Now that the election is over, it is time for the post-election analysis to begin. Much of the mainstream media and even some of the political parties have concentrated on comparing the 2014 Euro election with the 2009 election. I believe a more valid comparison would be to compare the 2014 party vote totals in the 2014 Euro election with the 2011 Assembly party vote totals. The 2014 council elections can also be easily compared with the 2011 council elections. These were the results for the district council elections in 2011 and 2014.
These were the results for the 2014 Euro elections and comparing those results with the 2011 Assembly elections.
|Euro 2014||Assembly 2011||Change|
The council elections saw a decline in turnout of 32,730. This was almost entirely due to nationalist voters staying home. The decline in the nationalist vote was 27,767. The decline in the Alliance-Green vote was 7,056. The unionist vote is more difficult to determine due to the presence of NI21. NI21 was a unionist party until 1 day before the election when it designated as unaligned. If it is not considered unionist then the unionist vote declined 10,439. If it is considered unionist then the unionist vote increased 1,056. Transfers in the council and Euro elections indicated that only half of the NI21 vote originated from unionist voters (usually UUP). I estimate that the unionist vote was down 5,000 and the Alliance Green vote was down 1,000 if NI21 did not compete in this election. Most of the decline of 32,730 between the 2011 and 2014 council elections was due to the 27,767 decrease in nationalist votes. The nationalist decline was slightly higher for SF than the SDLP but the percentage decline was greater for the SDLP. Since the independent nationalist vote was also down there is no evidence that the decline in SF and SDLP votes is due to defection to independent nationalists. The voters just stayed home. The Green vote was unchanged but the Alliance vote was down 7,000. Most of the decline in the Alliance vote is due to voters who defected to NI21 though a few may have defected to the UUP. In the unionist electorate there was a large decline in the DUP vote of 34,550, almost 20% of their 2011 vote. Almost that entire vote defected to the TUV, PUP, and UKIP. However, some DUP voters also defected to the UUP. This is difficult to discern because the UUP vote was only up 732. However, the UUP lost some votes to NI21 and gained an equal number from the DUP and ended up essentially unchanged. If NI21 had not competed the UUP vote would have been up approximately 6,000.
The Euro election results are more enlightening and present a more accurate picture of political party strength than the council elections. This is because in the council elections the smaller parties such as Alliance, Green, TUV, UKIP, and PUP do not compete in many DEA’s so their voters cannot vote for them in a council election. Other than the PUP, this was not an issue in the Euro election. Compared to the 2011 Assembly vote the Euro vote was down 35,611. The nationalist vote was down 44,479, much more than in the council elections. The Alliance-Green vote was down 1,876 and the unionist vote was up 191. The actual unionist vote was up ~ 5,000 since half the NI21 vote originated from unionist parties and the Alliance-Green vote would also have been up due to the same reasons. You will notice some unusual anomalies when comparing the council vote and the Euro vote which I will provide an explanation for. The unionist vote in the Euro election was 319,135 compared to 309,625 in the council election, which was 9,059 higher. The nationalist vote was 17,207 lower in the Euro election compared to the council election. The Alliance Green vote was also 6,873 votes higher in the Euro election. How could this be? For the nationalist vote the reason is that in the council election there were many independent nationalist candidates who received 21,763 votes. Half of that vote was for dissident republican candidates. The combined SF-SDLP vote was 4,546 higher in the Euro election so 4,546 of that 21, 763 voted for SF or SDLP in the Euro election. It appears that another 6,873 voted Alliance Green in the Euro election. While a very small number voted for a unionist candidate it appears that 10,000 did not vote in the Euro election. There were actually 636,000 people who voted in the Euro election but 10,000 of those votes were invalid. Tweets and other observations from the polling stations indicated that most of these were blank ballots rather than spoiled ballots. So 10,000 of those independent nationalist voters who voted in the council election did not vote in the Euro