November 2021 Projections Update

Seat totals

Sinn Féin 61
Fine Gael 42
Fianna Fáil 34
Independents 8
Social Democrats 5
Green Party 4
PBP/Solidarity 3
Labour 2
Aontú 1
R2C 0

Changes since October

Sinn Féin +1
Fine Gael -1
Fianna Fáil +3
Independents -1
Social Democrats nc
Green Party +1
PBP/Solidarity -1
Labour -2
Aontú nc
R2C nc

Seat Map

Three polls in November, one from each of B&A and Red C with regional breakdowns, and one from Ireland Thinks without. B&A are a bit more favourable to Sinn Féin than the other two, but they all show the same pattern we have seen continuing, with them continuing to slowly rise up as Fine Gael slowly decline. Consequently, there’s not a huge amount of note so this will be a shorter post than last month’s monster.

Notably, the immediate beneficiaries this month of FG continuing to struggle are Fianna Fáil. B&A have the parties extremely close again, and while other pollsters are less generous to FF, a gap that once seemed insurmountable is now within a handful of points on the RPA, with FF still ahead in Munster. As mentioned before, this is more due to FG’s declining support than any substantial rise for FF, but it could be an important dynamic for future coalition building if this trend continues over the next few years.

There’s a couple of other key points from this month’s polling I’m going to talk about here, but if you would prefer to skip straight to the seat changes, click here.

Sinn Féin leading in Dublin

For the first time in a very long time – certainly since the election itself – Sinn Féin are ahead of Fine Gael in Dublin. While this isn’t exactly a sign of the long-awaited SF breakthrough in the capital, it’s certainly a sign of further decline for Fine Gael in a spot where they were once well ahead. This mainly appears to be voters switching to FF, the Greens and, to a lesser extent, the Social Democrats.

However, relative numbers matter as much as absolute ones do, and dropping behind SF in Dublin on the RPA is bad news for FG. Firstly, as you can see below, it means that they are now behind SF in every single polling province:

Secondly, a decline in support is going to (generally speaking, but not always) correlate with a decline in seats and will help SF even if their own support remains relatively static. On this occasion the movement hasn’t been enough to change any of the FG projections in Dublin, but it makes it much more difficult for them to win seats they have a shot at. A movement of a few more points could see places like Dublin North-West and Dublin Bay South (second seat) start to look really uncomfortable for them.

The saving grace for FG is that SF aren’t really growing support in Dublin still – so those seats that could be in danger will likely go to more friendly parties; Fianna Fáil, the Greens or Labour winning a seat that Fine Gael could have had gives them a much more likely coalition partner than an SF win would.

There is no such thing as a “conference bounce”

Final note on something interesting I saw in the social media responses to the Red C poll – there were a couple of people commenting on how the bad poll for Labour was extra-bad because it came in the aftermath of their party conference. Leaving aside the fact that this wasn’t a unusually bad poll for a party that has consistently been in the 3%-5% range since September, this is such an awful take that I need to comment on it.

There is no such thing as a “conference bounce” in the Irish context. Expecting a party’s numbers to be impacted by their Ard Fheis demonstrates that whoever made that comment get more of their political information from America than Ireland. I’ve noticed this “conference bounce” narrative in recent UK coverage as well – it’s complete nonsense. Conference bounces, even in America, are an almost entirely confected media narrative; while they do reflect to an extent in polling, they are almost always temporary and rapidly revert to the mean without demonstrating any real predictive value. And in Ireland, it’s simply not a thing.

Party conferences are internal affairs, by and large. They don’t impact public polling because they aren’t meant to. They’re primarily events for members and are dominated by the internal politics of the party, first and foremost. A party might be lucky to get a press release or two out of some motion passed or high profile internal election, but these aren’t really agenda-setting events and don’t dominate public consciousness, attract breathless media coverage or even, really, make anyone outside the party itself care overmuch. They are important for internal function, sure, but expecting any kind of polling movement – or dunking on a party for not having a polling boost – in the aftermath of one is just plain ignorance.

Seat Changes

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. Changes on this page indicate changes from October’s projections; changes on constituency pages indicate changes from current composition.

Note: The projections reflect, and always have reflected, most likely outcomes. So if a final seat is more likely for candidate X over Y, the model will show X winning the seat.

This does not mean the scenario where Y wins doesn’t exist, or even is necessarily unlikely (there’s a lot of marginal calls!). It also does not mean that every single “most likely” scenario will come true; statistically that in and of itself is probably not going to happen. This is true from from a simple probability point of view, even if we ignore deficiencies in underlying data. A projected result merely means that the model thinks X winning is the most likely outcome.

FF +1

SF -1

Well, that Sinn Féin seat didn’t last, though it was always by the finest of margins anyway. Fianna Fáil have been steadily showing signs of recovery in Munster, passing Fine Gael for second place a couple months ago and that gap is holding. Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, while still a good way ahead, haven’t really improved their position since last time round. Consequently, the seat has swung to FF – their first time being favoured for it this year.

