Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI exit poll (26th February) – quick overview

Adrian Kavanagh, 26th February 2016

The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI exit poll was published literally within an hour of polls closing

These figures suggest that support levels for both government parties have fallen by nearly ten percent relative to their 2011 figures. Both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein make gains, although the extent of Sinn Fein gains may be relatively disappointing for that party given the support it enjoyed in most opinion polls across 2014 and 2015 and indeed up to the final week of the February 2016 General Election campaign.

The extent of Fine Gael losses may actually help Labour to hold more of its seat than might have been expected in recent analyses, indeed over and above the seat estimates outlined below, as Labour candidate may now be able to benefit from Fine Gael eliminations/transfers in a number of constituencies.

Fianna Fail are likely to be competitive in most constituencies. If the swing to the party is mirrored, or even stronger, in Dublin, they may well be in contention in some constituencies that seemed to be long shots for most of the campaign, including Dublin Central. But the swing to the party may also result in massive surpluses in constituencies where the party ran just one candidate, such as Laois, Limerick or Limerick City.

My initial run of the model estimates seat levels by party/grouping, based on a constituency level analysis of the exit poll as follows:

Fine Gael 47, Independents and Others 42, Fianna Fail 38, Sinn Fein 23, Labour Party 8

  • Labour, however, on these numbers have a good chance of winning a few extra seats, mainly because the drop in Fine Gael support opens up the possibility of winning more Fine Gael transfers. On these poll numbers, Labour with a bit of luck could win 12 seats
  • I accidentally allocated Fianna Fail two seats in Limerick City last night when I first ran this model, so numbers here have been amended. This indicates a potential trend in which Fianna Fail could have huge surpluses in constituencies where they have not run enough candidates.

If the fact that the Independents and Others support levels is being split across 307 candidates proves to be a significant issue here (I try to control for this, but…), or the fact that this grouping is a very wide and varied one (with transfers between candidates not likely to be as strong as intra-party transfers), the seat numbers for them may not be as large as estimated here. Against that, candidates from this grouping may well be better placed to win transfers from the political parties, whose supporters may be more willing to transfers to independents and smaller parties than to the other large parties.

My model was relatively close in relation to estimating seat levels by party/grouping on the exit poll for the 2011 election (coming within 3 seats, or less, of actual figures for all parties) . This may well not pan out this time, given the complications added by the boundary changes, as well as the growing strength (and sheer diversity within) the Independents and Others grouping.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
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