February 2021 Projections Update

Seat totals

Sinn Féin 63
Fine Gael 61
Fianna Fáil 21
Independents 5
Social Democrats 5
Labour 2
PBP/Solidarity 2
Green Party 1

Changes Since January

Sinn Féin +1
Fine Gael -2
Fianna Fáil nc
Independents nc
Social Democrats +3
Labour nc
PBP/Solidarity +1
Green Party -3

Sinn Féin and Fine Gael are close, nationally, on the RPA. FG are at 29.2% and SF are at 27.1%. While FG have still increased their numbers since the GE by more than SF, they have been dropping since opening up a solid 5-point lead last year. Indeed, SF were briefly ahead on a 5-poll RPA basis, although that has dropped off slightly again. However, when looking at provinces, a lot of this is due to the impact of Munster, where a heavy SF surge is already factored into the seat projections, so there’s not a huge amount of room for SF to move the needle there. FG have an advantage in every other province, albeit one that is slowly declining – which has had an impact in Dublin, though it hasn’t really helped Sinn Féin much since January.

The other main movement has been for the Green Party. The party’s national-level polling had been pretty steady, even marginally positive before this weekend’s Red C poll, but the regional breakdown told an ugly story; losses in Dublin that will impact their ability to hold seats being masked by improvements in other areas of the country that are not currently sufficient to make them competitive anywhere. The major beneficiary of this is, of course, the Social Democrats, as discussed at the end of this article.

Data is from before the Feb 28th Red C poll – despite an overall increase in support since January, the Greens had a projected net loss of three seats. Naturally, the latest poll made this more pronounced.

Fiann Fáil’s numbers are hard to figure out. Overall they’re not great, still bouncing around the 15% mark, but there’s some really odd stuff going on regionally – especially in Connacht/Ulster, where the last five polls have them anywhere between 31% and 6% – basically, they are experiencing massive outliers in both directions at the moment. The model currently thinks their true support in the area is also somewhere in the mid-teens, and unless either set of outliers start to stick, I don’t see this changing, but this could get wild.

Finally, the Independents have had a decent month of polling – which, fittingly enough is showing some really weird outcomes. A monstrous number in Connacht/Ulster in the IPSOS poll could be an outlier, and one poll will have weak impact on the RPA at this point, but if this trend continues (they have ben ticking back up in general, and the Red C poll indicates that while IPSOS overstated, there is an increase for Indos in those provinces), expect major changes to projections in the region. (Although I should note that the IPSOS results are muddied by the Irish Times’ infuriating insistence on lumping PBP, SDs and Aontú in with INDs. Between this and their farcical polling on COVID, this week has been a reminder that while IPSOS do solid work, the Irish Times need to seriously improve their presentation and analysis because their approach actively undermines the generally high-quality polling that exists in Ireland. )

Before we get into the specific constituencies, a map:

Seven constituencies have a projected change; six of them are in Dublin, mostly due to declining numbers in the capital for the Green Party and Fine Gael. The other constituency, is, bluntly, problematic for the modelling. The constituencies and changes are as follows:

  • Dublin Bay North (SD +1, FG -1)
  • Dublin Bay South (FG +1, GP -1)
  • Dublin Central (SD +1, GP -1)
  • Dublin Mid-West (IND +1, FG -1)
  • Dublin Rathdown (SF +1, GP -1)
  • Dublin South West (PBP +1, FG -1)
  • Galway West (SD +1, IND -1)

SD +1

FG -1

This one is relatively close. Prior modelling indicated that Richard Bruton was well-positioned to bring in a running-mate, and while that may still be the case, there’s an indication that it will be much tougher than previously expected – January numbers had FG cruising to a second seat . On current numbers, it would require a level of management of the vote split that, based on past efforts in DBN, it’s not clear that FG are capable of pulling off.

The polling is good for Soc Dem incumbent Cian O’Callaghan, who previously was looking unlikely to beat FF’s Seán Haughey into sixth place, let alone hold his seat. The outlook this month is a lot more rosy; while he still trails Haughey and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin on FPV, the model indicates he would overhaul both on transfers. However, of course, there is a major caveat here – transfers are much harder to predict. So while the model leans SD here, it’s no sure thing. I expect the final seats here to swing back and forth between O’Callaghan, Ó Ríordáin, Haughey and a theoretical second FG candidate, unless there is a decisive shift in polling.

