The power of numbers

With a January Ard Fheis called possibly called the last barrier to 7th March election has may have been removed plus being off gave me the time to do some number crunching. Voters are generally creatures of habit so past elections can give a reliable guide to the likely outcome of the upcoming election. So what does the 2005 Westminster and Local Government elections predict for March 2007?It is good news for the DUP and Sinn Fein with both the Westminster and Local government models predicting all present seats are safe and gaining at least two seats but the possibility of more. For the UUP it is a mixed bag, Westminster has them dropping to 19 but the Local Government results have them holding at 24. For the SDLP and Alliance both indicators predict a loss of 1 seat.

The full results by the Westminster 2005 result:
Alliance 5 seats
DUP 38 seats
SDLP 17 seats
SF 27 seats
UUP 19 seats
Others 2 seats

The full results by Local Government 2005 result:
Alliance 5 seats
DUP 35 seats
SDLP 17 seats
SF 26 seats
UUP 24 seats
Others 1 seat

Area profiles to follow.

IMPORTANT NOTES: Seats were assigned to parties strictly on the basis of who was closest to a quota. No assignment was made on the basis of possible/likely transfers nor has any projection of existing trends been extrapolated (ie DUP vote grew X% between 2003 and 2005 but if that continues their likely vote be). Westminster results tend to show a party’s maximum potential vote in a constituency while Local Government shows the core vote. When the two agree it seems the highly likely result and were they disagree it highlights were a party should target a constituency for extra effort. In individual constituencies the perceived geographcal base and number of candidates a party chooses and the vote management system adopted can have an effect on the final result. Examples of how this can impact are – the choice of two Ballymena UUP candidates in North contributed to their loss of a seat, vote mismanagement in West and East Belfast cost SF and the DUP a seat respectively. It is possible to confound both indicators as David Ford did in South Antrim in 2003.

The same methodology using the 2001 Westminster results would have predicted the following results in 2003:
Alliance 3 seats (underestimate by 3 seats)
DUP 29 seats (underestimate by 1 seat)
SDLP 20 seats (overestimate by 2 seats)
SF 23 seats (underestimate by 1 seat)
UUP 32 seats (overestimate by 5 seats)
Others 1 seat (underestimate by 2 seats)
The UUP skew was because of the DUP standing aside in a number of constituencies.

The same methodology using the 2001 Local Government results would have predicted the following results in 2003:
Alliance 6 seats (exact match)
DUP 29 seats (underestimate by 1 seat)
SDLP 19 seats (overestimate by 1 seat)
SF 23 seats (underestimate by 1 seat)
UUP 28 seats (overestimate by 1 seat)
Others 3 seats (exact match)

Of the two models the 2001 Local Government results proved the more accurate predictor.

  • parcifal

    could you state on record, that you are satisfied that support for policing is the last barrier?

  • fair_deal


    I said it was the “last barrier to an election”.

  • fair_deal


    Sorry I should have been clearer I described an Ard fheis as the last barrier to an election, if it happens (and I must admit pete baker is persuading me it may not be a certainty).

  • parcifal

    now your latter point doesn’t suprise me; but good to hear you say “last barrier”.

    Will you go further and come out against DUP renegades, asssuming the Ard Fheis happens?

    Glad you raised this thread, as I’m considering a bet with ingram, proceeds to go in the Slugger Pot, as to how many seats SF will get.

    You may have gathered he’s bowling into the “corridor of uncertainty” as Geoff Boycott might say ( cricket fans will get it ), and I just wonder how many wickets he’ll take ?

    He’s allowed to do this as long as he and we all keep to Slugger’s rules.

  • ronanodonnell

    Prob worth a seperate thread but the tribune today to similar for the 26 counties.

    The analysis – and its a fair one – is;

    FF: 75
    FG: 40
    Labour: 20
    Greens: 8
    PDs: 6
    Socialists: 2
    SF: 6
    more detail at

  • fair_deal


    “Will you go further and come out against DUP renegades, asssuming the Ard Fheis happens?”

    1. I am afraid you seem to impart my opinion with more influence than I would.
    2. There aren’t any DUP ‘renegades’ to come out against in my opinion. I gave my assessment on what was going on in the DUP here. Also Peter Robinson comments as reproduced on PB’s thread will be a disappointment to those hoping that the SF Executive decision would cause splits in the DUP.
    3. I made my own opinions on St Andrews clear and the difficulties I have with it. As I said at the time:
    “My objections do not include mandatory coalition, policing and justice powers or the abolition of the 50:50 rule…I would hold the minority view (in Unionist circles) that those powers should be devolved speedily (with appropriate safeguards). An incoming Executive will need to tackle the growth in criminal gangs and issues like anti-social behaviour.”

