Sinn Fein dropping, SDLP holding ground…

El Blogador has some interesting figures from the Hearts and Minds poll that show the overall nationalist support going down. His own party, the SDLP is currently holding its own, but it shows Sinn Fein down by about 4 points.

The figures overall from 2005 were thus:

Sinn Féin: 24.32%

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): 17.51%.

This reveals that there has been a drop in the overall nationalist vote, with SF falling by four percentage points and the SDLP by roughly three-quarters of a percentage point. While the SF drop is of course good news for the SDLP (and possibly due to republican disillusionment with SF’s semi-commitment to policing), the SDLP is still not recapturing the votes it lost to Sinn Féin. However, the potential of SF suffering from ‘Stay At Home Syndrome’ similar to that endured by the SDLP, may indeed benefit the latter.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick

    To be blunt, that says more about the credibility of the poll than anything else.

    The history of polling within the nationalist community is one of gross underestimation of the Sinn Fein vote, coupled with an inflation of the SDLP vote.

    That the poll shows a drop in 4% support for combined nationalist parties simply means that the pollsters have not interviewed a sufficient number of nationalists, rather than indicating a surge in catholic support for unionist parties.

    I have yet to meet a person within nationalist political circles who actually gets excited by polls gauging party support in the north; Republicans are rightly sceptical, given the record of pollsters on Sinn Fein, and the SDLP apparatchiks I know have been burnt on too many occasions to take these polls seriously.

    As an illustration, if you look in last week’s papers, the Independent out of Dublin actually carried a story suggesting NIO private polling was showing support for Sinn Fein had plummeted and that the SDLP was surging ahead within nationalism.

    Needless to say, the story hardly merited comment and was buried within the paper. Even the Indo is learning…

    I will make this prediction though. Any new Assembly election, be it on the new electoral boundaries or old, will see Sinn Fein surge further ahead of the SDLP, both in electoral and seat terms.

    Whatever ‘bump’ Durkan may have seemed to get in the immediate aftermath of the 2005 elections, the past 12 months have been notable for the disappearance of the SDLP leadership from the public arena.

  • Blefescu

    I agree that the SDLP may only have stabilised its position rather than clawing back back support ftom SF or bringing out new support. A more interesting issue is why past polls have tended to underestimate support for both SF and DUP, the ‘problem parties’. My own view is that some people polled are embarrassed to acknowledge their support for DUP/SF-they know they’re being tribal and they don’t have the self-confidence to acknowledge their allegiance.

    Possibly significant in the long-term is that the ‘Hearts & Minds’ poll shows, for the first time I can remember, significant support for RSF/Continuity-3%+. It would be the sweetest of ironies if SF got nibbled away at by people even more tribal than them.

    Blefescu

  • seabhac siulach

    Is there not a difference between being asked which party best represents your views (as in the Hearts and Minds poll), and the stark choice that has to be made among the limited options (of parties) on polling day? This may explain the difference.

    Maybe not…

    But, if not, then the garden centres must also be filling up with nationalists…
    This poll may merely show a growing disillusionment with politics in nationalist circles and, in particular, among Sinn Fein voters. Sinn Fein or the SDLP may no longer be speaking for increasing percentages of nationalists…

  • sean

    “…The history of polling within the nationalist community is one of gross underestimation of the Sinn Fein vote, coupled with an inflation of the SDLP vote…”

    Predictable Shinner sycophancy. Chris conveniently forgets that whilst the Bhoys were abducting and murdering their fellow countrymen, the Shinners were the smallest nationalist party. There was no gross underestimation of the Shinner vote then.

  • seabhac siulach

    Speaking of which, Republican Sinn Fein are up to 5.9% among nationalist voters…clearly a haemorrhage from Provo Sinn Fein to a now more radical (or is that traditional) republican party…
    This may explain the drop in support for Provo Sinn Fein as Blefescu mentions. Worrying…

  • Chris-

    “The history of polling within the nationalist community is one of gross underestimation of the Sinn Fein vote, coupled with an inflation of the SDLP vote.”

