There was an opinion poll released by LucidTalk earlier this month.
It covered multiple issues.
One question asked was “ NI ASSEMBLY ELECTION: If an NI Assembly Election were to be held tomorrow which political party would you vote for as FIRST PREFERENCE? – Excluding Don’t Know/Undecideds “.
I will analyze these findings and comment on different aspects of the poll.
Potential voters were asked what their voter preference would be for an Assembly election. The results were weighted by “likelihood to vote”. I will compare those preferences with the actual 2019 Westminster election results.
Assembly Westminster 2019 Difference
SF 23.8% 22.7% +1.1%
SDLP 12.5% 14.8% -2.3%
PBP 2.1% 1.0% +1.1%
Aontu 1.5% 1.2% +0.3%
Alliance 15.5% 16.8% -1.3%
Green 2.5% 0.2% +2.3%
Independents 0.7% 0.2% +0.5%
UUP 11.5% 11.6% -0.1%
DUP 22.4% 30.5% -8.1%
TUV 6.4% 0.0% +6.4%
Other Unionist 1.1% 0.9% +0.2%
Voters were asked about their actual votes in the 2017 Assembly election, and of the 95% who indicated they actually voted in that election, voters preferences were almost exactly identical to the results in that election.
The 2019 Westminster results are not completely comparable to an Assembly preference since minor parties did not compete in all Westminster constituencies. Indeed, there were no TUV Westminster candidates in 2019. The differences in party preference for an Assembly election and the actual Westminster 2019 results are not statistically significant with one exception.
The DUP vote would be 8% lower in an Assembly election and the TUV vote would be 6.4% higher. It should be noted that the 6.4% preference for the TUV is more than twice their 2017 Assembly vote (2.6%).
There were some interesting results on voter preference by Religion background. The sample was listed as:
For Protestant voters Assembly preference was:
For Catholic voters Assembly preference was:
Nationalist 84 %
For No Religion voters Assembly preference was:
If one looks at voter preference in polls prior to Brexit only 1% of Catholics would vote for a unionist party and only 1% of Protestants would vote for a nationalist party. While 1% of Catholics still prefer a unionist party the percentage of Protestants who would vote for a nationalist party (mainly SDLP) has increased to 6%. Protestant voters now account for more than 15% of the total SDLP vote.
Another change is that prior to Brexit No Religion voters generally voted 40% unionist, 40% Alliance-Green and 20% nationalist. That voter group has changed dramatically with only 17% willing to vote unionist. That voter group now has a 29% SF preference.
What are the implications for a 2022 Assembly election?
I wish to point out that the demographics of Religion in this poll has a higher proportion of Protestants and a lower proportion of Catholics. We will not know the results of the 2021 census until 2022. However, it is possible to extrapolate from the 2011 census. We know that all those aged 9 to 17 are now old enough to vote. We also know the number of deaths since that census (mainly elderly voters). It appears that the current voting age population is approximately
14% No Religion/Other
The total unionist vote was 43% in the 2019 Westminster election. With the 2022 voting age demographics it may be only 40%. This is not only due to demographic changes but also to the significant increase in Protestants who are voting for Alliance, Green and nationalist parties.
The collapse in support for unionist parties among those voters with No Religion is also contributing significantly to the decline of the unionist vote.
To illustrate the implications of these changes in voter preference I will look at the vote in several constituencies in the 2019 Westminster election. For an Assembly election 1 quota is 16.6% and 2 quotas are 33.3%
Other Unionist 4.7%
Alliance has 28.4%. The combined Green, SDLP, SF vote is 9% so a 2nd Alliance candidate would easily be elected on their transfers with a net loss of one unionist seat.
The Alliance vote is 27.3%. The combined Green, SDLP and SF vote is 10% so a 2nd Alliance candidate would easily be elected with their transfers with a net loss on one unionist seat.
The combined Alliance, SDLP, SF vote is 33.6% and the SDLP candidate would be eliminated and their transfers would elect a SF and Alliance candidate with a net loss of one unionist seat.
The SDLP and SF are only 1% short of a quota but would receive some Aontu transfers so would each elect one. Alliance is an unlikely source for the remaining 2.4% of Aontu transfers but could receive some in tactical transfers. Alliance would certainly receive enough UUP transfers to reach the quota. There would be a net loss of one unionist seat.
The combine unionist vote is 4.2% less than a quota so there would be a loss of the DUP seat.
There were 3,350 more unionist votes than Alliance-SDLP-SF votes. However, there are 7,500 EU nationals on the electoral register here that were not permitted to vote in the Westminster election. If half vote in an Assembly election then the unionist vote would be less than 50%. There would also be some UUP transfers to Alliance so an Alliance candidate could be elected with a net loss of one unionist seat.
Alliance would receive some UUP transfers. Whether the 3rd unionist seat would be lost will depend on how many of the 2,400 SF and SDLP voters who voted in the Assembly election but may not have voted in the Westminster election will narrow the gap. There are also 2,400 EU nationals on the electorate here.
A 3rd non unionist seat is further away here. However, if the UUP vote declines further the UUP candidate could be eliminated and a 3rd non unionist could be elected on UUP transfers.
Overall, the 2019 Westminster results and the results of the LucidTalk poll indicate a loss of 5 unionist seats in an Assembly election with a possible loss of up to 8 seats.
Alliance would be the main beneficiary of those losses.