The District Council elections are over and now it is on to the European Parliament elections scheduled for May 23rd. These elections were not even on the calendar a month ago for the UK but the unexpected 6 month delay (or longer) for Brexit has forced the UK to hold European Parliamentary elections.
What will be the results of the Euro elections in Northern Ireland?
For the District Council elections there were no opinion polls so it was a challenge to predict the outcome. This is not the case with the Euro elections. Lucid Talk conducted a Euro election opinion poll this week (more on this later). However, there was one other opinion poll this month and this was the District Council election.
The sample for this “opinion poll” was 676,867 and should provide an accurate assessment on what the Euro election vote will be.
In 2014 the District Council election and Euro election were held on the same day.
However, the results indicate that not all the same voters voted in both elections. These were the results.
You will notice the vote is identical in both elections.
They do not appear to be exactly the same voters though. You will notice that the nationalist vote in the Euro election was 17,000 less than the council election. How could this be? Well, there were over 20,000 nationalist voters in the council elections who did not vote for SF or the SDLP and thus did not have a candidate of their 1st preference to vote for.
Many of these were PBP or dissident republican voters. Approximately ¼ did vote for SF or the SDLP. Another ¼ voted for Alliance-Green-NI21, which is why the Alliance-Green-NI21 vote was 6,000 higher in the Euro election. The other ½ (~11,000) did not vote in the Euro election.
For unionist voters it was the opposite.
There were over 100,000 TUV, UKIP and Conservative voters in the Euro election but only 40,000 from those parties in the council election. Jim Allister may have attracted some of those extra 60,000 voters but it is likely that 30,000 to 40,000 of them had no candidate of their preferred party to vote for in the council election. Apparently 10,000 of those did not vote in the council election but did vote in the Euro election because they had the option of voting TUV-UKIP-Conservative in the Euro election, which they did not have in the council election. When all the votes and transfers were accounted for the UUP defeated the SDLP for the 3rd seat by 43,000 votes.
In 2019 the Euro election is not on the same date as the District Council election. Nevertheless, the council election should predict the outcome of the Euro election since it will be likely all the same voters. What do the results of the 2019 election tell us compared to 2014?
2019 2014 Change
SF 158,579 23.4% 151,258 7,321
SDLP 80,379 11.9% 85,603 -5,224
Aontu 7,459 1.1% 0 7,459
PBP 9,478 1.4% 1,963 7,555
Ind Nationalist 25,457 3.8% 19,800 5,617
Total Nationalist 281,352 41.6% 258,624 22,728
Alliance 77,644 11.5% 41,786 35,858
Green 14,284 2.1% 6,354 7,930
NI21 0 11,495 -11,495
UUP 94,381 13.9% 101,375 -6,994
DUP 161,061 23.8% 144,886 16,175
TUV 17,586 2.6% 28,161 -10,575
PUP 5,338 0.8% 12,553 -7,215
UKIP 2,925 0.4% 9,313 -6,338
Conservative 1,876 0.3% 2,527 -651
Ind unionist 17,000 2.5% 10,810 6,190
Total Unionist 300,167 44.3% 309,625 -9,458
2019 2014 Change
Total Nationalist 41.6% 41.2% +0.4%
Total Unionist 44.3% 49.3% -5.0%
Total Nonsectarian 14.1% 9.5% +4.6%
There were 49,000 more voters in the 2019 election compared to 2014. There were 64,000 new voters added to the electoral register since 2014 so the majority of the additional voters were new voters though some were those who did not vote in 2014. It appears that most were nationalist or Alliance-Green voters. The total unionist vote was down by 9,458 and the nationalist vote up by 22,728. The increase in the Alliance-Green vote was 43,788 or almost twice the increase in the nationalist vote. The increase in the Alliance-Green vote came from 4 sources. Probably ¼ were NI21 voters from 2014. Another ¼ would be unionist voters who defected to Alliance-Green which is why the unionist vote was down. The other ½ would be a mixture of new voters and nationalist voters who switched to Alliance-Green.
Within the nationalist vote the SDLP vote was down but this was mainly due to the votes received by the 8 former SDLP councilors who were independents or Aontu in 2019. Thus, the other non SDLP origin independent nationalist vote was unchanged. The increase in the nationalist vote was equally shared by SF, Aontu and PBP.