FG +1

GP -1

There’s something counter-intuitive here, that in what is a relatively down period in polling for FG in Dublin, the model shows them taking a third seat here. This is more a function of the trends for FF and the Greens in Dublin than any great achievement for FG, but the realistic potential of a viable three-candidate strategy will be a relief to a local organisation that really kinda doesn’t want to run Kate O’Connell again but will probably have to. If they can put both O’Connell and a councillor running alongside Eoghan Murphy, it’ll head off an internal spat that could end up similar to the (extremely funny but also extremely sexist) incident that saw the local FG branch in DBN deselect Richard Bruton in protest 2016.

I don’t know if FG could manage to pull off three at the end of the day – especially with two candidates still unknown – but that’s the most probable outcome given by the numbers right now. Jim O’Callaghan (FF) is floundering, and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, while still likely competitive, is going to be at a slight disadvantage. I know while it’s easy to overreact to something like this, this is a very close call under the model (this is literally a 51/49 call), so extreme caution is needed here, and even if that probability is correct, there are a million ways for FG to completely mess up their electoral strategy or candidate selection. As long as Ryan stays ahead of O’Callaghan, he cannot be written off.

SD +1

GP -1

There’s not a ton interesting here – this was an inevitable outcome of the Green polling numbers in Dublin, really. FPV projections still have Neasa Hourigan (GP) ahead of Gary Gannon (SD) by a razor thin margin, but similar to DBN, transfers make the difference. As with DBN I would of course sound a note of restraint when it comes to transfers, but the FPV gap here is so small that I’m more comfortable with this call. It’s worth noting as well that Fianna Fáil aren’t a mile behind either candidate, but they are even less transfer friendly than either, so will need to pull ahead on FPV to be truly competitive. Given their current numbers in Dublin, this doesn’t look particularly likely.

IND +1

FG -1

As I’ve mentioned several times previously, I believe that my model is overall more down on Independents than I think it should be. It’s fairly comfortably ruling out the likes of Danny Healy-Rae, Mattie McGrath and Denis Naughten. While I haven’t quite got a handle on the precise, constituency-level approaches I should take for this, I do understand generally what’s causing it, and thus have an idea of what’s needed to verify if its correct or not, and if it turns out it’s not, how to rectify.

There is one Independent, however, that the model loves. Absolutely loves. I have no idea why. The model takes provincial averages; there shouldn’t be someone who is just outlying the entire trend. If it shows Independents being largely flat in Dublin, that should apply in DMW too.

As a wise man once said, “by all accounts, it doesn’t make sense”.

And yet, this is who the Feburary version of the model projects will take the final seat in Dublin Mid-West, pictured here in, I think, his most famous moment.

With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you Deputy Stagg! Fuck you!
This has broken both the model and my brain

I do think the model is somewhat underestimating Gino Kenny (PBP) at this point, but right now it shows Paul Gogarty with a clear advantage over him, FF and a second FG candidate. I’m not convinced things will actually pan out this way, and I would be surprised if this result isn’t noise which fades away in a month or so, but I’m not going to make a judgement call to overrule it.

SF +1

GP -1

This is a great look for Sinn Féin. Rathdown is probably one of the toughest constituencies for them in the country, but the decline in the Green Party’s fortunes has well and truly opened the door to the third seat here. FF don’t look competitive either. The caveat is, of course, what happens if FG run three? Winning all the seats in Rathdown isn’t out of the question, if they can find the candidates to pull it off, especially with Shane Ross out of the picture and a lot of FG gene-pool votes looking for a home to go to.

However, right now, SF have the edge here, and the Greens need a serious reversal in polling trends if they are to defend this seat in what has traditionally been one of their stronger areas. Catherine Martin did pull off a surprise here in 2016 and was dominant in 2020, so it’s possible that she can hold on, but the numbers right now do not look positive, with her trailing both SF and a putative 3rd Fine Gaeler.

PBP +1

FG -1

Not much of note here, just a tough bit of polling here for FG; January’s numbers looked like a comfortable second seat, but the latest updates from Dublin have them falling marginally behind Paul Murphy (PBP). John Lahart of FF is also looking shaky, and could end up being overhauled by both, but that would require a continued drop in FF’s Dublin support – and though this is plausible, their numbers are fairly flat at the moment. Francis Duffy (GP) isn’t entirely out of this one yet either, but he’s still distant enough that he would need a notable polling shift to re-enter the conversation. How well Sinn Féin fare, and how their transfers go, is going to have a huge impact on the last few seats in this one.