    As I said to someone on the thread on my own site, I think that said underestimation will no longer be as apparent as SF becomes more ‘legitimised’, so I don’t think one can automatically add a few percent to opinion poll figures for SF as one would have done in the past.

    BTW, thanks for the mention, Mick.

  • derek

    The reality on the ground is that the SDLP don’t exist.

    You never see one apart from at election time.

    I would be totally amazed if the SDLP gained any ground on anyone.

    Its hard to win elections from your big house on the hill.

  • Mark

    The last time Hearts and Minds did a poll in 2002 the results in the following election gave a percentage exactly the same for the SDLP while SF experienced support 5.9% higher than that indicated in the previous H&M poll. (there was a big gap between the poll and the election but it is likely there will be a big gap between this poll and the next election).

    Even if El Mat’s hope of a reduction in under polling for SF comes about, a smaller under poll will still bring party growth while his own SDLP continues to tread water at best and he needs to remember even a small level of growth for SF starts to erode the number of SDLP representatives further, some are very vulnerable.

    I’m amazed at what gives SDLP members a confidence boost. I’d be depressed as the figures indicate his party will be losing yet more seats in any future Assembly election. But the SDLP seem to settle for so little at all levels.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sean

    Immediately before the 1982 Prior Assembly election, an opinion poll famously put support for Sinn Fein at below 2%. The party took 10% of the vote.

    Nuff said….

    El Mat
    gotta love your wishful thinking…

  • Mark

    Also, I think the under polling will continue. I don’t think it is due to any embarrassment factor from voters. The polling doesn’t reflect the level of work SF put in on the ground and the ability to get the vote out.

    As El Mat and every SDLP member will know SF have been engaged in a massive registration drive again, we have been out in the cold getting people signed up to vote while they’ve been in front of the television.

    We’ve been out engaging on the doorsteps again.

    We’ll be out again for longer, in bigger numbers before, during and after any election than they could ever dream of.

    We’ll put the work in, we’re getting voters registered, we’ll get them out to vote.

    Sinn Féin’s work on the ground will again be reflected in any future election. The SDLP will be left scratching their heads again and again all the polls will underestimate the level of support that actually gets out to vote for Sinn Fein on the day.

    (And I remember they thought that changes to voter registration they pushed for would stop Sinn Féin’s growth – that was another straw clutching exercise like this hope for a reduction in under polling and while they hope for a change in fortunes while still not bothering their arses to work on the ground, they’ll be sadly disappointed when the boxes are opened, again)

    Here’s some free advice for the SDLP – if you don’t do anything for people, if they never see you, if you don’t work for them, encourage them to register, call and ask for that vote you’ll get no change of fortunes. (I’m unconcerned about this advice being taken on board by the SDLP, they never change)

  • Chris-

    I don’t see where I have engaged in wishful thinking. Do you believe that SF’s election boost will be the same next time as it has been heretofore, in which case it would indicate that opinion poll respondents are still embarrassed to admit supporting the party? As I say, I don’t think the boost will be as big, as SF has become ‘legitimised’ in electoral political terms- if you wish to disagree, it’s no skin off my nose!

  • El Mat,

    c’mon now. You’ve read the comments on this very blog by unionists who claim that anyone who votes for Sinn Fein is a terrorist. These very same commentators have in other comments declared that it’s ok to kill terrorists. Put the two together and you can quite clearly see why people in NI would be loathe to declare their support for SF, over the phone to people claiming to be pollsters.

    The same thing applies to these polls on support for the union – you know that imaginary 20-25% of catholics that support the union but don’t vote unionist come election time.

  • Dexter

    Sean said;

    “Predictable Shinner sycophancy. Chris conveniently forgets that whilst the Bhoys were abducting and murdering their fellow countrymen, the Shinners were the smallest nationalist party. There was no gross underestimation of the Shinner vote then.”

    Im disgusted that Mick woould allow the reference to Celtic supporters (‘Bhoys’) to be used in such a crass and offensive manner. I am a Celtic supporter, but not an abductor or murderer or someone who would support or has supported such actions.

    This is the typr of crap that spews from sectarian elements of loyalism and I would be interested to know whether ‘Sean’ really is a ‘Sean’. Is so, I would appreciate, though dont expect, an apology.