election. The unionist vote in the Euro election was 9,510 higher in the Euro election compared to the council election. How could this possibly be? The Alliance Green vote was also higher in the Euro election so it is not possible that Alliance Green council voters voted unionist in the Euro election. The reason is that in the council elections there were 9,000 voters who did not vote in the council elections and these were mainly blank ballots. The TUV, UKIP and PUP did not compete in many constituencies so their voters could not vote for their preferred party. You will notice that the combined TUV-PUP-UKIP vote was 50,000 in the council elections but 100,000 in the Euro elections. The DUP-UUP vote was 31,000 less in the Euro election and when adding in the 10,000 independent unionist council vote that accounts for 41,000 of that extra TUV-UKIP vote in the Euro elections. It appears that 9,000 TUV-UKIP voters in the Euro election did not vote in the council election because they were unwilling to vote for the DUP-UUP candidates. Most of those additional 50,000 TUV-UKIP voters in the Euro election did vote for unionist candidates in the council elections but 9,000 did not. The ~9,000 invalid ballots in the council election were unionist voters and the 9,000 invalid ballots in the Euro election were nationalist voters. If there had been an acceptable independent nationalist candidate in the Euro election (i.e. PBP or dissident republican) then most of that extra 10,000 vote deficit in the nationalist vote in the Euro election would not have occurred. If the TUV, UKIP and PUP had competed in most DEA’s the unionist vote would have been 9,000 higher in the council election.
The Euro election provides an accurate view of the current state of the unionist electorate compared to the 2011 Assembly election. The unionist vote was up 191 compared to 2011 so we are essentially comparing the same voters who voted in 2011. Census statistics and NISRA emigration data indicate that the Protestant voting age population is unchanged since 2011. Half of NI21 voters originated from the unionist parties so the total unionist vote is up ~6,000 which is a 1% increase in turnout. In the Euro vote the TUV-UKIP-PUP vote was up 78,000 compared to 2011. The DUP vote was down 67,273 representing a loss of 1/3 of their 2011 electorate of 198,436. The UUP vote was down 4,093 but these were voter lost to NI21. Overall, the Euro vote was down ~26,000 from the 2011 Assembly election. It appears the nationalist vote was down ~34,000 and the unionist vote up~8,000. Unionist turnout was up 1% and nationalist turnout was down 5%. The official turnout figures are somewhat misleading because they are based only on the 1,250,000 voters who are on the electoral register. There are another 170,000 potential voters who are not on the register. The 635,000 who showed up to vote represent 45% of the whole adult (18+) population. The unionist turnout was approximately 49% and the nationalist turnout approximately 42% after accounting for Alliance, Green and NI21 transfers.
Now I will look at the winners and losers in the election. They are ranked from #1 to #11 based on how well they did in the election compared to 2011.
The TUV are the #1 winner in this election. Their 75,806 Euro vote is 59,326 higher than their 2011 Assembly vote. Their 28,161 council vote is twice their 2011 council vote. Jim Allister far exceeded any predictions for his Euro vote. He was only 13,000 votes behind the UUP when he was eliminated. Another 3,000 UKIP transfers and an increased 1st preference of 10,000 (either from increased turnout or more 1st preference from DUP or UUP) and he would have been an elected MEP. My only criticism of the TUV was their failure to contest many DEA’s, including ones with unionist majorities such as Dunsilly, Airport, Glengormley, Cusher, etc. . If they had contested most DEA’s their council total probably would have exceeded 40,000. Analysis by constituency indicates they would elect MLA’s in East Derry, North Antrim, East Antrim and possible East Belfast. Other possibilities are Lagan Valley, South Antrim and Upper Bann. With their 2014 result they can effectively prevent Peter Robinson from granting any concessions to SF.
Their Euro vote of 24,584 was over 20,000 higher than their 2011 Assembly vote. At 4% it was twice the general expectation. Their council vote of 9,313was over 3 times their 2011 vote. As with the TUV my only criticism would be that they failed to contest most DEA’s. Although some of their Euro vote originated from the PUP and independents it is likely that their council vote would have doubled if they have contested most DEA’s.
