We can see that the pattern of tactical voting in Lagan Valley at Westminster elections has changed since 2017.
The party figures reveal that while some UUP voters still vote tactically, it is as likely that they will do so for Alliance as for the DUP. This is maybe not surprising in a constituency where the UUP only transferred at 40% to the DUP in 2017.
Westminster ’19 was also notably the poorest performance by Jeffrey Donaldson in the four contests since 2010 under the current boundaries. Possibly a contributory factor to the decision to run just two DUP candidates this time – ensure that Donaldson is elected at full quota on the first count and, if possible, bring in the second DUP on the first count also. The party may no longer be strong enough to attempt a third seat – but at least it can distract attention from the fact. After all, the first few hours of radio and TV coverage from the counts may well leave a stronger impression than the detailed arithmetic of the final numbers on Saturday afternoon.
My Central projection of the Lucid Talk poll suggests a pattern like that below.
Which would mean that quotas per candidate might look something like this. Seats won in 2017 are highlighted in gold.
I have used the same vote split between candidates for the UUP as in the last election. The DUP have not run two candidates here since 2003, so I have assumed that they will manage their vote quite well. Of course, I might be wrong and they could choose to let Donaldson’s vote rip and rely on his transfers to bring his running mate, Paul Givan, through. But as you can see that could be a dangerous tactic.
There is also one Independent standing, Gary Hynds, who stood in South Down as the Conservative candidate in 2017, taking 85 votes.
The Central projection alone produces no clear outcome. My first inclination was to suggest at this point that you pour yourself a stiff drink before reading any further. But perhaps a strong coffee to aid concentration might be more useful.
1 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 Alliance are all Safe. After that, it would depend on who was eliminated first, the second Alliance candidate, the second UUP or the SDLP. All three could be within a few votes of each other.
If Alliance fall first, then the remaining two seats would go to the second DUP and then, either the second UUP (Good possibility) or the SDLP (Lesser possibility).
If the SDLP were the first excluded, then both the second Alliance and second UUP would be elected.
If the UUP were the first to go there are two possible outcomes for the remaining seats. The more likely would be a Safe SDLP plus the second DUP (Good possibility) or TUV (Lesser possibility). The less likely would be a Safe second Alliance with the DUP and TUV contesting the last place.
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.