There has been little change in the designation splits in Newry and Armagh over the years, until 2019. Then an uptick in the Alliance vote, similar to that in Mid Ulster, occurred. This appeared to be at the expense of both unionists and nationalists.
The marked level of tactical voting within unionism at Westminster elections since 2015 can be clearly seen. In 2015 the DUP withdrew as part of a UUP/DUP pact, but since then it has been the DUP that benefited. Once again this is an echo of what we saw in Mid Ulster.
There is no evidence of tactical voting in 2019 by nationalists or others, so the Westminster election can be used to form a projection for those parties. This would have given 2 SF and 1 SDLP. There would almost certainly have been 2 unionists and three nationalists.
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).
The usual illustration of the quotas chart, shown below has been adjusted from the percentages shown above. Seats won in 2017 are highlighted in gold.
The division of SF votes between their candidates follows the same proportions as in 2017.
At the top of this chart, you will see an Independent, Gavin Malone. He was elected as a Councillor in Newry in his first time standing in 2019. He topped the poll with 2296 votes, worth 1.6 of a quota in his District. These alone would represent a quarter of a quota at an Assembly election. To illustrate the possible effect of his participation I have shown what things would look like if he were to have 0.3 of a quota on the first count. We know that his transfers went 36% SF, 29% SDLP, 20% Alliance, 1% UUP while 14% non-transferable. I have reduced those parties’ 1st preference votes using those proportions. You can see that at that level he would be eliminated with minimal impact on the final result.
Assuming Malone falls short, all my projections from the Lucid Talk poll agree that there would be 2 Safe seats for SF and 1 each for the UUP and SDLP. The Central projection gives the 3rd SF and the DUP an equal Good possibility.
One of the other projections agrees, but the third gives the DUP no chance of making the 3rd SF Safe.
This pattern holds true even if Ind Malone gets 0.4 of a quota. Much above that level, it is difficult to call – but it would be a lot less likely that SF could retain the third seat.
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.
Michael Hehir is a retired sales and marketing manager. He studied in Northern Ireland but now lives between England and Italy.