  • Dexter

    I apologise…for the spelling errors above!

  • T.Osseur

    Is it possible that this may be due to a higher protestant birth rate and bigger pro -british families than that for catholics ?

  • Plum Duff

    Un moment mon ami, T.Osseur, or, should I say, Tosser, what, as my oul’ mucker Brendan Behan might have said, whaddafeck are y’on abou’?

  • BP1078

    Im disgusted that Mick woould allow the reference to Celtic supporters (’Bhoys’) to be used in such a crass and offensive manner

    It’s part and parcel of life on here Dexter, I’m afraid. NI supporters are regularly labelled as loyalist paramilitaries and a whole litany of unsubstantiated allegations have been made about us by cowards hiding under the anonymity that the internet provides. Mick lets it run (I think)because the vast majority of readers know that they’re crap and reflects more on the morons making them than their actual target.

    That the poll shows a drop in 4% support for combined nationalist parties simply means that the pollsters have not interviewed a sufficient number of nationalists, rather than indicating a surge in catholic support for unionist parties

    I’m still trying to get my head round that one. The poll shoes a 4% drop in the nationalist vote because they didn’t interview enough nationalists?? I take these kind of polls with a pinch of salt but it is just possible that just maybe there is a drop in support for the nationalist parties, is there some kind of unwritten law that says that this isn’t possible? Should the market research company keep interviewing people until Chris and Co are happy that it’s got enough nationalists in the sample?

    Also, it’s not a zero-sum game, so simply because the nationalist vote drops this doesn’t necessarily translate into an increase in Catholics voting for unionist parties. Just means more apathetic people surely?

  • DK

    The H&M poll shows that from a base of 43.8% Catholics and 56.2% protestants (there were no other religions or none, which makes the poll odd to begin with); the votes for Unionst parties take 53.6% while nationalist parties take 39.8% (the only 2 parties that I have assumed that are neither nationalist nor unionists are Alliance and the Greens)

    The figures rather suggest that 9% of Catholics and 5% of Protestants don’t vote nationalist or unionist respectively and that Alliance and Greens are getting these votes.

  • Maitiú Ó Garmaile

    These figures are not important. Any media figures relating to Sinn Féin electoral support are designed by their very nature to make it seem that support is lower than it really is.

    Look especially at the media coverage in the Republic which will try and convince the electorate that a Sinn Féin vote is wasted when in fact their support is rapidly growing.

    RTE and the southern papers were recently getting caught up in the hype of Independent Fianna Fáil merging with their daddy and McDaid possibly re-standing. They wouldnt give the slightest indication that SF could get seats in Donegal.

    The SDLP will never re-capture the ground loss to SF. Their credible vote-getters (Hume, Mallon and Rodgers) are gone. They are unacceptable to the vasy majority of new voters. They are a useful alternative but that’s it. It’s best for nationalism and unionism to have two parties to swing between but they’re unlikely to swing much.

    As for disident republicans having electoral support, that’s just silly. If they think burning out DIY and furniture stores is the route to a united Ireland, who could possibly X their box.

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “That the poll shows a drop in 4% support for combined nationalist parties simply means that the pollsters have not interviewed a sufficient number of nationalists,”

    Always wise to read the poll rather than the spin alone. El Blogador overlooked a key and interesting detail of the poll. Republic Sinn Fein and the 32 CSM scored 2.4% and 0.6% respectively. So the nationalist vote isn’t down by 4% but by 1%. The missing percentage points off Sinn Fein’s vote can be found in the dissident parties score.

    Considering the 1 in 5 Sinn Fein voters are implacably opposed to supporting the police 3% shifted and the 1% missing is not far off the amount who are disillusioned with Sinn Fein at the moment.

    Maybe those behind the failed Toome meeting were right in believeing there was some electoral scope especially if there is a concentration of disillusionment (although it could prove a transitory opportunity).

    As regards the SDLP’s small gain, unlike its Unionist equivalent the UUP, it has managed to pick its issues and give Sinn Fein a run for their money on them. Just as the Foyle result showed that they could make themselves competitive at a constituency level they have shown they can be competitive on the issues too.

