Sinn Féin 56
Fine Gael 52
Fianna Fáil 31
Social Democrats 5
Green Party 2
Changes since April
Sinn Féin -1
Fine Gael -5
Fianna Fáil +4
Social Democrats nc
Green Party +1
May and June were active months of polling, with 7 polls across the period. B&A re-entered the arena after a six month break with two polls that not only showed radically different results to other pollsters, but also radically different results to eachother, Red C and Ireland Thinks were also active and IPSOS also put out a poll that was hamstrung by the Irish Times’ bad editorial decisions about data presentation. In total however, it’s probably a good thing, despite some caveats. Red C generally underestimate FF (see the “House Effects” tab here from Tom Louwerse and Stefan Müller’s work) so having B&A probably overestimate them probably gives us, on balance, a better overall picture.
And it’s Fianna Fáil who are the main beneficiary of the last couple of months. Their numbers are recovering somewhat on the RPA – and as mentioned above, I suspect this is trending towards a more accurate reflection of their support, somewhere between Red C’s floor and B&A’s ceiling – and this is reflected in them gaining seats under the model, mostly at the expense of Fine Gael. The wide variation on FF’s polling is difficult to pin down, but one contributing factor may be the use of online methods (Red C, Ireland Thinks) versus face-to-face (B&A, IPSOS), with FF faring generally better in F2F polls. Of course, weighting likely also comes into it, particularly with B&A, but this isn’t as big a factor as one may suspect.
Nationally, Sinn Féin are pulling clear of FG; the gap is now just above the general 3% margin of error, at 3.3%. The gap in Dublin continues to close, though honestly this is more from a steady decline in FG’s support than the very small increase for SF. Still, SF need to be ahead of FG in Dublin (among other things) if they are to be in a position to lead a government of the left, as is their ambition, so this movement will be critical, whether it continues or peters out.
The polls have also been good for the Green Party, and worrying for the Soc Dems and Labour – we’ll look at these before getting into the seat changes. If you want to skip ahead to the seat changes, click here.
RIP Soc Demomentum, February 2021 – June 2021
The Soc Dems had been having a strong period of polling in the first half of this year, scoring 6% or above in a number of polls, including some that showed them as the 4th most popular party in all provinces. This has tapered off significantly since May, with June’s polling seeing them slump back behind the Greens. Their numbers are still by and large better than in GE 2020, but the current increases aren’t sufficient to make them particularly competitive in seats they don’t already hold. The apparent drop-off in support further compounds this.
As it is, they’ve failed to capitalise on a moment where they had momentum; despite the various polling companies disagreeing on a lot of things, the drop-off for the SDs is universal. I’m not sure the party really understood where this upward polling swing came from – I certainly didn’t see them doing anything substantively different in response to this. Other opportunities for them to grow their support will doubtlessly come between now and a general election, but they’ll need to find ways to make these upward bumps sustainable.
The Green Party have weathered a storm in government; we aren’t so far from a situation where it looked like they would be in a fight to keep any of their seats. While things still don’t look great at the moment, they’ve seen a considerable improvement in their polling fortunes over the last few weeks, particularly in Dublin. While the new Climate Bill has come in for considerable criticism for simultaneously going too far in some areas and not far enough in others, it’s the single piece used to justify Green participation in government, and likely has won back some support for a party that has thus far been widely perceived as not achieving its goals.
Of course, while polling is still problematic for the party nationally – on current trends they are comfortably on track to lose all their non-Dublin seats and implode entirely in target areas like Galway West – things are starting to look a little more rosy in the capital. Below is the 5-poll RPA – this is presented rather than the full RPA to demonstrate positive movement that is still being muted a little by the 10-poll average. This is pretty remarkable given this interesting bit of data from Ireland Thinks about the belief voters have in the ability of various party housing spokespeople to address the crisis – although name recognition may be a skewing factor in this (although that in and of itself is a problem for the Greens).
If this trend continues, the 10-poll will catch further up and the overall RPA may improve substantially. On these numbers, the party looks like it will be able to hold two seats, and be competitive in ones that appeared to be slipping away. Fingal is chief among those, where Joe O’Brien is only a percentage point or so off being favoured for the final seat again, but this movement also indicates potential competitiveness in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin South-Central, Dublin West and Dublin Central.
Labour in trouble
Let’s be blunt about Labour – they’ve been struggling almightily for a very long time. They haven’t polled above 5% in a national poll since the general election in February 2020. And their numbers are even further in the toilet after recent polls – their national RPA is at 3.5%, the lowest it’s been since I started keeping count. They’ve fallen behind the SDs in every province, and to add insult to injury, are polling worse than PBP are in Connacht-Ulster, where the PBP themselves are only at about 1.3%.
The current model has Labour on course to lose all their seats – now, I don’t know if things will pan out this way, as it only reflects a most likely outcome, not a definitive one, and people like Brendan Howlin in Wexford may have higher floors than the model can detect. But this is bad. There were briefly signs of life, like a poll at the end of April that showed them on 8% in Dublin, but these turned out to be outliers more than anything else. Just a decade after they swept into second place nationally with 37 seats, the party is facing the abyss.