Among unionist parties the vote was down for all parties except the DUP. There are several reasons for the changes. The UUP decline would be moderate unionists who defected to Alliance-Green probably due to Brexit. The DUP vote was up but some of that increase was due to the fact that the minor unionist parties had fewer candidates and some of those voters in certain DEA’s choose the DUP instead. However, there was a real underlying shift to the DUP from the minor unionist parties.
There was a marked 5% decrease in the overall unionist vote since 2014. The nationalist vote was only up slightly so the 4.6% increase in the Alliance-Green came more from new voters and nationalist voters.
So what are the implications for the Euro election? To begin with the Euro election is an election throughout all of Northern Ireland and a voter has a choice of a candidate from the party of their 1st preference. The council elections on based on the DEA’s and voters sometimes cannot vote for the party of their 1st preference because there may be no candidate standing from that party. Some minor adjustments need to be made in order to make a more accurate Euro forecast.
The unionist parties had at least one unionist candidate in all except 3 DEA’s and those 3 had minimal potential unionist votes. Alliance-Green had no candidates in 9 DEA’s and I estimate based on previous elections in those DEA’s that if they did have candidates the overall nationalist vote would be 0.2% less and the unionist vote 0.1% less.
SF did not contest 14 DEA’s and the SDLP did not contest 18 DEA’s. In particular, there was a significant SDLP vote in some of those DEA’s in the past and those voters most likely voted Alliance-Green or SF (in 4 of the DEA’s). All the adjustments would increase the nationalist vote by 0.6% and the unionist would be unchanged. The Alliance-Green vote would be down 0.6%. If the same voters vote in the Euro election then one would expect the vote to be:
The total unionist 1st preference vote will probably be 44%. The combined TUV-UKIP-Conservative vote in 2019 was only half of what it was in 2014 so I expect a corresponding decline for those parties in the Euro election.
Jim Allister was in a stronger position in 2014 because he could attack the DUP for sharing power with SF in Stormont. He can no longer do so since the DUP refuses to back the return of Stormont.
The DUP are also strongly pro-Brexit and that is their position in Westminster so he will be in a weaker position in 2019.
The UKIP candidate Robert Hill received only 154 votes in the Macedon DEA last week so this does not bode well for UKIP. The TUV, UKIP and Conservatives polled almost 1/3 of the total unionist vote in 2014.
I expect the unionist 1st preference vote to be:
Based on the 2014 transfer pattern, 1% of the 7% from the smaller parties will not transfer. In 2014 the unionist vote that did transfer went equally to the DUP and UUP. So the unionist vote after the smaller unionist parties are eliminated would be:
Among nationalist parties it is a little more complicated because 6.25% of the vote in the council elections went to non SDLP non SF nationalists. A small number of the 1.4% PBP will actually go to Alliance-Green.
Aontu will definitely not go to pro-choice parties such as Alliance Green. The 3.76% independent nationalist vote is mainly former SDLP or SF candidates so few will end up with Alliance-Green 1st preference. The SDLP will be a little higher due to voters who could not vote for them in those 18 DEA’s with no SDLP candidate. They will also pick up some of the independent nationalist vote, mainly those of SDLP origin.
I expect the total nationalist 1st preference vote to be 41.5% with 0.75% of the original 42.25% lost to Alliance-Green.
For the nonsectarian candidates it could be approximately
The SDLP is only slightly ahead of Alliance and based on the transfer pattern in this month’s council election and 2014, the 3.5% for Green and independents would transfer:
So the vote prior to taking into account the transfer of SF and DUP surpluses would be:
In 2014, 98% of the DUP surplus went to the UUP. The SF surplus was 20% non-transferable with approximately 65% eventually SDLP and 15% Alliance. So after they are distributed:
At this point Alliance would be eliminated. In 2014 Anna Lo of Alliance had a transfer pattern of 20% to unionist parties, 45% to the SDLP and 35% non-transferable.
