After the complexities of East Londonderry, and before embarking on the equally problematic Foyle, it is a relief to address the relative simplicities of FST.
On the face of it, we have the re-establishment of a significant nationalist lead over unionist parties after a brief moment of parity in 2016, with an almost imperceptibly slow, but now undeniable, growth in the other’s share.
It takes a moment to reconcile this tranquil picture with the performance of the main parties in the constituency. But this is merely a reflection of the effect of Westminster contests where the DUP and TUV give a free run to the UUP, and substantial numbers of SDLP supporters vote tactically for SF.
Despite their minimal historic impact, I have included the TUV in this graph since the misfortunes of the DUP in opinion polls make the TUV performance of potential interest.
My Central projection from the Lucid Talk 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.
The division of votes between the three candidates for SF and the two for DUP is the same as at the last Assembly election. For the two UUP candidates, I have had to go back to 2011 when the party last put up two.
There are three other candidates, who will reduce the 1st preference votes of some of those shown in the chart.
Donal O’Cofaigh is standing as Cross-Community Labour Alternative. He also stood in 2017 gaining less than 0.1 of a quota. He stood for the Council in Enniskillen in 2011 as a Socialist, and again in 2014 as Fermanagh Against Fracking, building his vote each time. He was finally successfully elected on the last count in 2019 under his current label.
Emma DeSouza will have the benefit of high name recognition following her protracted, and ultimately successful, campaign against the Home Office. She identifies as an Irish citizen and was unwilling to acknowledge that she either was or had been, a British citizen for the purposes of securing residency rights for her American born husband. She is campaigning as a cross-community candidate. It is however reasonable to assume that she might attract more votes from nationalist and cross-community candidates than from unionists.
The other Independent is Derek Backhouse. If anyone has further information on his policy platform, perhaps they would like to post a comment.
All three of my projections agree that there would be 4 Safe seats: 2 SF, 1 DUP and 1 UUP.
My Central projection for the remaining seat rates the SDLP at just below Safe, at Expected, and gives Alliance a Long Shot (although the presence of the CC Lab candidate and the two Independents could make this even less likely).
One of the other projections shows the SDLP as Safe.
The reason for the projected loss of an SF seat is quite simply the rich pool of transfers available for the SDLP to draw on.
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.