However, there is a substantial wrinkle to this that emerged this week – despite their appalling polling numbers both nationally and provincially, it appears that Ivana Bacik may have a chance of winning the by election in DBS, where a poll has her at 22% FPV. There’s a health warning here – constituency level polls with a sample of 500 have a history of being not very accurate, but this would require a much, much larger polling error. I have done a full analysis post of this poll here, including details on some of the challenges and why I wouldn’t read too much into Labour’s overall position from it. The below graph further illustrates:
Regardless, a performance even close to this level may breathe some hope into a struggling party; if Bacik is able to win it will be interesting to see if they can try to turn this into something sustainable, beyond lucking into being able to run their last remaining big gun against an FG candidate that is considerably less popular than his party.
Now, on to the seat changes for this month. Clicking on the linked name for each constituency should jump to the relevant section of this page.
- Clare (IND +1, FG -1)
- Cork North-West (FF +1, FG -1)
- Cork South-West (SF +1, SD -1)
- Dublin Bay North (FF +1, FG -1)
- Dublin North-West (SD +1, SF -1)
- Dublin Rathdown (GP +1, SF -1)
- Galway East (FF +1, FG -1)
- Meath East (FF +1, FG -1)
The final seat in Clare is super-competitive, and is going to stay that way for a while. Right now things have swung back towards incumbent Independent Michael McNamara, and the model gives him a razor-thin advantage over a second FG candidate, but a second from FF or SF is also plausible. A lot of this is going to come down to transfers – which are the least reliable part of the model. But with that said, if McNamara can get ahead of the second candidates from the big parties on FPV or even within a round or two of counting, he’ll be very well positioned. With FG’s polling continuing to wobble in Munster, things could continue to look better for him, but again, there’s a long way to go here and this final seat could move back and forth quite a bit.
The second FG seat in CNW was always slightly questionable, premised as it was on FF running both of their incumbent TDs, which would likely have resulted in neither pulling through. However, with FG flagging in Munster and FF having a good run off polls through May and June, it now looks like FF should be favoured to get one of their candidates over the line regardless, though it is still very tight. Bear in mind that if one of them retires, the other will be a sure bet to keep the seat as a single candidate.
Not a great month of polling for the Soc Dems and that reflects here, in what is still shaping up to be one of the tightest races in the country. There’s not a ton to add that hasn’t been said in previous updates – this last seat will swing back and forth between the SDs and SF, though FF aren’t a millon miles away it seems unlikely they can hold it without getting back out in front of FG. That’s not completely implausible on current trends, and this might only get messier as things go on.
FF’s little bounce over the last few months finally reflects here; at the start of the year Seán Haughey looked to be a bit of a lost cause but now he’s slid back up and is looking like he’ll be fairly comfortable in this electorally chaotic constituency. It’s not a sure bet by any means – Labour and a second Fine Gael candidate will be hot on his heels, and the SDs are also looking a bit less comfortable than before. Every time I think I’ve figured DBN out, it changes, so this can very much be classified along with Cork South West as one that’s gonna swing back and forth constantly.
This one is a bit interesting, as the downward SD trend over the summer isn’t reflected, largely because of the movement between other parties. It’s still really close; we’re talking an edge of fractions of a percentage in term of probability for for Róisín Shortall over a putative second SF candidate, but it’s the first time the model has had the Soc Dem co-leader keeping her seat.
I’ve discussed DNW a couple of times, but to be clear – a loss here would be devastating for the SDs. I expect they’ll overperform the modelling because of Shortall’s name recognition and the importance of the seat, but this remains potentially very interesting.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise with the Greens bouncing up in the polls, and it looks like Catherine Martin will be able to keep her seat. This was always a tough one for Sinn Féin, and them previously being favoured here by the model was more a reflection on Green and FF weakness than their own growth. If the GP can sustain their polling bounce, they should hold this handily enough, but if they slip back towards the numbers they were seeing earlier on, the final seat could end up being wide open again.
Galway East again sees the FF polling recover indicating a change, but this is another one that is really close – while Fine Gael and Sinn Féin are still safe to win a seat each, the third seat is open between FF, a second FG and Independent Seán Canney. Currently FF incumbent Anne Rabbitte now has a slight edge that was previously held by FG, but this is essentially too close to call.
Meath East isn’t particularly interesting (sorry, Meath East fans) compared to some of the other constituencies; the only intrigue is whether the final seat can be held by FF’s Thomas Byrne, or if FG can win it back. With FF’s good recent polling, Byrne has the edge – and even if he doesn’t, Regina Doherty’s decision to move constituency might make this tougher for FG to hold than the numbers indicate.
- Dublin Bay South: With the recovery in the polls for the Greens, Eamon Ryan is looking safer here than he has at any point this year. Fine Gael should in theory still walk two seats here, but it’s unclear what we’ll be looking at given an increasingly chaotic by-election – there’s a chance they could head into the next general election with zero TDs in the constituency.
- Dún Laogahire: FF’s recovery here puts them within striking distance of the final seat, endangering a third Fine Gaeler.
- Kildare North: If current numbers hold, and nobody does anything silly with their candidate strategy, this constituency could be settled in one or two counts. There’s an absolute monster of a gap between the top four (SD, FG, FF, SF) and everyobody else.
- Kildare South: No change to the main prediction, but if the Ceann Comhairle retires, Cathal Berry (IND) is now favoured by the model to sneak the fourth seat.
- Wexford: Last two seats here are really close between a second candidate from any of FG, SF, FF, and Labour’s Brendan Howlin.
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