6% 19% 11%
Donegal 15% 13% 2% 50% 20%
Dublin Central 14% 13% 10% 29% 34%
Dublin Mid West 12% 23% 12% 29% 23%
Dublin Fingal 16% 21% 10% 7% 46%
Dublin Bay North 11% 18% 8% 20% 42%
Dublin North West 10% 10% 9% 44% 27%
Dublin Rathdown 9% 19% 6% 6% 60%
Dublin South Central 9% 15% 14% 34% 29%
Dublin Bay South 6% 18% 9% 18% 50%
Dublin South West 10% 20% 12% 30% 27%
Dublin West 18% 20% 12% 15% 35%
Dun Laoghaire 16% 28% 12% 6% 38%
Galway East 22% 31% 4% 12% 31%
Galway West 18% 20% 4% 13% 44%
Kerry County 11% 22% 6% 24% 37%
Kildare North 16% 26% 13% 15% 30%
Kildare South 24% 27% 12% 17% 20%
Laois 28% 26% 5% 33% 9%
Offaly 23% 18% 2% 14% 44%
Limerick City 24% 33% 9% 20% 14%
Limerick 22% 43% 7% 10% 18%
Longford-Westmeath 21% 30% 10% 20% 20%
Louth 13% 19% 6% 45% 16%
Mayo 18% 49% 2% 17% 13%
Meath East 21% 31% 9% 23% 16%
Meath West 23% 30% 2% 38% 7%
Roscommon-Galway 12% 20% 4% 12% 52%
Sligo-Leitrim 19% 22% 3% 36% 20%
Tipperary 14% 19% 6% 12% 50%
Waterford 14% 26% 7% 23% 30%
Wexford 19% 25% 8% 14% 33%
Wicklow 9% 21% 5% 21% 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 1 0 2 0
Cork North Central 0 1 0 2 1
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 1 0 1 0
Donegal 1 0 0 3 1
Dublin Central 0 0 0 1 2
Dublin Mid West 0 1 0 2 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 0 2 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
Dublin South West 0 1 0 2 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 3
Kerry County 0 1 0 1 3
Kildare North 1 1 0 1 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 1 0 1 1
Louth 0 1 0 3 1
Mayo 1 2 0 1 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 27 44 0 37 50

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 0 1 0 2 1
Cork North West 1 2 0 0 0
Cork South Central 2 1 0 1 0
Cork South West 1 1 0 1 0
Donegal 1 1 0 3 0
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 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 0 2 1
Dublin Bay South 0 1 0 1 2
Dublin South West 0 1 1 2 1
Dublin West 1 1 0 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 0 2 0 0 2
Galway East 1 1 0 0 1
Galway West 1 1 0 1 2
Kerry County 0 1 0 1 3
Kildare North 1 1 0 1 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 2 0 1 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 1 2
Waterford 0 2 0 1 1
Wexford 1 1 0 1 2
Wicklow 0 1 0 1 3
STATE 28 46 4 40 40
% Seats 17.7 29.1 2.5 25.3 25.3

Based on these seat estimates, a Fine Gael-Labour (combined seat level of 50 seats) would be a good distance short of the number of seats required to form a government (79 seats). However, it is worth noting that an agreed transfer pact between these parties could well ensure that their combined seat levels would be some degree in excess of this 50-seat level – especially if the support levels for Opposition parties and candidates in different constituencies proved to be especially fractured across a number of different parties and independent candidates. For instance, on these figures, favourable transfer patterns (and a splitting of the non-Fine Gael/Labour vote across a big number of different candidates) would see Labour also being well in contention to pick up seats in Cork North-Central, Dublin Bay North, Dublin West, Dublin South-Central, Dublin Bay South, Dun Laoghaire, Kildare North, Kildare South, Longford-Westmeath and Wexford. A potential Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail alliance (combined seat level of 68 seats) would fall some distance closer to this 79-seat target, but the difference in seat allocations between Fine Gael-Labour and Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein in this analysis is much narrower than had been the case for most poll analyses in the latter hald of 2014.  A Fine Gael and Sinn Fein pairing would, on these estimates, comfortably muster a sufficient number of seats to form a government (combined seat level of 86 seats), but such an alliance looks highly unlikely in the present political climate. A potential Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance would fall some seats short of the number required to form a two-party coalition government without needing the support of at least five other Dail deputies (with a combined seat level of 74 seats). Two-party coalitions are proving to be difficult to form in this analysis (as with most of the poll analyses that have been carried out since Summer 2o14) due to the very strong support levels for the Independents and Others grouping that is evident in this poll.

