Thoughts on the latest Lucid Talk poll…

Northern Ireland is still probably heading for an SF FM; there will be no vote to scrap the NI Protocol in the next Assembly; both unionist and nationalist designations will lose seats to Others; and Alliance is still on track to become the third party. These are the main outcomes that would follow if yesterdays Lucid Talk poll for the Belfast Telegraph are replicated in May.

SF

2017 28% 27 seats

Poll 24% 19 – 24 seats

SF seems stuck. In the three elections in 2019 SF took 23%, 22% and 23%. In the last 5 quarterly polls from Lucid Talk it has consistently been at either 25% or 24%. It was also at 24% in the recent Liverpool Uni. poll. Possibly of concern for SF is that it actually performed below its Lucid Talk poll ratings at the last two elections – by 4% and 3% respectively. Clearly, SF will be a campaign to defend seats in many constituencies.

There is certainly no sign yet of voters from other nationalist parties weighing in behind SF in order to ensure a nationalist FM.

It must rely on DUP weakness rather than its own strength to take the FM position.

DUP

2017 28% 28 seats

Poll 18% 17 – 19 seats

If SF and DUP tie for seats the party the FM position goes to the party with the largest 1st preference vote. Which would be SF.

The DUP will take heart from the 5 point improvement on its disastrous August poll showing. But in reality, its problems are far from over. They still haven’t made it back to the 19% last January which helped put the skids under Arlene Foster. It remains to be seen how successfully they can milk the “Stop the SF FM” line. Voters shun divided parties and much of their relative recovery could be due simply to not being in the middle of a leadership coup.

Party members, and more to the point the dozen or so MLA’s facing the prospect of the dole queue, will be looking to Donaldson to do better.

TUV

2017 3% 1 seat

Poll 11% 7 – 10 seats

Now this is where it gets interesting. At the last two Assembly elections, a third of all TUV votes came from North Antrim. The rest is spread thinly across the other constituencies. So it appears that the party is almost certainly required to hit a high vote threshold before it gains seats in proportion to its total vote share. It is not possible to be precise about where this threshold lies, but as long as the party wins 10% or more it is OK. Drop much below that and seat numbers could fall away rapidly.

If the TUV were to lose a further 2 points to the DUP we could be looking at only 2 to 5 seats for the TUV with, the DUP on 21 to 24 or even 25.

That is how close the FM position is to being in play.

Alliance

2017 9% 8 seats

Poll 15% 13 – 15 seats

UUP

2017 13% 10 seats

Poll 14% 10 – 12 seats

These seat numbers assume that the independent Unionist wins again in East Londonderry. If she loses the UUP seat number goes up to 11 – 13.

While the UUP has dropped 2% in the last 3 months, Alliance has pulled back 2%. Of course, that may be just normal polling fluctuation – or it may suggest that Doug Beattie’s efforts to give his party a more socially liberal face have been cancelled out by joining forces with the DUP, TUV and PUP in the Ulster Day declaration.

SDLP

2017 12% 12 seats

Poll 12% 10 – 12 seats

The SDLP could be facing a complex campaign – fighting to defend vulnerable seats in some constituencies and to gain possible seats in others. Getting the balance right could be a challenge.

Green

2017 2% 2 seats

Poll 2% 0 – 2 seats

PBPA

2017 2% 1 seat

Poll 2% 1 – 2 seats

The strength of the 3 designations would be:

Unionist:

2017 46% 40 seats (1 fewer than their strict vote proportion share)

Poll 43%* 37 – 40 seats

Nationalist:

2017 40%* 39 seats (3 more than their strict vote proportion share)

Poll 36%* 30 – 34 seats

Other:

2017 14% 11 seats (2 fewer than their strict vote proportion share)

Poll 19%* 16 – 19 seats

*Note that there are also 2% for other parties and independents some of which will be unionists or nationalists.

Michael Hehir is a retired sales and marketing manager. He studied in Northern Ireland but now lives between England and Italy.