Naomi Long is the strong favourite to win Northern Ireland’s third European Parliament seat

At the European elections on Thursday the 23rd of May, Northern Ireland will elect three MEPs, who will each serve a term of indeterminate length between zero and five years. Of the incumbents (Martina Anderson of Sinn Féin and Diane Dodds of the DUP), both are guaranteed to keep their seats. Danny Kennedy of the UUP is running following the retirement of Jim Nicholson. Both Naomi Long of the Alliance Party and Colum Eastwood of the SDLP are in contention to take a seat at the expense of the UUP.

Niall Kelly has modelled how the election count might proceed if the Northern Ireland European election poll published by Lucid Talk. I used my forecast model from the 2017 Assembly election to model 1,000 simulations of the election count to forecast the election results.

If the Lucid Talk poll figures turn out to be accurate, then it is highly likely that Naomi Long will win the third seat. Of the 1,000 runs of the model, Martina Anderson and Diane Dodds were elected every time, Naomi Long was elected on 97% of occasions, and Colum Eastwood was elected 3% of the time. Neither Danny Kennedy nor Jim Allister was elected in any of the scenarios.

If the first preference votes cast are in line with the Lucid Talk poll, then you would expect to see the count transpire something along the lines of the table at the top of the post.

For most of the model runs, the usual result is that Anderson is elected slightly over the quota on the first count. Diane Dodds of the DUP requires the transfers that Jim Allister will provide after his elimination, and is subsequently elected on the eighth count.

The ninth count is the crucial one, as Colum Eastwood, Danny Kennedy and Naomi Long are usually all within a few percent of each other in the race for the third seat. However, the model predicts that Long won’t be the candidate to be eliminated on this count, as transfers from other candidates (the Green Party in particular) will ensure that either Kennedy or Eastwood is eliminated. Transfers from either the UUP or the SDLP would then mean that Long wins on the tenth count. (The model assumes that only one candidate is elected or eliminated at each count, in reality more than one candidate can be eliminated in one count.)

In terms of the size of the Unionist/Nationalist/Other vote, the Lucid Talk poll is close to the results of the recent local elections. The total unionist vote is forecast to be 42.3% in this poll, compared to 42.7% at the local elections. The “Other” vote is forecast to be 17.4% at the upcoming elections, which would actually be a reduction from the 19.6% at the local elections, which can mostly be attributable to the strong showing for People Before Profit at the local elections, who were classified as “Other”.

The comparison between the 2014 local elections and the 2014 European elections is shown in the table below.

Lucid Talk have an excellent record for polling Northern Ireland elections, but polling misses happen, as Australian pollsters will now be all too aware. This election for the European Parliament is probably the most bizarre in the modern British electoral history. In Great Britain, the popular vote is virtually certain to won by the Brexit Party, who didn’t exist a few weeks ago, whilst the governing Conservatives would see a result in double figures to be a victory. Strange results are likely.

In Northern Ireland, it appears likely that the Alliance Party will win a seat at the expense of the UUP. With regards to how long the elected MEPs will serve,  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