Not much seems to disturb the placid pattern of Mid Ulster voting patterns, until that curious little uptick in Others at the last election.
The level of party support does give us a little more to get our teeth into.
In 2013 all the unionist parties decided to pool their resources behind a single Independent Unionist candidate for a Westminster by-election. I believe the idea originated with the UUP. Anyway, it proved not to be such a great wheeze in the long run, for it appears to have introduced many UUP supporters to the concept of tactical voting to minimise the inevitable SF majority. SDLP voters caught the habit in 2017 but appear to have ditched it again in 2019. So once again the vote shares for unionist parties in the Westminster election are no guide to their expected performance next month. But those for the nationalist and Alliance parties are worth considering.
All of which makes that Alliance uptick worth commenting on. Previously a good election for Alliance in Mid Ulster was whenever they just broke over 1,000 votes. To the best of my knowledge, they have never won anything in this constituency in the last fifty years. They were so weak here that seven months previously they only contested one of the six Local Government Districts that make up the constituency. The important lesson here is this: in an election, a rising tide can float all boats. And that would be equally true of the TUV if they achieve a vote share in NI above 8% in May.
The SF vote split between their three candidates is shown as it was in 2017.
The Workers Party is also standing in this election. It has stood at all elections since 2015, except the last two Westminsters. It achieved 496 in 2015, 316 in 2016 and 217 in. 2017. The highest of these would be worth under 0.1 of a quota in May.
My Central projection gives SF 2 Safe seats, DUP 1 and SDLP 1. The final seat could be decided on as few as a handful of votes between the third SF and the UUP.
My other two projections agree on the same 2 Safe seats for SF and 1 for SDLP. They both agree that SF has a Good Possibility of a 3rd seat. Only 1 of them awards a Safe seat to the DUP. The other places are the DUP, UUP and TUV all on an equal Good Possibility of taking the Safe unionist seat.
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.