SD +1

IND -1

Happy conference weekend to the Soc Dems, I guess. There’s a reason for this – SD support in Connacht/Ulster has gone wild since the election. Now, a movement from 1.1% to 2.9% doesn’t seem like much, but when you have a constituency where a candidate polled reasonably well, the swing is huge. This is the kind of thing that is going to get filtered out as the model gets better at constituencies, but it’s absolutely realistic for the SDs to contend for the last seat in Galway West based on their current polling, even if I think the model has their projected FPV way too high at the moment.

I would note, however, that the main block to this manifesting is Catherine Connolly – it’s very plausible that here, she scoops up a lot of what should, based on trends, be votes for other left-wing parties. GW is problematic for the modelling – honestly I think is probably where it’s having the most trouble working things out at the moment and I’d expect this to change.

Anyway, the model shows Noel Grealish losing his seat so I reckon we can all just enjoy that for now.

Other Notes

Despite not indicating changes in seats, there’s still a good number of constituencies where there are some movements worth noting:

  • Carlow-Kilkenny: Two of SF, FG and FF are going to win two seats here. FG look comfortable, and FF are ahead of SF, but this gap is closing; a small movement in polling could propel SF’s second candidate ahead of FF’s second.
  • Cavan-Monaghan: Aontú have a real shot at this, with FF looking increasingly unconvincing. There’s a fair bit of ground to make up, but if FF mess up their strategy, it could be uncomfortably close for them.
  • Clare: Michael McNamara is getting back into the mix here as Independent numbers rise nationally, and it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be able to defend his seat against a second FG candidate.
  • Cork South-West: The seats behind Michael Collins (IND) are so close between SF, FG, FF and the SDs at the moment that it’s almost impossible to call. This is going to be an absolutely fascinating one to watch over the coming months.
  • Donegal: Unsurprisingly, given the positive movement for Independents, Thomas Pringle is looking increasingly competitive here. He’s still got ground to make up but this should be of concern to both FF and SF.
  • Dublin Fingal: Before the Red C poll on Feb 28th, Joe O’Brien (GP) looked fairly comfortable to hold his seat; that’s less certain now. Labour incumbent Duncan Smith and a theoretical second Fine Gael candidate (unless it’s James Reilly because, come on) are close behind; further struggles for the Greens in Dublin could wipe out the man who currently stands as their last projected survivor.
  • Dublin West: This is a slightly counter-intuitive one, given FF’s stagnation, but Jack Chambers looks more competitive than last month; he’s not too far behind a 2nd SF candidate. Alternatively, if Tánaiste Leo Vardakar, who is known to An Garda Síochána, races well ahead of his running-mate without amassing a substantial surplus to transfer back down, Chambers could beat them to the fourth seat.
  • Kerry: Final seat currently projected to go to FG is looking more competitive between them, Fianna Fáil and Independent Danny Healy-Rae.
  • Kildare South: Cathal Berry (IND) is closing the gap on Fianna Fáil. I’m not sure what Berry has actually achieved in his (admittedly short) time in office, so he may end up benefitting less from an Independent recovery than others, and he’s still a good distance behind, but the movement is there.
  • Laois-Offaly: Fairly similar to the above with Carol Nolan (IND). The last two seats are now looking to be competitive between her and putative second candidates from FG and SF. Also, if FF decide to run two here (they have no chance of winning two but may do so for geographic reasons), their lead candidate, Barry Cowen, could end up sliding backwards into this fight.
  • Louth: Fine Gael still look good to take a second seat here, but their advantage over Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independent Peter Fitzpatrick is starting to tighten.
  • Mayo: FG are approaching three-seats territory here. If FF opt to run two candidates instead of one, it’s wide open.
  • Sligo-Leitrim: Marc MacSharry (FF) continues to struggle, and has now dropped behind Independent Marian Harkin. Harkin still has some distance to go to catch Fine Gael or Sinn Féin, but if the recent polling in the province continues, it’ll look increasingly good for her.
  • Wicklow: Fine Gael are starting to approach three-seat territory; there’s a distance to go but they could be competitive with a second SF candidate for the final seat.

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