Yet again we see the pattern, familiar in so many constituencies, of the dramatic but temporary effects of Westminster tactical voting.
Unusually, as can be seen in the main party chart below, both the DUP and the UUP benefit from this, and it is possibly one of the factors which led the UUP to run a second candidate for the Assembly.
Alliance may also have derived some benefit from tactical voting, although it is obvious it lost the battle with the UUP to be seen as the principal challenger to the DUP. The UUP’s decision could damage its claim to be the most obvious challenger to the DUP at future Westminster elections if it results in Alliance topping the poll this time.
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 UUP votes are divided between their candidates in the same proportions as in 2017. The DUP ran three candidates last time – and achieved perfect balancing, I have therefore assumed that they will balance their two candidates as well this time.
Also standing is an Independent, Andrew Moran. If anyone has information on his platform please comment.
All three of my projections would produce four Safe seats, 1 Alliance, 1 DUP, 1 UUP, and 1 SF.
The battle for the fifth seat could be very close on the Central projection, with both the second DUP and the TUV having Good possibilities, and the UUP a much Lesser possibility.
The other two projections are less kind to the DUP, 1 gives them no chance of a second seat, and the other only a Long Shot. In that latter projection the TUV is raised to Likely (only a little lower than Safe).
However, the battle for the fifth seat will depend entirely on how the UUP balance their ticket. If 2017’s balance (as shown in the chart), or anything like it, were to be repeated on the 5th May the UUP’s chances of a second seat would be dead in the water.
In fact, for a chance of a second seat the UUP would have to balance their candidates in such a way that they were likely to stay almost level with each other not only on 1st preferences but also after transfers to them. This would be devastatingly difficult to achieve and would require their sitting MLA, Steve Aiken, to run the very real risk of losing out to his running mate.
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.