  • crataegus

    Not much change then, hardly worth the bother.

    A number of parties are on declining percentages of the vote, I was wondering at what point some of those declines become disastrous. When does just scraping in on the last seat in a number of constituencies turn to just missing? I think many of the last seats will be difficult to predict.

    As for the South not much change there either.

  • parcifal

    cheers for that detailed reply fair-deal.
    Thank goodness for pragmatism over ideology; here’s hoping that the majority on both sides feel as you do, and win the day.

  • Rubicon

    It is way too early to assume, “Voters are generally creatures of habit” and apportion past voting patterns to the coming election. The error-terms in your analysis make interesting reading FD. If it tells me anything it is not to count any chickens yet.

    Over Christmas there has been a lot of focus on SF’s difficulties, U-turns, concessions, disaffections etc. These problems clear ground for SF marketing a standstill as a success.

    For the DUP, things are a little different. 4 of the MLA’s currently in the DUP stood on UUP tickets. 1 DUP MLA (Mr. Berry) may not be given the DUP whip – but nor may he bow out quietly either. Perhaps Paul will be forgiven before too long … but further growth in DUP support will need:

    1.A well oiled political machine singing off the same hymn sheet across all 18 constituencies.
    2.A perception amongst the unionist community that the DUP are proposing a more acceptable devolution settlement than that offered by the UUP. This could be very difficult market with party loyalists still having “Never! Never!” ringing in their ears.
    3.The UUP to appear ungracious, continue to snipe from the hedges while offering nothing positive and continue to fall over their own feet in incompetence.
    4.A strategy to exploit known Member changes in key constituencies.

    So far, the DUP may have point 3. Is it time for the DUP (if they are minded to agree to power-sharing) to consider a pan-unionist front?

  • Henry94

    If anti-agreement candidates stand on either side of the fence it might affect the results.

    But what could really shake things up is if enough anti-agreement unionists stay at home allowing SF to become the biggest party.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Anti agreement candidates would be a very welcome development, especially on the nationalist side. It would be educational to the wider community to hear the policies, realistic or otherwise that anti SF candidates have to offer.Currently they get a lot of publicity simply because they are anti SF.

    An electoral campaign would allow whatever ideas they have to be teased out or whether, more realistically, they are recognised as an anti SF grouping simply attempting to cost SF seats.

  • Rubicon

    Henry – have you hit the New Year spirit a little early? Yes – there’s a prospect of that but it’s remote.

    Your party is likely to cause enough problems for the DUP in ’07 – without giving them these wishes for the New Year ;). SF also has a problem in attracting transfers from outside their ranks.

    Remember – party strengths for d’Hondt purposes – are counted on the first day of the Assembly meeting. Only in the case of ties are the returning officer’s counts of 1st preferences relevant.

    The results of the 7th March may not be what is marshalled and registered with the Assembly. My point was that it may be better for unionism to sort that out before rather than after the election.

    Perhaps too much humble pie would be needed …

  • crataegus

    Anti agreement Unionists are likely to have alternatives to vote for come the election (at least in some parts). They are likely to turn out to vote and possibly transfer. Disaffected Republicans are the ones who are unlikely to have an alternative to vote for. Due to poor vote management there is a certain amount of slack in the DUP performance. If the DUP want more seats they need to bury their poll topping egos and aim to sit on .8 of a quota and drag in a colleague or two. Mercifully they never learn.

    I am not so sure this election will be as predictable as we all think. Before I left there was at best almost total disinterest in my circles and the general regard that many have for the political class is rock bottom. To say that many consider them political pigmy’s, an irrelevance and deeply embarrassing would be an understatement. Many people I know simply loathe NI’s political class.

    People may vote like sheep, but many may stay at home or even if a few percent of the thoroughly pissed off decided to lodge protest votes you could have some interesting results in the last seats. So much depends on mood, but a day will come when some of the discontent finds a voice. I doubt if it will be this election but annoyance is edging closer to anger.

    Still think that the main story in this election will be the virtual disintegration of the middle ground. Elsewhere it will be business as usual with a couple of seats changing but virtually irrelevant in an overall context.

    I must say the UUP seem incapable of effectively organising a strong identity and self purpose to carry themselves forward and seem doomed to slow decline. Really is time they considered radical change.