West Belfast Constituency Profile – Assembly Elections 2022…

If you have not read yesterday’s article you might find it helpful to read the note on the method I used in making the projections in these articles. You will find it at the bottom, in italics.

The marked relative decline in the nationalist vote share in West Belfast is a direct reflection of the growth in the People Before Profit vote at the 2016 Assembly election, after which the party designated as Other.

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The main point to note here, which is also seen in the main party results, is that West Belfast is one of the few constituencies where there was no obvious sign of tactical voting at the last Westminster election. This means that the result can be factored into our expectations.

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If repeated in May those votes would have returned 3 SF, 1 SDLP and 1 PBP.

My Central projection from the Lucid Talk poll gives the following pattern (remember to allow for the margins of error in the poll and in this projection).

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Which would mean that quotas per candidate might look something like this. Seats won in 2017 are highlighted in gold.

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Also standing are the Workers Party which contested all elections in West Belfast with the exception of some Westminsters. Their vote is always worth about 0.1 of a quota. This will come at the expense of several of the parties’ projections shown here. Obviously, most of it would transfer back again.

The IRSP have a candidate for the first time since the 2011 Council elections when they took less than 0.1 of a quota.

There are three Independents, Tony Mallon, who is standing as a cross-community candidate, Gerard Burns and Declan Hill. If they, or anyone else, wants to share more information about their policy platforms please write a comment.

My three different projections agree that there would be 3 Safe seats for SF and 1 for PBP.

The Central projection has three parties in contention for the other seat, the SDLP would have a Good possibility of taking it, while SF would have only a Smaller possibility of retaining its fourth seat, with the DUP having a Long Shot.

Neither of the two alternative projections gives SF a better than Small chance of retaining its fourth seat. Indeed, one of them rates it at no better than a Long Shot.

The SDLP’s fortunes could differ widely, with one projection making them Likely to take a seat, and the other giving them no chance. This shows how even a small change in vote share could make a big difference for them either way in this constituency.

One of the two projections does give the DUP a Good possibility. However, it should be noted that in the last ten years, unionist turnout for Assembly elections in West Belfast has been poorer than for Council and Westminster, which could shave their chances downwards slightly.

You may be wondering why the Central projection for PBP is noticeably lower than its showing in the last Westminster election. Even at this lower level, transfers should keep the seat safe for them. It might be that Gerry Carroll has built a personal following, which would not be reflected in a straight projection of polling data; or it could be a simple consequence of small overestimates in the projections for the party in the constituencies which it is contesting for the first time, and in which there is no form to go on.

NOTE ON METHOD:

There is no perfect way to translate a national poll to a local constituency level. Still less so in a PR system. We must recognise a level of uncertainty. I have used the last Lucid Talk poll as my base because, as well as giving party shares, it also tracks how the voters for each party at the last Assembly election intend to vote this time. This allowed me to make two projections for each constituency, one based on vote switching since 2017, the other on changes in party vote shares since the 2019 Local Government elections. (I used the LG elections due to widespread tactical voting at the later Westminster.)

The two different projections mimic two different patterns of changes in party support. In one, a party that is growing strongly will see a bit less of that growth where it is already strong, and a bit more where it was previously at it most weak. Conversely, the parties that have lost voters will suffer a bit more in their strongest constituencies.

The other projection has the opposite effect. Either may prove to be a more accurate reflection of reality. And while the differences between the two are not massive (they both must total to the same poll shares across all constituencies) they can still sometimes produce different outcomes.

I should stress that while the Lucid Talk bears the responsibility for the original poll, the projections are entirely my responsibility.

For each 1st preference projection, I have used recent transfer patterns to identify all candidates who have any chance of winning on a scale ranging from Safe to Long Shot.

To avoid burdening you with all this detail I have averaged the results of the two projections and shown them as a Central projection, merely noting where one of the other projections produces a noteworthy difference.

Where a party is running more than one candidate, I have generally split the party vote between them in the same proportions at the last election. I have had to make my own assumptions when a party has a different number of candidates this time.

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