I do not expect that there will be more than 20% of Alliance transfers to the UUP in 2019. There was a low rate of Alliance transfers to unionist parties in the council election this month and most Alliance voters are opposed to Brexit. The question is will Alliance have a 35% non-transferable rate in 2019? I believe it is unlikely with the prominence of Brexit in this election. The Alliance non transfer rate was very low in the council elections last week. So I expect that at most 2.5% of the 13% Alliance vote will transfer to the UUP, similar to 2014. The transfer rate to the SDLP would be 6% based on the 2014 pattern but likely 8.5% or higher this year. The final vote would be based on the original 100% of the vote:
Thus this Euro election will elect 1 SF 1 SDLP and 1 UUP. The 1st preference unionist vote was only 44.3% in the council election last week. Some votes are always lost in transfer. There will be few Alliance-Green transfers available to the UUP based on the transfer pattern observed in last week’s council election.
The LucidTalk presents a slightly different picture. This poll was conducted immediately following the council elections. The unweighted results in the poll were:
Jane Morrice 1.3%
Neill McCann 0.1%
Undecided (will vote) 6.7%
Non Voters 3.1%
After the Undecided and probable nonvoters were removed the adjusted results are:
Jane Morrice 1.4%
Neill McCann 0.1%
The Green preference is much higher than the 2.1% they receive in the council election. The TUV vote is also much higher than the 2.6% in the council election The increased TUV vote appears to be coming from council voters from the PUP, independent unionists and DUP as they is no absolute increase in the total unionist percentage. This may be related to Jim Allister’s high profile. It is not clear where the Green increase is coming from since there is no corresponding decline in the Alliance percentage. The poll shows a vote of 17.4% for non-sectarian candidates which is almost 4% higher than the actual council election results. The margin of error in the poll is +/- 2.6% so the real Green vote could be as low as the 2.1% in the council election. An interesting finding is the percentage of Undecided based on Constitutional Position which was:
Slightly nationalist 12%
Slightly unionist 10%
Strongly nationalist 4%
Strongly unionist 5%
The strongly nationalist group as a whole give SF 72% and the strongly unionist give DUP-TUV-UKIP 68%. The undecided within these 2 groups are probably undecided among candidates within their respective communities. The undecided among the slightly unionist and slightly nationalist groups give slight pluralities to the UUP and SDLP respectively. Since the percentage undecided is much lower among the strongly unionist and strongly nationalist groups the adjusted totals may be underestimating slightly the percentage for the SDLP, UUP, Alliance and Green candidates.
Second preferences for all candidates were asked and these are some of the results:
This is a significant change from 2014. 35% of Alliance votes did not transfer to anyone in the final count and it appears this will be much lower this year. 20% of transfers went to unionist candidates in 2014 versus 8.0% this year.
Indeed SF would receive more transfers than all the unionist candidates combined.
Alliance receive a large majority of Green transfers.
SF voters are more than twice as likely to transfer to Alliance-Green rather than the SDLP.
Very few SDLP voters are willing to give SF a 2nd preference.
Now I should point out that the actual council election did not confirm these findings for SF and SDLP transfers. There were only a small number of DEA’s where a SF candidate had to choose between the SDLP or Alliance-Green and a similar small number where the SDLP had to choose between SF and Alliance-Green.
In the Oldpark DEA the SDLP surplus transferred 210 to Alliance-Green and 623 to SF so ¾ of SDLP voters preferred SF to Alliance-Green. In Omagh DEA there were near equal transfers to SF and Alliance.
For SF transfers in Lisnasharragh DEA almost ¾ transferred to the SDLP and ¼ to Green. In Bann DEA 89% transferred to the SDLP and 11% Alliance. In Causeway DEA 85% transferred to the SDLP and 15% to Alliance.
If the transfer patterns in shown this poll did occur in this election this would be the results after surpluses are distributed from SF and the DUP
Alliance would easily win as they would receive at least 10% of the SDLP total in transfers and would be over a quota. If for some reason the UUP and SDLP percentages were reversed then Alliance would win on UUP transfers though under quota.
Whether the council elections are more accurate or the LucidTalk poll is more accurate there will only be one unionist candidate elected- the DUP. SF will win a seat and the 3rd can only be Alliance or the SDLP. The total unionist vote will only be in the 42% to 44% range and both the council elections and LucidTalk indicate that few nonsectarian voters are willing to transfer to the UUP or any unionist candidate.