GE ’24: East Antrim Constituency Profile…

East Antrim is not marginal. In 2019 Sammy Wilson (DUP) had a majority of 6,706 over Danny Donnelly (Alliance). It has always been unionist.

A pie chart with different colored circles Description automatically generated

The changes made to the constituency boundaries last November were not major, although they increased the electorate by 8%, which is a bigger change than in most Northern Ireland constituencies.


Mark Bailey, Green

Danny Donnelly, Alliance

Margaret McKillop, SDLP

Oliver McMullan, Sinn Féin

John Stewart, UUP

Matthew Warwick, TUV

Sammy Wilson, DUP

Candidates’ Electoral History

A list of voting results Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Vote shares by designation

There were no changes to the boundaries between 2010 and 2023.

A graph with numbers and lines Description automatically generated

Please note that some Local Government electoral areas cross constituency boundaries which means that the LG figures have been estimated.

Three patterns emerge. The most significant is that the trend over time has been for the unionist and nationalist vote to decline (unionists trended down 8% points, nationalists by 3% point) and for the Other to grow (up 12% points). This can be seen more easily if we put a simple linear trend line against each designation. Of course, there is no guarantee that any trend will continue into the future.

A graph with numbers and lines Description automatically generated

Secondly, nationalists underperform at Council elections, partly because not all seats are contested by both main nationalist parties.

Thirdly, Others underperformed at the first three Westminster elections due to tactical voting for the UUP. This no longer happened in 2019.

A graph of different colored lines Description automatically generated

Vote share by party in Assembly and Local Government Elections

In the majority of constituencies there is an element of tactical voting in Westminster elections. Changes in the underlying strength of the principal parties within a constituency can best be understood by looking at their performance in other elections.

A graph with different colored lines and numbers Description automatically generated

In addition to these a variety of unionist parties and independents pop in and out, particularly in Council elections, none achieving the 5% minimum to be included on the chart, apart from the PUP which once hit 6% in the Council elections of 2014 and UKIP which managed 7% in the 2016 Assembly election. The SDLP averaged just under 5% in the two elections of 2011, but by 2022 had dropped to 3%. Greens regularly hit 1% or 2%.

Notably the DUP has lost a third of its Assembly vote over the period (trending down by 6% points), whereas the UUP has been making improvements gaining 4% points on trend, although it lost its second Assembly seat in 2023 to Alliance. Alliance has also put on share over the period, up 10% points.

Sinn Féin rose slightly (up 2%) , while the TUV has trended up 3%.

Vote share in Westminster elections

A graph of different colored lines Description automatically generated

A table with numbers and text Description automatically generated

When it comes to Westminster designations normally become more important than individual parties. But not exclusively. Here tactical voting appears more complicated. It looks as though some UUP supporters may have voted for the DUP at Westminster, even though there has been no non-unionist challenge. Similarly, some Other voters appear have supported the UUP, especially in 2010.

The main outtake from these figures is the volatility in the DUP vote, hitting a high in 2017 after sinking to 36% in 2015 when both the TUV and UKIP entered the fray.

After coming second in 2017, Alliance firmly established itself as the challenger to the DUP, probably picking up some nationalist tactical votes as a result.

The boundary changes

Calculating the effects of changes to constituency boundaries is not straightforward since there is no record of precisely how past votes for each party were distributed geographically. Necessarily this involves estimates and assumptions, and these may differ. For many years the UK media have all used the calculations provided by two academics, Rallings and Thrasher, to provide a notional result of how each constituency would have voted at the previous general election if the latest boundaries had been in force. For Northern Ireland their inputs are provided by Nicholas Whyte. These will be the base from which the media will report voting swings when constituency results are declared.

The R&T estimate is slightly better for nationalists, and mine more favourable to the DUP at the expense of the UUP. I don’t know the reason for the differences. Perhaps I made an error.

A graph of a number of people Description automatically generated with medium confidence

This gives significantly different notional majorities for 2019.

A graph of a group of individuals Description automatically generated


In addition to money, the other key resource for an election campaign is the level of constituency work running up to the campaign, and the manpower available in the campaign itself. When it comes to constituency work MP’s and MLA’s have the advantage of an allowance for constituency offices and for a staffing. The amount of staffing money is specified, but MP’s and MLA’s can choose to allocate it to fewer higher-paid staff or a greater number of lower-paid staff.

When it comes to manpower for canvassing and leafleting a party’s elected representatives normally form the core of the group available. Party’s may also choose to bring in helpers from neighbouring constituencies which they have no hope of winning.

The Index Total for each party gives some idea of the relative strength of each party locally.

A screenshot of a graph Description automatically generated

The DUP and TUV index figures for 2024 reflect the defection of David Clarke from the DUP to the TUV. However he is unlikely to be of much help to his new party in this constituency since he is their candidate in North Belfast.

Alliance has overtaken the UUP as a result of capturing its second Assembly seat in 2022.

Factors possibly assisting the DUP

18.0% points ahead of Alliance at the last election.

Factors possibly harming the DUP

The TUV candidate could subtract up to 9% points share from DUP, at the TUV’s 2022 Assembly vote share. The TUV took 6% in the 2010 Westminster election when it last stood, and UKIP (Reform UK’s predecessor) managed 11% at the same time. The latest LucidTalk poll shows the TUV on 5%, in the same ballpark as the 6.2% they scored in the Assembly election in those constituencies that they are contesting this time.

Possible reduction in UUP tactical voters for DUP. The new UUP Westminster candidate, John Stewart, proved to be an effective vote-winner in the last Assembly election, in which the UUP achieved their highest vote share in the 12 elections since 2010. Can he stem the tide of UUP supporters who have previously switched to the DUP in Westminster elections? In 2019 these accounted for up to 8% points of the DUP’s share.

Factors possibly assisting Alliance

Split in unionist vote may facilitate further squeeze on the nationalist vote. Could add 1 or 2% points.


Two things would have to happen to put the DUP in danger. The TUV and the UUP between them would have to cut the DUP percentage share down to the low 30’s. At the same time an extraordinarily high proportion of nationalists would have to vote tactically for Alliance. Neither is totally impossible, but both together is a very long shot.

Most likely outcome – DUP with much reduced majority.


Discover more from Slugger O'Toole

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.