They had been written off as dead by most commentators. They topped the poll in Court and took a council seat from the DUP in Oldpark. They tripled their 2011 council vote. They galvanized the loyalist community over the Belfast flag controversy. There some pre-election speculation that their open leadership of the flag protests would lead to a backlash and increased turnout among working class and middle class Catholics that would neutralize their increased vote. The exact opposite occurred. Nationalist voters stayed home, 34,000 of them compared to 2011. Their strategy confirmed that they have nothing to fear from the nationalist voters. My only criticism was their failure to stand a Euro candidate and more council candidates. The Euro candidate would have received at least 12,000 votes. Analysis of constituencies indicates that the DUP will lose an MLA in East Belfast which will be won by either the PUP or TUV. They potentially could win a seat in North Belfast where the combined PUP-TUV vote was 11%.
The UUP did unexpectedly well considering that prior to the election it was thought that they would lose a significant number of votes to NI21. Their council vote was up slightly though the Euro vote was down slightly compared to 2011. There appears to have been only a 5,000 vote loss to NI21 in the council elections which was made up by an equally large gain from the DUP. Constituency tallies show they are now 7% higher than the DUP in Fermanagh South Tyrone and would take an Assembly seat from the DUP. With a terrible election result by the DUP (see below) Mike Nesbitt is in a good position to negotiate electoral pacts for Westminster. Expect the UUP to agree to step aside in East and North Belfast and possibly North Down with a UUP unity candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast. The constituency vote indicates that the SF would now lose Fermanagh South Tyrone to a unionist unity candidate due to a further decline in nationalist turnout. The decline in the SDLP vote and total nationalist vote in South Belfast also indicates that a UUP unity candidate would also win in South Belfast. The DUP are already publicly pressing for an electoral pact with the UUP and the UUP can dictate the terms as the DUP desperately want an MP in East Belfast.
The Green council vote was unchanged from 2011 but they did pick up key council seats in East Belfast and North Down. Their Euro vote was down from 2009 which was a low turnout election. Since their Euro vote was only 4,000 higher than their council vote they appear to have little appeal outside the few DEA’s they target. They will always have their niche. The influence of their voters is limited by the fact that their voters have the highest rate of non-transfers of any party. This limits the ability of their voters to elect members of other parties that would be friendly to their agenda.
Alliance barely qualifies for the loser category. It is a fact though that their council vote was down 7,000 compared to 2011 and their Euro vote was down 6,443 from the 2011 Assembly election. This is large in percentage terms. This decline is somewhat illusory since the majority of that decline is due to voters who defected to NI21. This is not the entire story. They did well in Belfast but their vote was down significantly in DEA’s outside of Belfast. They lost 20% of their vote in the DEA’s extending from Ballyclare to Carrickfergus to Larne Lough despite no competition from NI21. The vote was down in Castlereagh East and Ards as well. In those areas they lost votes to unionists. The East Belfast vote indicates that they would lose their only MP and with a unionist electoral pact it would definitely be lost.
