April 2023 Projections Update

Seat totals

Sinn Féin 60
Fine Gael 38
Fianna Fáil 35
Independents 11
Social Democrats 6
PBP/Solidarity 5
Labour 2
Green Party 2
Aontú 1
R2C 0

Changes since March

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

Seat Map

There were three polls in April, same as last month – one the Ireland Thinks without breakdowns, and the usual B&A and Red C that have gone into the model. And while we have talked about B&A and Red C diverging before, well hoo boy this month was something special.

B&A’s April poll had Sinn Féin on 37% (their joint-highest poll result ever) while having Fine Gael on 15% (possibly their worst poll result ever; certainly the lowest I can find) and Fianna Fáil on 21%. This is quite astonishing, but even more so doesn’t seem to be a result of a single outlier – the numbers across the board were terrible for Fine Gael. Now, while Red C’s poll did restore some normality (as was easily predictable), allowing them to quite reasonably talk about one of this website’s favourite themes – relative polling stability – I do always wonder if B&A, wild as they seem, picking up at least fragments that others are missing. It’s hard to know, particularly with such an massive outlier, but there may well be something there, even if the overall picture is likely off.

For what it’s worth, the Ireland Thinks poll was identical to the Red C one for the big parties, so as above the most likely explanation is B&A have published another outlier. That said, it did send Fine Gael into a media panic spiral where their representatives spent a couple weeks publicly flaying eachother for why they are doing so badly, which was quite funny.

And before any Fine Gaelers get too comfortable about 22% (just as their leader did), it’s important to note that that is would still be a historically bad showing for Fine Gael. In fact, they have only achieved a result of 22% or lower in one general election since 1948 – in 2020, under their current leadership.

A couple of brief thoughts to follow, but if you would prefer to skip straight to the seat changes, click here.

B&A posting W after W

Let’s talk about that B&A poll a little more. Obviously putting FG on decimation numbers and making them panic and start briefing against each other is very funny, but I want to point out some other fun things we got from them this month, as they decided to go a massive dub spree:

  • Polled Varadkar’s approval rating at -21%
  • Indicated overall government satisfaction was in the toilet (-24%, down 13% from the last time they polled)
  • Refused to acknowledge Renua’s name change to the “Centre Party” or whatever
  • Continued to pretend the Socialist Party are still a registered party (they are not)
  • Spelled THREE TD’s names correctly after last months’ “Kearns Incident”
  • Dunked on ChatGPT for absolutely no discernible reason
  • And on a serious note, did something very interesting with issue polling; let’s look at that.

You may remember my past issues with how Red C engaged in wild, incorrect and damaging speculation about the rise of racist rhetoric as an electorally influential force. Well, rather than just making things up without data, B&A actually went and did some research and guess what? Immigration is a top three issue for just 7% of voters, and a top issue for just 3%. And of that 7%, over 36% of them are likely non-voters (rising to over 42% of those who said it was the top issue). That pretty much shows the speculative stuff we saw in January was nonsense.

So yeah. Say what you want about B&A’s semi-coherent narrative sections and wildly swingy polling, they have absolutely shown Red C up on this one. Shame on Red C for trying to validate a narrative that is not backed up by facts – and shame on every cowardly politician and media personality blowing this out of proportion because of their bizarre fascination with paying attention to far right cranks. And to the gigachads at B&A, well done.

Red C’s issue polling

Red C also had some issue polling about people’s belief in Sinn Féin’s ability to deliver, which while interesting, is limited insofar as they were the only party asked about. Not being able to compare it to other parties – or at least to the government – robs it of context that is pretty essential in understanding what it means.

That said, we can conclude a few things. Firstly, more people believe in Sinn Féin’s ability to fix things than are willing to give them a first preference vote, which isn’t particularly unusual. Secondly, Mary Lou McDonald is more popular than her party, which is again not very usual and tracks with general trends in leadership polling across parties.

However, what is particularly interesting is that of the multiple issues polled, housing is a relatively weak one for Sinn Féin. Given that this has been the main plank of their party for a while, and an area they have polled strongly on in the past, this might be a matter of some concern. This is especially notable considering that they poll better on an issues where there has been a concerted campaign to hammer them recently – crime and gangland activity. One the one hand, this could be suggested as an indication that their strategy of pulling to the centre is working despite the fearmongering, but on the other hand, Red C’s own polling numbers haven’t shown them really benefitting from this.

However, as alluded to above, without numbers for other parties, it’s difficult to say for sure if this is because people specifically don’t trust SF on this issue, or if people simply have given up on the idea that anyone can fix the housing crisis. I tend to lean towards the latter because Red C also polled on ministerial job performance this month, and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien came dead last.

Also, polls will always show weird artefacts like this, so it’s nothing worth reading into, but I do wanna meet the small cohort of SF voters who think their own party will do a crap job on every issue.

Wait a second, this “Rural Party” is just 15 Independents in a trench coat

We’ve had a lot of talk over the last month of a new “rural party” thanks to Michael Fitzmaurice, which caused no end of media discussion, with some pundits suggesting they could plausibly win 15 seats. Which sounds like an awful lot until you realise that there’s already about 15 conservative rural-interests TDs in the Dáil. Realistically, such a party (or alliance) would probably mostly get incumbents re-elected and, I suspect, would rapidly go the way of such prior “big tent” quasi-Independent arrangements such as the Independent Alliance or New Vision.

Aside from desperate attempts to drag it out by reactionary weirdos like David Quinn, the story seems to have faded, with some of the highest profile rural independents saying they want nothing to do with it. So I don’t think any conclusions should be drawn here unless something concrete actually emerges.

As an aside, there have been extremely premature comparisons with the sudden rise of the Dutch BoerBurgerBeweging. The BBB is naturally, an extremely anti-elite and organic rural interests political movement founded by [checks notes] a nepo-baby (child of a former journalist and a former politician) agricultural journalist and a PR firm. So the equivalent in Ireland would be a party founded by a Farmers Journal writer and Green Acre Marketing. Which, when I put it that way, sounds much more plausible than whatever Fitzmaurice has in mind.

Are you going to talk about Niall Collins?

No, not really. There’s not much to say – I’ve pointed out before that scandals like that rarely have an immediate impact polling, especially given how many this government has brazened out – and make no mistake, they are brazening this one out like never before. Robert Troy wishes he had got this level of protection. I don’t see it having any impact on polling. If it changes, I’ll talk about it, but for now there’s nothing I can say that would add any insight to this ongoing shitshow.

Seat Changes

This month there are two changes – one coming due the Soc Dems improved polling Dublin while Labour drop, and the other from relatively small fluctuations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

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 2023’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.

SD +1

LAB -1

After looking pretty strong in the wake of Bacik’s by-election victory, Labour’s polling in Dublin has declined to where the RPA has it barely ahead of the party’s 2020 performance. In fact, if we look at the last five polls, the average is even lower – this ought be concerning.

Conversely, the Soc Dems have had a little bounce up since Holly Cairns took over as leader, and a chunk of that seems to have come at Labour’s expense. In a constituency where Sinn Féin look likely to add a second TD, someone’s going to have to lose, and right now the model reckons that’s Labour. The party is showing very few signs of life in the polls, and most of its incumbent TDs are vulnerable to some extent, so if I were them I’d worry. It’s also worth noting that they are doing much, much better in Dublin according to B&A than they are according to RedC.

The one saving grace for them in DBN is Fianna Fáil’s weak position in Dublin polls as well – right now the model has a very slight edge for FF over Labour here, but hardly anything I’d consider definitive. DBN overall, despite these relative fluctuations, remains likely highly competitive and quite unpredictable beyond the first two seats.

FG +1

FF -1

Fianna Fáil continue to not look great here, and in what will be a close race for the last two seats, are now on the outside, behind Fine Gael and a third Sinn Féin candidate. Despite the big story being around a very bad poll for FG, FF have been fading in a slower but more consistent manner – and this will reflect in further projected losses if it continues.

I still think the model can’t account for Waterford correctly and SF won’t win three seats here – but I haven’t found a solution that doesn’t involve completely arbitrarily capping the SF vote. There simply isn’t enough data to change the approach here.

Other notes

  • Carlow-Kilkenny: Fine Gael TD John-Paul Phelan has announced he won’t seek re-election. Fine Gael should still be able to hold a seat here without too much hassle – they got nearly 22% of FPV last time – but it was highly split by geography. That could potentially be a factor as they would be ill-advised to run three candidates again.
  • Clare: The model is very close to showing Michael McNamara (IND) holding his seat, at the expense of the currently projected second Fianna Fáil seat. Given the challenges accurately forecasting for Independents, this feels likely to me.
  • Cork North West: Fianna Fáil are struggling a bit across the board honestly – running two incumbents here could easily be a complete mess. In addition to this, Michael Creed (Fine Gael) has indicated that he will retire, but FG should hold a seat here regardless. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens if Sinn Féin actually run someone here this time as well – there’s a huge number of unknowns at play.
  • Dublin Fingal: With Labour fading in polls again, their positions across Dublin look a little vulnerable, and the Greens or even Fine Gael, could put them under a lot of pressure here.
  • Kildare South: Just another update on what the model thinks here if the Ceann Comhairle retires – specifically that Cathal Berry (IND) would be favoured for the final seat.

One final note, following up from last month – donation made to TENI.

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