Irish Election Update

Well. Life goes on, and so does the Irish General Election campaign. A week today I’ll be casting my vote. Sinn Féin seem the most energized by the events of the last week, even to the extent that their posters have been going up around Maynooth. The one above, showing leader Mary Lou McDonald, is on my way into work (the North Campus of Maynooth University is on the other side of the road, beyond the trees).

Since last week’s update there have been other opinion polls (by the Sunday Times/Panel base and Red C), which I’ve added to the previous ones here:

  • Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitude: FF 32%; FG 20%; SF 19%
  • Irish Times/IPSOS-MRBI: FF 25%; FG 21%; SF 21%
  • BusinessPost/Red C: FF 26%; FG 23%; SF 19%
  • Daily Mail/Ireland Elects: FF 27%; FG 22%; SF 22%
  • Sunday Times/Panelbase: FF 23%; SF 21%; FG 19%
  • Business Post/Red C: FF 24%; SF 24%: FG 21%.

The latest polls (like the others) are based on a small sample (1000) so has a large marging of error (around 3%) and is based on online responses and an uncertain methodology which may create a systematic bias. Those caveats aside, however, they seems to be telling the same story as the others: decline for Fine Gael and a relatively strong showing for Sinn Féin who are up 7% and 5% on the previous Panelbase and Red C numbers, respectively.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sinn Féin end up with a share of the first preference votes around 25%. If that is the case they’ll probably wish they had stood more candidates, which they will probably do next time if they perform strongly in the actual election. They did poorly in the European Elections last year, which probably explains their rather defensive strategy. On the other hand if Fianna Fáil really are polling in the low twenties they may regret standing so many candidates, as their vote may end up splitting so that none reach the quota.

It will be very interesting to see how this all pans out. I find it very hard to predict what kind of Government Ireland will end up with, but I’m willing to bet that Leo Varadkar won’t be leading it.

6 Responses to “Irish Election Update”

  1. jonivar skullerud Says:

    Because the way the voting system works in Ireland you may split your party vote between the candidates and fail to get any elected if you stand too many. This is because the voting is for people (in order of preference), not parties, and many voters base their preferences on other matters than party affiliation so their vote may not transfer to other candidates from the same party. Many voters also number just a few (or even one) preference so their vote may eventually go to waste.

    It is an interesting contrast to Australia, which also uses the Single Transferrable Vote system, but where for various reason (the main one probably being compulsory numbering of all preferences) the parties exert a much stronger control on the flow of preferences and as a result parties always stand (more than) enough candidates.

    Regarding the first part of the statement above, Sinn Féin nearly always does worse in the actuall vote than in opinion polls, because their working class supporters are less likely to come out and vote. If Ireland had compulsory voting (like Australia) Sinn Féin would have a considerably higher representation.

  2. telescoper Says:

    They have 46 candidates. One each constituency plus an extra in a few. There a 40 constituencies, with an average of four TDs in each. Currently SF has 22. They have stood enough candidates to increase that substantially but there may be a few other seats where they might have run a second. For what it’s worth I think they will in the end get around 30.

    • telescoper Says:

      An interesting follow-up question concerns those who put SF as first preference: who do they rank next? The opinion polls cannot capture this, but in the case of a SF surplus these might be very significant.

      I’d guess People Before Profit and the Green Party would be the main beneficiaries.

    • jonivar skullerud Says:

      You need 25% of the vote to get a seat in a 3-seat constituency, 20% in a 4-seater and 16.7% in a 5-seater. To get two seats in a 5-seater you need 33%. If the Sinn Féin vote were spread evenly they would get a seat in every constituency but would not get a second anywhere without significant transfers. As it is, they will probably get a second seat in Donegal (they missed out to ex-Sinn Féin independent Thomas Pringle last time) and have a good chance in Cavan-Monaghan. They will struggle to keep the two they have in Louth since much of that was a personal vote for Gerry Adams.

      Traditionally Sinn Féin have got very few transfers from others and have lost out to trotskist candidates on several occasions since the trotskists were considered more palatable. This will probably change in this election but remains a big unknown.

      A lot of Sinn Féin voters have traditionally been “plumpers” who do not put down any second preferences. That apart, we will probably see preferences going to PBP, to independents of various kinds and probably to Fianna Fáil ahead of the Greens and SocDems.

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