#7 Sinn Fein
SF have generally been classed as winners in this election but only because of how well they did in the Republic, winning 3 euro seats. However, this article only concerns Northern Ireland. Their council vote declined 12,454 in only 3 years and their Euro vote was 18,411 less than their Assembly vote in 2011. This decline is actually worse because of the context in which it occurred. Census data indicate the nationalist electorate has increased by 24,000 since 2011. With the 2014 turnout the nationalist vote should have increased by 10,000 with most of that (~7,000) going to SF. So their true decline is in the 20,000 to 25,000 range. Less than 3 weeks before the election David Cameron was courting the DUP and at the same time the SF party leader was arrested and imprisoned. With such favouratism by the British government towards the DUP while at the same time showing obvious contempt for the party leader one would expect that the party activists and republican voters would have been motivated to vote. Losing 10% of your electorate in such circumstances is not a good sign. They lost these voters to apathy since the independent nationalist vote also declined. Constituency vote shows they would lose an MLA seat in Fermanagh South Tyrone to the SDLP and also lose Assembly seats in West Belfast (unionist gain) and East Antrim (unionist gain)
The SDLP council vote was down 13,722 compared to 2011 and the Euro vote was down 12,692 compared to the 2011 Assembly vote. With the demographic changes since 2011 one would have expected their vote to be up perhaps 3,000. While their absolute vote decline is similar to SF their percentage decline is greater. The constituency vote indicates they would have lost their MP seat to the DUP in South Belfast even without a unionist pact. They would also lose an Assembly seat in South Belfast though gain one in Fermanagh South Tyrone.
Despite all the spin by DUP politicians this election was a total disaster for the DUP. Their council vote was down 34,500 compared to 2011. Belfast was particularly bad. In the Court DEA the PUP topped the poll and their top vote getter McCoubry (formerly UDP) had only recently joined the party. His vote total almost equaled the vote of the other 3 DUP candidates combined. If he had not joined the DUP they would have gone from 4 councilors in 2011 to 1 in 2014. They lost a seat to the PUP in Oldpark and the UUP in Titanic. From 15 seats out of 51 in the old Belfast council they declined to 13 out of 60 in the new council. They are now also 7% behind the UUP in Fermanagh South Tyrone. Their council decline would have been greater but the TUV, UKIP and PUP did not contest many DEA’s. Their Euro vote declined 67,223 from their 2011 Assembly vote of 198,436. Losing a third of their voters places them firmly in the column as the worst loser among the major parties. Unlike the nationalist parties, they cannot blame their vote decline on voter apathy since unionist turnout was actually increased in 2014. Almost the entire DUP decline was due to loss of voters to the hard line unionist parties but votes were also lost to the UUP. Apparently the unionist electorate decided to send a message to the DUP for ambiguity regarding the flag protest. The controversy over the OTR’s damaged them as some British politicians claimed that the DUP knew all along about the amnesty plan but that the British government agreed to provide them cover by claiming that it was the UUP that agreed to the amnesty. Of course being in government with SF at Stormont did not help. The DUP have always been good at strategy. Expect the DUP to take a more hard-line approach with SF. The DUP are in an excellent position to do so. Their electorate demands it and they will make no concessions to SF on any matter. They are in a strong position since SF has no options. It is a lose-lose situation for SF. If SF concedes too much to the DUP then even more SF voters stay home or defect to dissident republicans. If SF collapses the Assembly then they will be hurt electorally in the Republic as they would be seen as unstable, unpredictable and unsuitable for any governing coalition. The DUP are certainly aware of the message they have been given by the unionist electorate as 1/3 of unionist voters voted for the TUV and UKIP, parties that believe that SF should not be allowed in any government in Northern Ireland. They will act accordingly.
The Conservatives received their usual less than 1% vote. It is not even clear why they continue to compete. Probably because the national party insist that they do.
What can I say? The party imploded in 2 days. Only 1 councilor elected. A Euro vote less than 2%. One MLA is involved in a scandal and certain to lose his seat in 2016. The other MLA is certain to lose his seat also as the NI21 vote was less than 1% in South Down. Will this party even exist in one month? Their best option would be to disband and encourage party members to join the Alliance Party or UUP.
Overall it was a major win for hardline unionism. Although the TUV and UKIP currently have only 2 MLA’s at Stormont they can effectively dictate DUP policy in the Executive with SF and they have 100,000 voters to back them up. Nationalism was the big loser with 34,000 voters dropping out of the electorate. The 38.5% nationalist vote in the Euro election is the lowest nationalist percentage in 20 years and turnout was only 42%. Nationalist nonvoters have given their silent approval of the hardline unionist agenda.