    Also the no man’s land Sinn Fein put themselves in over policing was bound to have some impact if even small. The IRA stepped back from its attacks but there was little to replace it, CRJ schemes have not filled the gap or dealt with issues of crime and anti-social behaviour, ask the residents of Ballymurphy how well it can deliver?

    For the past 18 months people have been asking a question what can be done? The SDLP for the past 18mths or so have had an answer to offer while Sinn Fein have had no answer but “Hold on we’ll get it sorted when we get the never-ending negotiations finished”.

  • FD-

    “El Blogador overlooked a key and interesting detail of the poll. Republic Sinn Fein and the 32 CSM scored 2.4% and 0.6% respectively. So the nationalist vote isn’t down by 4% but by 1%. The missing percentage points off Sinn Fein’s vote can be found in the dissident parties score.”

    RSF and the 32 CSM do not stand in elections to Westminster/ Stormont, therefore in absolute terms the nationalist ‘vote’ according to this poll is down, as those who have switched their allegiances to the dissident parties cannot be counted by virtue of the fact that they cannot vote for them.

  • Chris Donnelly

    As regards the SDLP’s small gain, unlike its Unionist equivalent the UUP, it has managed to pick its issues and give Sinn Fein a run for their money on them. Just as the Foyle result showed that they could make themselves competitive at a constituency level they have shown they can be competitive on the issues too.

    FD
    Your efforts to spin for the SDLP are laudable, though not likely to convince many within nationalism.

    Please identify the issue in which the SDLP ‘gave’ Sinn Fein a run for their money? Apart from the OTR publicity, the SDLP haven’t really been seen or heard at leadership level for the greater part of this year.

    On policing, the nationalist community has repeatedly endorsed the Sinn Fein stance. Whatever moves are taken in the time ahead by republicans, it will be quite some time before nationalists in Ballymurphy and many other areas actually start trusting the PSNI.

    Which brings me to Foyle. The SDLP success in Foyle- and South Down- was a boost for that party in that it managed to use the adverse publicity surrounding Sinn Fein in the run up to the 2005 elections to hold off the Sinn Fein advances. Yet that was all that happened.

    Fresh elections in the New Year would see a much tighter battle for supremacy in Foyle, with the SDLP likely fighting to retain enough seats to even take two ministerial posts in any new Executive (assuming there remains 10 Ministers in the new Executive.)

    The unionist side of things is actually more interesting at this juncture. You have conceded that even a loyal DUP follower like yourself has failed to endorse the party leadership’s optimistic initial soundings on the St Andrews deal, and the rowing back by Dodds and now the DUP leadership in general from the proposals is an indication of the lengths the DUP has to go to get its followers ready for the future of partnership politics here.

    In such a scenario, it would appear that the DUP- as opposed to Sinn Fein, which has spent years conditioning its support base for the accompanying pains of political compromise- is the more vulnerable electorally, be it from unionists impatient with the party’s foot dragging (from the UUP) or with unionists incapable of accepting power-sharing and equality in the north (the electoral targets of Bob McCartney.)

  • slug

    Yawn, politicos being politicos.

    Turn off.

  • fair_deal

    CD

    Interesting you ignore the central point about the growth of the republican breakaways and its correlation with the level of disenchantment.

    “the nationalist community has repeatedly endorsed the Sinn Fein stance.”

    There hasn’t been an election since May 2005. All that I have speculated on and its potential (minor) impact on public opinion happened after that. So the ‘Look at the size of my mandate’ argument doesn’t fly.

    “Apart from the OTR publicity, the SDLP haven’t really been seen or heard at leadership level for the greater part of this year.”

    So the SDLP never did anything about the Restorative justice guidelines then?

    “The SDLP success in Foyle- and South Down- was a boost for that party in that it managed to use the adverse publicity surrounding Sinn Fein in the run up to the 2005 elections to hold off the Sinn Fein advances. Yet that was all that happened.”

    SF were aware of all that when they predicted sweeping victory and then they lost by almost 6000 votes in Foyle and 9000 votes in South Down.

