January 2022 Projections Update

Seat totals

Sinn Féin 63
Fine Gael 40
Fianna Fáil 34
Independents 8
Social Democrats 5
Green Party 3
PBP/Solidarity 3
Labour 3
Aontú 1
R2C 0

Changes since December

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

Seat Map

Three polls again this month, with Ireland Thinks joining Red C and B&A, but again not providing regional breakdowns, so it’s pretty much just the big two. Overall, there’s not much movement from the end of last year for either pollster, and the differences between the two are fairly typical – Fianna Fáil is the only really major source of disagreement (15% vs 24%), something we have discussed a couple of times on past posts. Also worth noting is that there is a bit of a gap on the Green Party (6% vs 3%) and the Soc Dems (5% vs 1%) as well, though these are of much less significance.

Trends in general have not moved much either, with polling fairly static and the main note being the continued drop for Fine Gael – something I’ll cover below. This has led to a low number of changes this month (this is, I think, the first month of projections where FG haven’t dropped seats), but an increasing number of FG seats are on a knife-edge now, and Fianna Fáil are poised to take advantage in a good few places, so we may well see more seats flipping next month.

There are a few additional areas I’m going to cover below, but if you would prefer to skip straight to the seat changes , click here.

Fine Gael’s Decline is Serious

Let’s take a moment to take stock of Fine Gael’s polling position now versus 12 months ago:

Guarantee you there’s a fella on Twitter right now explaining how this is Good for FG, Actually

This is spectacular. Fine Gael, in 2020, were in a really strong position, albeit with support dropping from earlier to later in the year. They were ahead everywhere, and on course for comfortably over 60 seats. As much as their were hot takes all over the place about Sinn Féin eating the left – which is true to an extent, but not as much as people, including myself, thought – the real cannibalism post-election was FG eating the right. And now, like a developer’s accountant outside Rick’s Burgers at 4am at the height of the boom, they are regurgitating it absolutely everywhere.

Make no mistake – FG are in the process of blowing it. I have mentioned repeatedly before that the public discourse has been too focused on the rise of Sinn Féin and not enough on the decline of Fine Gael. Even the disaster in the Dublin Bay South by-election was masked by a weak candidate and the nature of by-elections, but I don’t know how much more stark it can be than these numbers.

Dublin, their last bastion of high support, has crumbled in the last half of last year, and they have lost nearly one third of the support they had this time last year. Connacht-Ulster and Rest of Leinster are even worse, and Munster, which was their weakest area anyway, has still seen a decline of over a quarter of their support. Fine Gael are in trouble, make no mistake, and we are yet to see anything from them that can stop the rot. It’s not impossible, sure, but they’ll need to start turning things around sharpish.

It feels like they know this, too. Their political messaging has been increasingly frantic, aggressive and derivative of the worst elements of American political PR, which has honestly come across as desperate. The entire tone is one of a party that is defining itself in opposition to SF, preparing itself to be in opposition.

Now, there is one saving grace to all this. If one were optimistically minded, one could look at this as not so much an implosion but a reversion to the mean; the numbers are far down from their peak but are overall fairly close to where they were in GE2020. This is scant consolation however, when Sinn Féin are showing no signs of the same happening to them.

Fianna Fáil’s Class War

There were strange scenes in the Dáil this week as the Taoiseach decided that the middle-class background of prominent Sinn Féin TDs precluded them from understanding the working class struggle, the latest bizarre chapter in an increasingly aggressive and incoherent government approach to criticism of the housing crisis. While Martin is right in a very narrow sense, i.e. that his upbringing was in a “worse” area, and he went to a “worse” school (obsession with who went to what school is one of the strangest, most toxic aspects of Irish culture, but that’s a sidebar), it seems that doesn’t matter at all given the government approach to, and failures on, housing.

The key problem with this “debate” is, of course, how to even define class in late-capitalist society. It’s a complex mix of social, cultural, historical, geographic and economic signifiers, with concerningly little universal applicability. That said, we can take the ABC1/C2DE split in polling and use it as a rough analogue, even though it only captures one aspect of one segment of the above (a part of the economic signifiers).

Comparing the two warring parties’ support among ABC1s (generally considered mostly middle-class) and C2DE (generally considered mostly working class) gives the below:

Whatever the Taoiseach’s working class bona-fides may be, SF are far, far ahead of FF among C2DEs, with almost double FF’s support. Though of course up until the start of 2020 FF held the advantage here, and would have done so historically too. The Taoiseach may not believe that SF’s front bench understand the concerns of the working class, but it appears that working class people, by and large, do not share his persepctive on things.

It’s worth noting that SF are also ahead of FF among ABC1s, though by a much smaller amount. Both have been upticking recently, which implies that despite what I’ve assumed, SF’s increase among ABC1 voter’s isn’t necessarily coming from FF. It’s also interesting how closely FF’s support tracks between the two groups; its much more evenly divided than most parties’, which given their history, makes sense.

But the key point here is, while Martin has history on his side, he is either ignorant of, or wilfully denying, the current reality, which is that insofar as we can measure social class in polling, SF are miles ahead of everyone else among the “working class”; until FF are able to consider why that is happening rather than just falling back on their personal backgrounds, that’s not going to change much. A shame to see from what was once the party of Ireland’s few genuine socialists.

I might turn this into a separate post if I have time because there’s a lot of data to look at here and some of it is, honestly, pretty funny.

Ending Lockdown has had Zero Polling Impact

Brief note here –

there was some suggestion among the more cynically minded that the rapid ending of lockdown restrictions was decided on by the government in response to falling support levels. Now, there’s no evidence for this, and if it was the plan, it hasn’t succeeded; there’s been no improvement for the government in the post-lockdown period.

Honestly, this makes sense. The material improvements for the majority of people following the end of lockdown has been pretty thin – most people were pretty used to them and they were far from the restrictive, quasi-fascist horrorshow that the usual nutcases (and the Irish Times opinion section) pretended they were. Socio-economic challenges from COVID and elsewhere remain, and the state will need to address those with more substance to see people change their political preferences At least the Vintners Association is happy now, I guess.

Seat Changes

Clicking on the linked name for each constituency should jump to the relevant section of this page. Changes on this page indicate changes from December 2021’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.

IND +1

FF -1

There’s been quite a bit of impact here from marginal ebbs and flows over the last year or so, and it’s swung back towards Carol Nolan (IND) and away from Fianna Fáil. This remains very tight, and transfers could end up being very important here, as will the manner in which Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin manage their vote splits.

One other thing to note is that, in keeping with their general decline in support, Fine Gael have gone from being slightly favoured to get a second TD here to having no chance at all. Under current polling they are approaching the point where running a second candidate could well do more harm than good, but this is very much a place where quota requirements might force their hand.

LAB +1

IND -1

Getting tired of saying this, but it remains true – Tipperary is very hard to model. With that said, Mattie McGrath (IND) is looking wobbly again, and the model favours Alan Kelly to edge him out by a tiny margin – looking at a 51/49 probability here. There’s a lot that isn’t clear here however; transfers will be massive, as will the former Healy vote and, of course, what local Independents decide to run or not run in the constituency.

Fine Gael are looking very ropey here as well though, and it’s plausible that both Kelly and McGrath move ahead of them in the near future.

I don’t know if the model can ever figure out Tipp. There’s too many idiosyncrasies with the geography and politics of the place, even among a nation full of them. But for now, let’s all just enjoy a nice, cool glass of alan_kelly_celebrating dot jpg because, and it might surprise you to hear that I think this, a Dáil without McGrath is a better one.

Other notes

  • Cork North-Central: For the first time in a while, Mick Barry (Solidarity) looks like he has a path to hold his seat. He’s still a way off being favoured, but with Fine Gael continuing to crater, the impossible now merely looks very hard. If he could hold on here in spite of multiple Sinn Féin candidates, that would be an incredible achievement – and as Gino Kenny showed us in 2020, vote transfers can be a funny old thing.
  • Dublin Bay South: Suddenly, very close here between a putative second Fine Gael candidate and FF’s Jim O’Callaghan. It’s easy to forget that FG currently hold zero seats here and don’t appear to have an actual succession plan. James Geoghegan’s reputation is tarnished, which leaves Paddy McCartan and Danny Byrne as councillors in the area. No work has been done to build McCartan’s profile outside his area. Byrne, a real estate agent (topical!) has a reputation for being obnoxious on doors – but based on how many of his leaflets have gone into my recycling over the last while, I believe he has national ambitions. FG will absolutely win one seat, but failing to return two here would be a worrying sign, and its looking more and more likely.
  • Dublin Bay North: Actually nothing to note this month; I just wanted to celebrate not having to change the projection here for two straight months!
  • Longford-Westmeath: After moving last month, the final seat remains incredibly close between SF, FF and FG. One interesting wrinkle that will need to be followed is with Kevin “Boxer” Moran – the model assumes the Independent ex-TD will run again, but after being bounced as a replacement on county council (which, granted, is very unusual, but it was his son vacating the seat, so…), what he does next remains to be seen. For what it’s worth, he was not happy about the whole thing; if his potential constituents feel as strongly, that could be very interesting.
  • Waterford: If you’re waiting for that third SF seat to get knocked off, keep waiting. Instead, it’s once again Fine Gael who are in danger here. The probability margin between them and FF for the final seat is literally in the hundredths of a percent at the moment; this is a true coinflip.

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