Given the dramatically 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 at the same level as 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 roughly 8-10 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 24 of the 40 seats being assigned to this grouping with this Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll.

On the basis of this analysis, the next Dail could look something like this:

Carlow-Kilkenny: John McGuinness FF, Bobby Aylward FF, John Paul Phelan FG, Pat Deering FG, Kathleen Funchion SF

Cavan-Monaghan: Brendan Smith FF, Heather Humphries FG, Caoimhghin O Caolain SF, Kathryn Reilly SF

ClareTimmy 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: Dara Murphy FG, Jonathan O’Brien SF, Thomas Gould SF, Mick Barry SP/AAA

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

Cork South-Central: Micheal Martin FF, Michael McGrath FF, Simon Coveney FG, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire SF

Cork South-West: Margaret Murphy O’Mahony FF, Jim Daly FG, Rachel McCarthy SF

Donegal: Charlie McConalogue FF, Joe McHugh FG, Pearse Doherty SF, Padraig MacLochlainn SF, Gary Doherty SF

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, Joe O’Brien GP, Clare Daly UL

Dublin Bay North: Richard Bruton FG, Denise Mitchell SF, Tommy Broughan IND, Finian McGrath IND, Terence Flanagan RI

Dublin North-West: Dessie Ellis SF, Cathleen Carney SF, Roisin Shortall IND

Dublin Rathdown: Olivia Mitchell FG, Shane Ross IND, Catherine Martin GP

Dublin South-Central: Catherine Byrne FG, Aengus O’Snodaigh SF, Criona Ni Dhalaigh SF, Joan Collins UL,

Dublin Bay South: Eoghan Murphy FG, Chris Andrews SF, Eamon Ryan GP, Lucinda Creighton RI

Dublin South-West: Cait Keane FG, Pat Rabbitte LAB, Sean Crowe SF, Sarah Holland SF, Paul Murphy SP/AAA

Dublin West: Jack Chambers FF, Leo Varadkar FG, Paul Donnellly SG, Ruth Coppinger SP/AAA

Dun Laoghaire: Sean Barrett FG*, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor FG, Richard Boyd-Barrett PBPA, Melissa Halpin PBPA

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

Galway West: Eamon O Cuiv FF, Brian Walsh FG, Trevor O Clochartaigh SF, Noel Grealish IND, Catherine Connolly IND

Kerry: Jimmy Deenihan FG, Martin Ferris SF, Michael Healy Rae IND, Tom Fleming IND, Michael Gleeson SKIA

Kildare North: James Lawless FF, Bernard Durkan FG, Reada Cronin SF, Catherine Murphy IND

Kildare South: Sean O Fearghaill FF, Martin Heydon FG, Joanne Pender IND

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayo: Dara Calleary FF, Enda Kenny FG, Michael Ring FG, Rose Conway-Walsh SF

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

Meath West: Ronan McKenna 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, Martin Kenny SF, Chris McManus SF

Tipperary: Michael Smith FF, Tom Hayes FG, Seamus Morris SF, Michael Lowry IND, Mattie McGrath IND

Waterford: John Deasy FG, Paudie Coffey FG, David Cullinane SF, John Halligan IND

Wexford: John Browne FF, Paul Kehoe FG, Johnny Mythen SF, Mick Wallace IND, Ger Carthy IND

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

The seat level estimates in all of the recent poll analyses for the Labour Party have been stark (highlighting the fact that the PR-STV system is proportional, but only to a limited extent), although this Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll does offer somewhat better news for that party. 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 most recent polls. The further the party falls below this ten percent level, the more problems Labour faces in terms of winning seats. 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:
This entry was posted in opinion polls and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sinn Fein and the Government Parties make gains: Constituency-level analysis of the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (26th March 2015)

  1. Pingback: Projections after the latest poll | The Cedar Lounge Revolution

  2. CMK says:

    Adrian, SF are only running two candidates in Louth: Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster.

    • I know that Sinn Fein have selected the two candidates at their conventions, but parties can add extra candidates after these are held and it’s quite possible/probable that Sinn Fein could add a third candidate here, especially if their poll ratings remain as high as in this poll

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