    “You have conceded that even a loyal DUP follower like yourself has failed to endorse the party leadership’s optimistic initial soundings on the St Andrews deal, and the rowing back by Dodds and now the DUP leadership in general from the proposals is an indication of the lengths the DUP has to go to get its followers ready for the future of partnership politics here.”

    1. I am not a “follower” nor believe in blind loyalty to a political organisation. Try it some time it is very liberating.
    2. Sharing power isn’t my issue with St Andrew’s so the “No catholic about the place” crap doesn’t apply.
    3. Despite the scepticism about St Andrew’s there hasn’t been a drop of 4% in the DUP vote or any sign yet of growing support for the UKUP.
    4. Called an Ard Fheis yet?

    “which has spent years conditioning its support base for the accompanying pains of political compromise”

    Hmmm. Percentage of SF voters implacably opposed to the requirement of supporting the police – 18.2%. Percentage of DUP voters implacably opposed to sharing power 22.2%. So after all this “conditioning” SF have basically the same level of diehards as the DUP which spent little time doing so.

    El Matador

    They are still part of the nationalist % and they may very well run.

  • AManInAPub

    ‘3. Despite the scepticism about St Andrew’s there hasn’t been a drop of 4% in the DUP vote or any sign yet of growing support for the UKUP.’

    Correct, the drop is 3.1% with no rise for the UUP.

  • fair_deal

    Amaninthe pub

    The 2005 Council result is the better indicator of real party support. Westminster always has a bit of over-estimation of a party’s support because the personality factor counts for more in how people vote eg in North Belfast the DUP got 46% of the westminster vote but only 37% of the party vote

  • Glen Taisie

    Patsy McGlone id making big progress in Mid Ulster. Watch this space when the fisherman retires.

  • Maitiú Ó Garmaile

    McGlone will not make any progress in any forthcoming election. If there is an another election it would be more likely be SF 4 SDLP 1 DUP 1 seat. The SDLP are dead in East Tyrone and South Derry.

  • slug

    Here is Patsy McGlone’s website:

    Patsy McGlone

  • T.Ruth

    What does the relationship between percentage assessments of Unionist V Nationalist or Protestant V R.Catholic votes tell us for the future. When the population is 1.8 million will there be a huge numerical Protestant or Unionist majority? Do lots of R.catholics support the Union.
    T.Ruth

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Fair Deal

    Why won’t the DUP go out and debate the StAA in halls around the country?

    They claim to represent the interests of all unionists, so why don’t they have open meeetings that all unionists can attend and ask questions.

    Are they afraid McCartney will turn up and pose the questions for which he has been asking for answers.

    The questions are simple and straightforward (see todays Sunday Life) yet I fear the answers may not be what the DUP are spinning to the public……..so should I wait in anticipation.

    The overall answer seems to be that the GFA was a better deal for unionism than the StAA, unless the DUP are prepared to answer the questions clearly and unambiguously in public we won’t know…………….will they answer the questions?

  • fair_deal

    Frustrated Democrat

    I suggest you ask the DUP

  • Glen Taisie

    Maitiú ó garmaile

    McGlone will not make any progress in any forthcoming election.

    Patsy is already pulling his support base upwards and will be the fisherman’s successor.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair points made by Chris and Mark, though it has to be said that the H&M poll 2002 was a more reliable indicator of the 2003 election than the Millward Brown poll taken in the first week of the campaign.

    http://tinyurl.com/y26rgs

    Considering the enormous time lag between these polls, it is almost impossible to add weighting for the kind of considerations that affect respondents disclosure of their voting intentions. And I would guess that those considerations have changed somewhat since then.

    Even so my own working assumption (for what it is worth) is that there has been something approaching stasis from Nov 2002 until now within the Nationalist section of the Northern Irish polity. Last year Sinn Fein lost its forward momentum, and did not get the penetration of the middle class constituency that at least some of its supporters had been hoping for.

    But I see no signs that the SDLP has so far done anything other than consolidate ground it already has. It is certainly not (as El Mat originally readily conceded) taking back numbers of those who left it for SF.

