This analysis of the new Belfast council will cover the South Belfast DEA’s of Botanic and Balmoral. The following shows the change in the turnout for the nationalist and unionist parties comparing the 2005 and 2011 district council elections.

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The election turnout for the 2005 and 2011 elections indicate:

#1 Turnout declined between the 2005 and 2011 elections.

#2 Nationalist turnout declined at a greater rate (13%) than unionist turnout (6%) in the Balmoral DEA.

#3 Nationalist turnout is higher than unionist turnout.

#4 Turnout is very low in the Lagan Bank DEA, mainly due to the large number of students. Most students, if they vote, vote in their home districts. This DEA also has a large number of ethnic nationals who vote at a lower rate than the native population. These factors, to a lesser extent, account for the low turnout in the Balmoral DEA.

The change in the party vote between 2005 and 2011 is as follows:

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There was a substantial decline in the SDLP vote in Balmoral. Approximately half these SDLP voters stayed home and the other half defected to SF, Alliance and Green. There was also a large decline in the UUP and DUP vote in Balmoral. Some of these voters defected to Alliance and Green. The remainder of the decline is due to a declining unionist electorate and voters who stayed home. In Lagan Bank, the SF, SDLP, UUP and DUP vote declined. Half of decline was due to voters who defected to the Alliance and Green candidates and the other half was due to voters who stayed home.

The new DEA’s have changed. The Balmoral DEA added the new Belvoir ward, which consists of the Minnowburn ward and sections of the Drumbo, Beechill, Newtownbreda and Rosetta wards. The Blackstaff and Windsor wards were removed from Balmoral and transferred to the Botanic DEA (previously named Lagan Bank). The Rosetta ward was removed from Botanic and transferred to Lisnasharragh DEA.

The average ward for Belfast is 3535. The total electorate and average ward electorate for each DEA is.

Balmoral             17119 (3424)

Botanic                19138 (3838)

The demographics and predicted election results are based on the 2011 turnout.

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The removal of the nationalist Rosetta ward and the addition of the overwhelmingly protestant Blackstaff ward in the Botanic DEA would change the results in 2014. The DEA is 5% more Protestant and 6% less Catholic and this would result in a gain for the UUP and a loss for the SDLP. Balmoral is losing 1 seat and that loss would come from the SDLP. While it is likely this is what the results will be it is possible that the SDLP could regain these seats in Balmoral and Botanic. The demographics of the new Balmoral are identical to those of the old Balmoral. In the 2011 election the party vote was:

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There has been no change in the voting age population since 2001 but the number of voters has declined by over 3600 in 10 years. This would be due to voter apathy. The overall Alliance and Green vote has increase by 360 due to defection from UUP and SDLP voters. The overall nationalist vote has decreased by 950 of which perhaps 150 defected to Alliance-Green and 800 due to voter apathy. However, there has been a massive decline in the total unionist vote, from 6517 in 2011 to 3449 in 2011. That is a decline of 3068 votes. Indeed, the unionist vote of 3449 in 2011 was only 2/3 of the unionist vote of 5121 in 2005. While perhaps 200 of that decline is due to defections to Alliance and Green most would be due to demographic decline and voter apathy. How much of that decline is due to demographic changes will determine the results in 2014. The trend suggests another 800 vote decline in 2014 but it is unlikely to be that high since the majority of that decline may be due to apathy, which is unlikely to worsen in 2014. If there is another 400 vote decline due to demographic changes and the SDLP increases nationalist turnout by 100 votes, then there would be a 2nd SDLP seat here at the expense of the UUP. Any combination of declining unionist vote and increasing nationalist turnout that equals 500 votes would result in a 2nd SDLP seat.

The situation in Botanic is similar. With the new boundaries the expected vote would be, based on the 2011 election.

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The UUP candidate would be elected on DUP and Green transfers. However, between 2005 and 2011,  the unionist vote in Lagan Bank declined by over 1000 while the nationalist vote declined by less than 800. Furthermore, Blackstaff and Windsor were removed from Balmoral and some of that massive decline in the unionist vote in Balmoral occurred in those 2 wards. SF and Alliance are sitting on a quota exactly so will have little surplus to transfer. The Green vote transferred 75% SDLP and 25% UUP in the 2011 election. If the unionist vote declines by another 200 due to demographic changes and the SDLP increases their vote by another 400 votes they would win a 2nd seat here. There are also over 6,000 ethnic nationals of voting age in this constituency, of which 2,500 were on the December 2013 electoral register. If the SDLP were to target those voters and increase their vote total by another 400 votes, they would win a 2nd seat.

 

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