What the council votes say about the next Assembly and Westminster elections: Mid Ulster, Newry & Armagh, N Antrim…

For a full explanation of the various charts used in this piece please see the introduction in the first article in this series.

What the council votes say about the next Assembly and Westminster elections: East, North and West Belfast… – Slugger O’Toole (sluggerotoole.com)

Mid Ulster

Comparing the last Assembly with the votes in the council elections shows an improvement in unionist share in this constituency. Looking at the votes allocated according to the proposed new boundaries suggests the possibility of a marginal shift to the advantage of unionists compared to nationalists.

Other Nationalists votes at the Assembly were mainly for an Independent with a few for the Workers Party, while the Other ‘Others’ were Green and PBPA.

On these shares, the 3 Sinn Féin seats and 1 DUP are safe, but the further decline in the SDLP vote puts the party in deep trouble. The UUP had more votes last month and can expect to receive virtually all of the DUP surplus plus the TUV votes as transfers, plus at least 10% (and more likely 20% to 25%) of Alliance transfers.

But, as a consequence of there being more nationalist voters and candidates in this constituency, nationalists will suffer more transfer attrition. At the last Assembly election, votes worth nearly 0.2 of a quota from nationalist candidates became non-transferable. On that basis the SDLP would be highly unlikely to catch the UUP candidate, who would be elected in their stead.

It is worth noting that nearly three quarters of the voters in the constituency had no Independent Republican candidate, which means that they actually took 18% of the total votes in the places where they stood. If this were to embolden them to put forward an Assembly candidate, it is not impossible that they could poll more first preference votes than the SDLP.

However, the Resource Index shows that the UUP is now far weaker in the constituency than it was, while the SDLP has managed to preserve its councillor base.

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Following on from the discussion in the section on Fermanagh and South Tyrone about the swing from unionist to nationalist in Clogher Valley; the turnout statistics in Mid Ulster also support the proposition that the presence of competitors for Sinn Féin increased nationalist turnout as a consequence of Sinn Féin concentrating activists on those District Electoral Areas and/or because the competitors brought additional voters to the polls. The example here is Torrent, where turnout increased by 5.9% points. In two DEA’s where Aontú stood turnout was up 5.2%. But in the other DEA’s it only averaged an increase of 3.0%.

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It comes as no surprise that the council voting indicates no change for the Westminster election. Indeed, Sinn Féin could achieve an absolute majority of the vote.

Newry and Armagh

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The comparison between the council votes within the current constituency boundaries with those cast last month show a small shift towards nationalists. While the votes cast within the new proposed boundaries suggest that these will be marginally more beneficial for nationalists.

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The Other Nationalist votes at the Assembly election were almost entirely cast for an Independent from Newry who earlier this year announced his withdrawal from politics.

The Other Unionist in the council elections was an Independent. His surplus was not distributed this year, but in 2019 47% of his voters transferred to the UUP and 43% to the DUP.

The council votes would have produced the same result as in 2022, 3 Sinn Féin, 1 SDLP and 1 DUP.

It is worth pointing out that the improvement in the SDLP vote versus last year is an absolute improvement, it is not the result of the absence of the Independent nationalist whose votes had actually transferred in significantly greater numbers to Sinn Féin.

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With half the total votes in the council elections in the constituency there is clearly no doubt who to expect to win the next Westminster election here.

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North Antrim

Comparing the Assembly results with the council votes withing the current constituency borders, it does look like differential turnout has taken place. And comparing the votes in the current boundaries with the proposed new boundaries indicates that these will probably marginally benefit nationalists at the expense of unionists. This would make it that bit harder for the DUP to regain the Assembly seat that they lost at the last election.

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The Other Unionist is an Independent in Ballymena. His transfers went 8% to SDLP, 12% to Alliance and 56% to the DUP, with 24% untransferable. The UUP received no transfers because their candidate was already over quota. This pattern of transfers looks more typical of a last remaining UUP candidate than a DUP. I therefore suspect that his absence from the Assembly poll would see up to a fifth of his first preference votes going to non-unionist candidates, with at least half (and maybe more) of the remainder going to the UUP.

The Other Nationalist vote is made up of Aontú and two Independents.

On these vote shares the TUV and Sinn Féin would be elected on the first count. The TUV would have very few transfers to give, while SF would have a healthy surplus. The evidence suggests that up to three quarters of this would go to the SDLP and about a quarter to Alliance. This would leave the SDLP a little behind Alliance. The SDLP would be eliminated, leading to the election of Alliance and then the UUP. This would leave one seat still vacant which would be taken by the leading DUP candidate.

In other words the same result as in 2022.

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The loss of an Assembly seat last year and two councillors this year has put a heavy dent in the DUP’s resource superiority in this constituency.

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For over 50 years Westminster elections have been a walk in the park for the DUP and it’s Protestant Unionist predecessor. But a glance at these figures tells you why Ian Paisley Jr is so keen to keep the TUV voters on-side. Personally, I think it highly unlikely that Jim Allister would challenge Paisley for the seat. The increase in the Sinn Féin vote will have seen to that. Would Allister really risk the charge of splitting the unionist vote in that context? Even though

Here are the links to the second and third articles in the series.

What the council votes say about the next Assembly and Westminster elections: S Belfast & MD, E Antrim, E L’derry… – Slugger O’Toole (sluggerotoole.com)

What the council votes say about the next Assembly and Westminster elections: Foyle, LV, FST and the mystery of Clogher Valley… – Slugger O’Toole (sluggerotoole.com)


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