As mentioned before, this is going to be a wild one. In the last 12 months, FG, FF, SF and Independent Michael McNamara have all been in the lead for the last seat at various points. I don’t expect any great stability to emerge here yet (though I’ve been wrong before, as Clare looked quite stable for the first few months of this year!), and elimination order could matter immensely as it could end up completely altering the pattern of transfers.

SF +1

LAB -1

Dublin Bay North features again, for the third month in a row, and I’ve honestly decided that it has now surpassed Cork South-West as the most chaotic constituency in the country (electorally of course – both are perfectly lovely places otherwise).

Sinn Féin are now favoured to get that final seat back, with Labour’s numbers in Dublin dropping off a bit this month. The Social Democrat and Fianna Fáil seats look a little safer with decent polling in Dublin for both this month, but there’s still no clear daylight on the final three seats and this is going to keep moving for a while.

While their current polling continues to decline, a second Fine Gael candidate also remains a potential lurking threat, though the constituency dynamics and those polling numbers mean it’s an extremely long shot.

GP +1

PBP -1

Good month of polling for the Greens, especially in Dublin, gives Roderic O’Gorman the edge here to keep his seat, for the first time this year. It’s interesting looking back on the change since January – at that stage, the polling didn’t give a path to Jack Chambers (FF) or O’Gorman. But both of their parties have been recovering in Dublin, albeit by different amounts and at different timescales.

This puts the constituency pretty much back at the status quo, but it remains overall extremely competitive and the final seats will come down to the wire under current conditions. It’s also worth reminding that with good vote management, a second seat for either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin remains a possibility.

FF +1

LAB -1

The Labour boost in Leinster is now truly ebbing, and the seat that looked open for Mark Wall has swung back towards Fianna Fáil, though not by a huge margin. The next few rounds of polling here will be informative as to whether we really were just dealing with an outlier, or if there is something that can be sustained.

If the CC retires however, Wall remains favoured to win the final seat, though Sinn Féin have been polling strongly in the province and if they continue to tick up, may be in a place where they should look seriously at the viability of a second candidate. There’s still a way to go before that manifests, however.

SF +1

IND -1

This one is madness. There are so many questions about this constituency. Will Marc MacSharry run as an Independent? Who will Fianna Fáil run instead of him – Eamon Scanlon? If MacSharry does run as an Indo, what does that do to the FF vote? Will Marian Harkin come back for another go? What happens if Fianna Fáil don’t make a complete meal of their candidate strategy? How does it look when there aren’t twelve no-hopers absorbing a quarter of FPV?

It really is impossible to be sure how this shakes out, and no amount of modelling is going to be able to give us a good picture until we know who is running – and even then, MacSharry is a complete wildcard that I don’t think can be accurately accounted for with any current polling data.

Based on raw numbers right now, the model thinks Sinn Féin’s second candidate is marginally more likely than Harkin to take the fourth seat, but honestly I have no idea what will happen here and frankly, I don’t think anyone does.

FF +1

FG -1

Fine Gael really should comfortably take two seats in Wicklow, so what gives? Under most recent polling, Fine Gael are sliding downward rapidly in Leinster. While Fianna Fáil aren’t exactly doing well, they stand to benefit and the model reckons Stephen Donnelly ought be favoured to keep his seat by the tiniest of amounts.

However, this is an extremely fine margin of probability, and if Fine Gael get their vote split right, they could very easily take this seat. Donnelly’s personal unpopularity, while not something the model can capture, must also be borne in mind when assessing this constituency.

Other notes

  • Donegal: I think we are a good distance from seeing anything change in this constituency, but this month has been the closest Thomas Pringle (IND) has been to keeping his seat under the model in a good while. With the potential fallout of the government mishandling of the Mica scandal and redress scheme, this may end up different to what modelling can project. That said, Pringle may not have been elected at all last two cycles without Sinn Féin messing up their candidate strategy. A lot to keep an eye on here.
  • Dublin Fingal: I mentioned Duncan Smith (LAB) last month as being in a better position than one may expect; this remains true, and how it shakes out for him is looking increasingly dependent on how FF and FG approach their candidate strategy. Transfers are going to be a huge factor in this constituency.
  • Dublin South-West: As mentioned for Dublin West, it’s been a good month of polling for the Green Party, and if that continues, Francis Duffy could be a factor come election time.
  • Kerry: The model still has no idea what to do with Danny Healy-Rae (IND) and at this point, quite frankly, neither do I. I really think the Independent vote in Kerry is being understated more than in other places, and I need to figure out if that can be addressed (if it is indeed an error).
  • Kildare North: Nothing new here, just a note that if all parties pursue an optimal candidate strategy this could literally be decided in two counts.
  • Longford-Westmeath: Final seat here is getting very interesting. Very tight between FG (currently favoured), FF and SF. This one could move soon.
  • Meath West: Aontú are polling poorly everywhere except Connacht-Ulster, where they are still doing fairly badly, but all the other small parties are doing even worse. Even Ireland Thinks have cooled on them. Is Peadar Tóibín in trouble? Maybe. The constituency dynamics may help him, but the overall numbers do not look promising.

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