    When it comes to a fight in March it is also hard to see where they can get gains, if things remain as they are. Indeed, it may be easier to spot SDLP seats that could be vulnerable in concerted push.

    Dex,

    I was away all weekend, so I didn’t see the offending remark. I’m not sure I would have intervened though, since boys (if not spelt bhoys) has long since been a euphemism for IRA volunteers. As someone else remarked, it is probably the least striking or memorable contribution to this threat since it is poor in content compared to others: particularly those I’ve mentioned above.

    Quality should be the thing that people measure themselves up to, rather than ‘abuse’ be the focus of what should or should not be excluded.

  • mark

    And like everyone else you happily ignore the drop in DUP support indicated from this poll.

    But hey, we all have agendas.

  • mark

    Fair Deal,

    ‘1. I am not a “follower” nor believe in blind loyalty to a political organisation. Try it some time it is very liberating.’

    Why does Mick list you as a ‘politco’ then?

    If Pete with his bias gets an impartial status why are you with your bias but non-party membership tagged as a politico?

    Either you or Pete should be shifted in the credits bar.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark,

    First: the poll has had about six threads so far and no doubt more to come. This one came from a link I slapped up last thing on Friday before I headed off for a blissfully domestic weekend.

    Second: You’re developing a bit of an obsession here. The Politico tag is an enabling device that cuts people with an agenda free to blog whatever way they want, and not to be bound by a brand identity.

    That should not though, constrict other bloggers from blogging what they see fit. Maybe it is an anachronism, and we should just pour everyone into the core team?

    That way people maybe could more freely debate the integrity, fallacy, or whatever rather than guess what their agenda might be.

  • mark

    1. Fine. (I’m not surprised the anti-SF stuff came first. I’d love to see a broader review of the poll or analysis of the sections already raised with a focus on everyone)

    2. Yes. About bloody time.

  • mark

    Mick,

    My problem on point 2 has always been about labelling and highlighting bloggers as biased politically while exempting at least one biased contributor from the net. If Fair-Deal is not a party member it seems like a partial system.

    You should always have given every contributor the same standing IMNSHO.

    (and you are right I was obsessive about it but eventually you thought about my point and seem to agree)

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark,

    What exactly is anti Sinn Fein about this thread? I simply quoted another blogger, and noted his SDLP loyalties in doing so. There was plenty of space given for corrective perspectives, and plenty taken. It was the third (and latest) thread on the poll data.

    The issue of competition between the SDLP and Sinn Fein is currently at the livelier end of NI politics. The DUP leadership was certainly more important, which may be why we covered it first!

  • Mick-

    Sure they’d yap too if we weren’t talking about them! You can’t win either way 😉

  • fair_deal

    Mark

    I am not a member of a political party but I am far from shy about my viewpoint nor whom I vote for. On the definition of myself as a politico, I have no problem with it but thanks for the concern.

  • mark

    Mick,

    The poll has been treated as reflective (wrongly IMO as they never, ever are) but no mention was given to the drop in DUP support, I find that unsurprisingly partial.

    The figures used to credit the headline and the blog make reference to a comparatives between the poll and previous election results but completely ignore a similar situation for the DUP and Unionism.

    I’m saying it’s partial and biased because it highlighted a weak assessment of SF and neglected the almost identical position for the DUP/Unionism.

    The figures are all there. You linked up the ones that supported an anti-SF position alone.

    ….but you claim you’ll come to the rest later…aye right.

    (El Mat – address the topic, not me. Mick has rules he doesn’t implement around here)

  • aquifer

    I blame rising house prices for the SF/DUP falls. Begrudgery gets harder with your house making £100 a week.

  • Mick Fealty

    I note we are drifting further and further from the featured topic… 😉

  • jim

    Is the sdlp increase anything to do with the no. of local media interests people like Tom Kelly have ie newspapers and radio.
    MID 106 carries pro sdlp stories/comments at a ratio of about 3:1 against all other parties.

  • Mick Fealty

    Jim

    There isn’t really an increase in the SDLP vote, just a slight fall in those saying they intend to vote for Sinn Fein.

    But can you give us more on how you think that might work?