The first of a series of video reports. According to the University of Liverpool/Irish News poll ground appears to be shifting under the feet of the DUP in particular. See David’s IN report here.
The two former parties of the extreme seem to be destined to hit a fork in the road if not a complete break up, but not because of tribal tensions. In the case of the DUP poor delivery may be a greater factor.
In the past poll ratings at the start of a campaign tend to describe relatively accurately the final outcome. That’s been less the case recently, and there are signs of volatility that may emerge during the campaign.
Broadly, this is what I have to say about the main parties:
Sinn Fein is comfortably ahead on first preferences, but the largest influx of transfers are set to come from People Before Profit and the Greens, with just 16% of SDLP voters choosing SF for a second transfer so it may struggle in some of the lower end battles for fourth and fifth place seats.
The DUP on the other hand (and this may surprise some folks, even if it shouldn’t since as recently as 2016 they could pull on the loyalties of 30% of the whole Northern Irish population), remains relatively transfer friendly). So it is pushing on with the ‘stop SF’ rhetoric in the hope of holding on unionist transfers or a voting booth conversion on the day.
Alliance is down just above the margin of error from November’s rating, but the polling is still 5 points above the 9% it got in 2017. To make maximum use of all those yummy transfers it seems set to take from the SDLP and the UUP in particular it will want to hold on to that expanded share of 1st preference votes.
The Ulster Unionists last time out lost 6 seats despite their vote share going up. At the moment, they seem to be up on that vote share. In terms of transfers, this time they seem set to take a lot more DUP transfers but like the SDLP the bulk of their transfers are going out to Alliance.
In contrast the SDLP managed to hold on to all of their seats on a steady vote share in 2017. But in the polls so far they have yet to reach the 12% they got back then. That’s all within the margin of error. If the patterns of the 2019 elections hold they may see some seats go and others come in.
Apologies for the sound by the way, you’ll have to turn up the volume on YouTube to get the full effect.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty