April 2022 Projections Update

Seat totals

Sinn Féin 63
Fine Gael 39
Fianna Fáil 38
Independents 8
Social Democrats 4
PBP/Solidarity 3
Labour 3
Green Party 1
Aontú 1
R2C 0

Changes since March

Sinn Féin -1
Fine Gael +4
Fianna Fáil +2
Independents -2
Social Democrats nc
PBP/Solidarity -1
Labour +1
Green Party -3
Aontú nc
R2C nc

Seat Map

Four polls in April, as IPSOS join B&A, Red C and Ireland Thinks. For the second time in a row, IPSOS have actually included a small party breakdown, which is a really good development, as they used to not do this for a long time. This means they can be included in the regional RPA calculations with a lot more confidence. If you’re wondering why this post is so late, by the way, blame Red C, who didn’t release regional breakdowns until after the bank holiday!

However, it’s worth noting that increasing from two polling companies to three has resulted in us now having three versions of reality – I’ll talk about this a bit more below., but there are serious gaps that continue to evolve between the pollsters.

Overall, this most significant change this month is a rare improvement in fortunes for Fine Gael, which again I will discuss more below. The Greens have had a rough month, dropping below Labour for the first time in a year on the national RPA, and after a strong period of recovery, are once again plunging towards electoral meltdown territory. The rest of the fluctuations are quite minor – Sinn Féin’s 34% in Red C was an all-time high for them with that pollster, but they have beaten that score in both B&A and IPSOS in the past, and was only a 1% increase from last time, so the impact was minimal.

Interestingly, Fianna Fáil’s support has gone down overall but they have a net gain of two seats in the model – a further reminder of how powerful electoral geography can be. Finally, Red C had Aontú on 5% in Connacht-Ulster, which is the highest they have been in the region since November 2020. For now, that’s something we should treat as an outlier until proven otherwise – Aontú do occasionally post mid-single digit polling numbers in one region or another, but it never seems to sustain.

There is a lot to talk about from this month’s polling, but if you would prefer to skip straight to the seat changes , click here.

Good news for Fine Gael?

Let’s get the big thing out of the way first – this has been a huge month for Fine Gael, polling-wise. After dropping briefly below 20% in last month’s Red C, we have seen rare positive momentum in their polling, albeit slight – gaining 0.3% in the RPA. However, with movements for other parties, and geographic distribution, this results in a projected net gain of four seats. That’s the first time the model has shown FG gaining seats month-on-month since we began back in January 2021.

The biggest driving factor here is positive movement in Connacht-Ulster, where they had previously been getting buried. Three of their gains this month are in that province. While they are still in third place there, and their improvement is fairly modest (+1.7%, less than Fianna Fáil’s +1.8%). However, with Sinn Féin dropping 3.2 points, and Independents also trickling backwards, it’s enough to swing a few marginal seats back towards FG’s favour – see the individual seats below for more details on what’s happening in each.

Still, despite these positives, it’s too early to draw conclusions from a small movement. One month of stemming the bleeding is just that, and while it FG needed something like that, they will need to see a consistent improvement, or at the very least a consistent plateau, before we start making any grand pronouncements about a recovery for them. Let’s see where we are in a month or two.

The gap between polling companies

I’ve spoken before about the gap between polling companies, particularly as regards to Fianna Fáil. They are anywhere between 27% (IPSOS) or 12% (Red C) in Connacht-Ulster, anywhere between 30% (B&A) and 19% (Red C) in Rest of Leinster, and anywhere between 29% (IPSOS) and 18% (Red C) in Munster. What makes this even more confusing is that while IPSOS agree with B&A in Connacht-Ulster, they agree with Red C in RoL, and all three are quite far apart in Munster. So it’s not even a case of a clear single outlier – all three companies fundamentally see different pictures.

However, right now, things are getting a bit silly elsewhere too. Just look at this mess with the centre-left parties in Dublin:

Everyone is winning, but also losing, depending on who you ask. This margins might seem relatively small, but we are looking at 3 Labour seats, 3 Soc Dem seats and 8 Green Party seats in Dublin, and all of those seats are in play in this range. And while all three aren’t in an obvious position to add to their seat count in the capital, if they are at the upper end of this range, someone pulling off a surprise becomes a lot more likely. Overall it’s a substantial number of seats covered by these large disagreements, and enough that what happens could easily dictate the shape of a future government. Having such a wide gap on polling is seriously chaotic.

To further illustrate the problems here, consider Independent candidates in Connacht-Ulster, where this month they simultaneously hit their highest point since February 2021 (Red C has them at 20%) and their lowest point since December 2021 (B&A has them at 8%). Considering that modelling Independent performance is already challenging at the best of times, this is extremely frustrating.

The ultimate upshot of all this is that if one company is right, we will see radically different results, depending on which company that is. As this project is based on aggregated polling, these issues with the underlying data mean that, as with all projections, you should always exercise caution!

Ryan’s rating taking a bating

Remember when the Green Party, declared dead and buried a decade before, surged into 4th place in the elections with a record high number of seats? It was just over two years ago, but it feels like ancient history, and since entering government, Eamon Ryan has managed to become the most disliked leader of a mainstream party in Ireland. Now, the battering he takes might be disproportionate to his actual influence, but the numbers are stark:

Indeed, this month, Ryan’s net approval per B&A tied his lowest ever figure -30%. Those expressing satisfaction was at its lowest ever – just 28%, with only 62% of Green supporters expressing satisfaction with him as leader. For context, this is 19% lower than Alan Kelly’s approval rating among Labour members directly before he was ousted as leader.

IPSOS’ numbers were even worse for Ryan – he had just 19% raw approval. That number is staggering – this means Ryan has a lower approval rating than ending neutrality, increasing the pension age, rejoining the commonwealth, increasing the carbon tax, increasing income tax and, uh, putting your dog on a vegan diet to fight climate change.

Now, generally, leadership ratings are not a great indicator of electoral performance, but in this case, things are different, and once again it looks like Ryan may be the only survivor of a disaster entirely of his own making.

Hang on, I just looked at that chart again, is this the “Bacik bounce”?


Okay, seriously: there is no such thing. We are not America. Party leaders don’t immediately transform support in Ireland. This is as inane as when people started talking about “convention bounces” last year, it’s a silly narrative that has to go away. The test of a leader takes time and will be answered by an election, though I suppose Labour haven’t helped themselves in this regard by turfing out Alan Kelly midway through an election cycle.

The previous two sections shed some light on this – Labour’s numbers haven’t really moved since the change in leadership (increasing just 0.4% nationally), and while Dublin has improved more, the high B&A poll is the key driving factor in this – the rest are around where they were before, and their numbers in other provinces are bad.

While we all like having a joke at Labour’s expense, whether this becomes positive, negative or neutral for them will unfold over the coming months and years, not within the first few weeks of a new leader’s appointment.

Similarly, looking at Bacik’s approval rating, things look very positive. Highest net approval in the country is not a bad thing, but the numbers tell us more when we go deeper – the number of people with “no opinion” on her is really high at 25%, meaning that despite the high net, her raw approval (46%) is lower than Micheál Martin (51%) or Mary Lou McDonald (49%). Those “no opinion” people could go either way in the end – the long-term project is to win them over. Celebrating the net rating would be premature.

It is also worth comparing her approval to Alan Kelly’s pre-coup numbers in February (while numbers for March exist, he had already been effectively ousted two days into the month, so they are not comparable)

Note that there is only a small bump among Labour supporters – the bulk of the improvement is with Fine Gael and Green supporters. Now you can interpret this one of two ways – either that Bacik is a comfortable opposition figure for the establishment, who will pose no threat to dominant power structures and conservative government, or, one could say that this shows Bacik is a leader well poised to peel support away from two flagging parties and bring them into the Labour fold. One could even argue that both are true – but we aren’t going to know right now.

The point here is that Bacik’s job is to rebuild a party that has been staggering around on its last legs even before the near wipe-out in 2016 – honestly the signs of collapse were in place from the pummelling they took in the 2014 local and European elections. To expect a leader to step in and propel a party that has been declining for years to new heights overnight (or, on the other side, to kill it off entirely) is unreasonable.

Seat Changes

Eight constituencies saw changes in April; though some of these were reversals from last 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 March 2022’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.

FG +1

PBP -1

I’m not at all surprised to see this flip back to Fine Gael this month – I had a feeling the model favouring Barry was somewhat illusory and based on a temporary confluence rather than anything substantial. Still, it’s fairly close, and FG are seriously struggling in Munster, and there’ll be a good number of scattered left-wing transfers up for grabs from lower down the ballot.

So while holding the seat here is going to be a challenge for Barry with Sinn Féin basically guaranteed on current polling to add a second, it remains within the realm of possibility, but a lot of things – particularly when it comes to transfers will need to break his way. Alternatively, if Fine Gael’s worrying trajectory in Munster continues over the next few years, that could also work for him, but I wouldn’t rely on this.

FG +1

IND -1

Great news for Fine Gael, as it now look like they’re going to hold onto the seat in Donegal, let’s check in on incumbent TD Joe McHugh to get his reaction to this positive developm– oh shit.

So, while Fine Gael are generically favoured for the last seat, McHugh’s retirement makes this much harder to project. On the plus side, they have a good bit of time to find a replacement, and a pool of five county councillors to choose from as a successor. On the negative side, McHugh was well established and managed to hold his seat in 2020 despite a significant contraction in the FG vote in the constituency, and their only sitting councillor with GE experience, Martin Harley, did not exactly do well as McHugh’s running-mate.

So the seat is still a possibility for them, albeit a more challenging one than the provincial poll numbers – and thus the model – might indicate. If Fine Gael do underperform without McHugh, the most obvious potential beneficiary is of course Thomas Pringle (IND) but Fianna Fáil could well try to sneak in a second candidate.

Of course the real comedy option would be Sinn Féin running four candidates, which would probably backfire horribly, but if it worked, would be an immense power move.

LAB +1

GP -1

Well now. Joe O’Brien (GP) has proven pretty resilient under the model’s conditions – at one point looking more likely to keep his seat than his party leader, but that isn’t the case here as the movement among other parties has dropped him into a more vulnerable position; indeed, he’s now favoured to be the one to lose out if Sinn Féin win a second seat here. What this ultimately means is that Labour’s Duncan Smith looks in a better position to hold on than O’Brien.

I’ve been saying this was one to keep an eye on since last October, and with Labour slipping ahead of the Greens in Dublin, the dynamics have shifted. Whether that endures or not remains to be seen – Fingal typically has quite a fractured vote; although the people in the middle of results rarely threaten for seat, it can have a real impact when it comes to transfers. There’s a lot that could move around here yet, especially if we again see Independents take a decent chunk of votes.

FF +1

SF -1

Three seats here was always pushing the boundaries of what Sinn Féin can do with their current vote share, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this roll back into Fianna Fáil’s column with only a slight drop in SF’s numbers in Dublin. However, there is a lot that can happen here and how Sinn Féin approach it is going to set the tone for everyone else on the ballot.

The race for the final seat is pretty close – while Fianna Fáil have an advantage, Fine Gael, PBP and a third SF candidate are all reasonably close. The order of elimination will have an impact here, as will the number of candidates SF opt to run. I suspect we won’t get a clear picture on this one until much closer to the election when we know who will be on the ballot.

FF +1

GP -1

The Green meltdown continues this month with Catherine Martin’s seat looking more vulnerable than it has for a long time, and Fianna Fáil looking to be the ones most likely to snatch it off her. That said, Fianna Fáil have missed a series of open goals here since the retirement of Tom Kitt and the death of Séamus Brennan, both over a decade ago, so I have a lot of faith in the ability of the local branch to completely screw this up again.

One other thing to note is that this constituency, which really is just the leftover bits of the old Dublin South that Dublin South-West and Dún Laoghaire didn’t want, is really really idiosyncratic. As either Dublin South or Dublin Rathdown, it has a long record of sending people who are totally incompetent but extremely overconfident to the Dáil. So don’t rule out something weird happening here – Sinn Féin aren’t completely unviable, and this is exactly the sort of place that could elect a Labour TD out of the blue.

SF +1

GP -1

Another Dublin constituency, and another likely Green loss in the face of weak polling in the capital in April, giving Sinn Féin a marginal advantage to return a second candidate ahead of the Junior Minister. But that’s not all of it – while based on past vote management, SF are best placed to unseat an incumbent, if Fine Gael can get themselves together, they could well be in a position to return a second candidate themselves. However, they have recently been absolutely awful at getting their heavyweights to drag a second candidate over the line, particularly in Dublin. Without a serious shift in their strategy this possibility remains purely mathematical.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned in the past there is a wild card here because of how the model is built – it assumes Ruth Coppinger (Solidarity) will run, and do pretty well. If she doesn’t run, that will likely change the calculus here pretty significantly.

FG +1

SF -1

No great shock at this one moving back, especially with Fine Gael having a solid month in Connacht-Ulster, as this felt like a one-off artefact rather than something substantial. That said, the fact that this has even been in question is a testament to how badly FG are wobbling, even with a more positive set of results this month.

Since there isn’t much more to say on this one, let’s engage in some fun speculation – Fine Gael incumbent Michael Ring, the undisputed king of South Mayo, is 68 years old. He’ll be in his 70s by the time the next election rolled around. If he were to retire, that might make things a lot murkier here and really could open up the path to FG managing to lose its second seat. But for now he’s still in action, and the seat should stay with his party.

FG +1

IND -1

Another swing-back in Connacht-Ulster as Fine Gael come up a bit and Independents drop a little, but the race that will presumably be between Marian Harkin (IND) and Frank Feighan (FG) remains very tight, and a putative second Sinn Féin candidate isn’t exactly well clear of them either. Owing to things already discussed at length before, this consitutuency is likely to be a bit of a mess depending on how candidate situations shake out.

Feighan, it may be worth nothing, has been transcendentally ineffective in his management of a very low profile Junior Ministry, but the lowness of the profile and the fact that he’s done nothing as opposed to making any active mistakes probably means this will be a minimal factor.

Other notes

  • Dublin North-West: That second Sinn Féin seat is looking a little wobbly here. It wouldn’t take much downward movement for SF, or upward movement for FG, to change the likely outcome here.
  • Galway West: This is getting weird again and the Soc Dems are popping up pretty high on this one. This because the SD base vote in Connacht-Ulster is so tiny, and Galway West was such an outlier within that, that small fluctuations cause the vote here to yo-yo crazily. I’ll be keeping eye on this and I may need to revisit how I calculate things for this constituency again.
  • Wexford: While Labour are doing a bit better in Dublin, they are doing worse outside of the capital, and Brendan Howlin’s seat looks very vulnerable again. As discussed before, this is one of those ones where the model is potentially struggling to account for an outlier, but worth noting anyway.

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