If you have not read yesterday’s article you might find it helpful to read the note on the method I used in making the projections in these articles. You will find it at the bottom, in italics.
The contest in South Belfast really repays looking back at recent history.
Note the persistent pattern of tactical voting at each Westminster election, and the just as persistent return to non-Westminster voting patterns afterwards.
The picture is even more vivid when you examine the record of party performance.
It is very tempting to look at that 3.5 quotas worth of votes for the SDLP at the Westminster election and conclude that surely some of that must stick. But there is no more precedent for tactical voters staying with the SDLP here, than there is for them sticking with Alliance and DUP in East Belfast or DUP and SF in North Belfast.
My central projection of the LT poll gives the following pattern (remember to allow for the margins of error in the poll and in this projection).
Which would mean that quotas per candidate might look something like this. Seats won in 2017 are highlighted in gold.
It is important to note the vote splits here for Alliance and the SDLP. The SDLP MLA, Matthew O’Toole, is facing the electorate for the first time and I assume that the party will be attempting to manage their vote split in his favour. I have therefore used the same vote split as occurred in 2017. It is very possible that the actual split could be somewhat closer, but I cannot see that it would change the outcome.
I have shown Alliance with a different split than in 2017. In that election, they appear to have adopted a safety first tactic which steered almost three-quarters of their 1st preferences towards their sitting MLA, Paula Bradshaw. If they believe their potential vote share to be in the region that I have projected they will want to change that balance. They will not want her to have a large surplus vote to transfer, which would risk some leakage to other parties.
Also standing are the Workers Party which fielded candidates in all elections in the constituency since 2011, with the exception of two Westminsters. Its votes have ranged from 87 to 361, which would be worth less than 0.1 of a quota.
There is a Socialist Party of NI candidate. Socialist candidates stood in the constituency between 2011 and 2014, attracting between 164 and 234 votes.
Completing the card is an Independent, Elly Odhiambo. If Elly or anyone else wants to let us know more, please post a comment.
My three different projections agree that there would be 2 safe Alliance seats, and one each for the DUP and SDLP. My Central projection shows the SF seat as Safe, but one of the projections reduces this to a Good Possibility with the UUP having a Lower Possibility of taking the seat instead.
NOTE ON METHOD:
There is no perfect way to translate a national poll to a local constituency level. Still less so in a PR system. We must recognise a level of uncertainty. I have used the last Lucid Talk poll as my base because, as well as giving party shares, it also tracks how the voters for each party at the last Assembly election intend to vote this time. This allowed me to make two projections for each constituency, one based on vote switching since 2017, the other on changes in party vote shares since the 2019 Local Government elections. (I used the LG elections due to widespread tactical voting at the later Westminster.)
The two different projections mimic two different patterns of changes in party support. In one, a party that is growing strongly will see a bit less of that growth where it is already strong, and a bit more where it was previously at it most weak. Conversely the parties that have lost voters will suffer a bit more in their strongest constituencies.
The other projection has the opposite effect. Either may prove to be a more accurate reflection of reality. And while the differences between the two are not massive (they both must total to the same poll shares across all constituencies) they can still sometimes produce different outcomes.
I should stress that while the Lucid Talk bears the responsibility for the original poll, the projections are entirely my responsibility.
For each 1st preference projection, I have used recent transfer patterns to identify all candidates who have any chance of winning on a scale ranging from Safe to Long Shot.
To avoid burdening you with all this detail I have averaged the results of the two projections and shown them as a Central projection, merely noting where one of the other projections produces a noteworthy difference.
Where a party is running more than one candidate, I have generally split the party vote between them in the same proportions at the last election. I have had to make my own assumptions when a party has a different number of candidates this time.
Michael Hehir is a retired sales and marketing manager. He studied in Northern Ireland but now lives between England and Italy.