I have used the most recent Lucid Talk poll for my projection of party shares in the constituency.
Once you strip out the effects of tactical voting at the Westminster elections, the underlying trend in unionist share in Strangford was slightly upwards in the first half of the decade, but it has taken a decided downturn since. Meanwhile, nationalists have, on the whole, held steady. The marked increase in others only got going in 2017.
The party shares show just how much the DUP has benefited from tactical voting, although always dropping back to their normal level afterwards. Once again, we see that Westminster induced bounces do not last.
The UUP has some work to do if it is to recover the position it occupied from 2011 to 2017.
The big distortion in these figures is the noticeable vote share for Independent Unionists. Apart from 2017 when this was shared by the ex-DUP MLA, Jonathan Bell, these votes were for the Independent Unionist Councillor for Newtownards, James Menagh.
He had intended to stand again this year, but shortly before nominations, he changed his mind. This leaves almost 2,000 mainly unionist 1st preference voters up for grabs. Taking his transfers in the last two Assembly elections together, somewhere around 40% of his vote was taken from the DUP, 33% from UUP, 10% from Alliance and 3% from the SDLP. This leaves about 14% of potential transfers unaccounted for, but it is noteworthy that the TUV candidate had already been eliminated.
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.
The division of DUP votes between their three candidates is the same as in 2017. As is the division between the two UUP. There was only 1 Alliance candidate last time, so I have made an assumption favouring their sitting MLA.
Also standing is an Independent, Ben King, who gained 24 votes as an Independent candidate in Newtownards at the last Council election.
All three of my projections agree that there will be four Safe seats. Three would be unionist: 1 Safe DUP and 1 Safe UUP, the third would be either DUP or TUV with equal Good possibilities. The fourth Safe seat would be Alliance.
The Central projection could produce a point where either the second Alliance or the SDLP candidate would face elimination. It would be more likely to be the SDLP, in which case the second Alliance would also be Safe.
If, however, the second Alliance were eliminated there would be a Good possibility of a fourth unionist seat, meaning that 2 DUP, 1 TUV and 1 UUP would be elected alongside 1 Alliance. There would be a slightly Lesser possibility that the SDLP would be elected – holding the unionist total down to three.
One of the alternative projections shows the second Alliance as Safe, the other gives the SDLP and the second Alliance an equal chance for the final 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 for party shares, and information from the previous poll which tracked how 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.) To be clear both of these projections give the party shares shown in the latest poll.
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.