Irish Polling Report

A place to discuss Irish opinion polls

Polls Positions

with 16 comments

The final seats have yet to be allocated, so I’ll be reserving my comments on this until after the last count, but at this stage we know the FPVs of each party, and I thought it might be timely to review how the different organisations (and my good self!) did in trying to gauge how many votes each party would get, that being the idea behind such polling in the first place.

Most of you will be well aware that MRBI and Millward/Lansdowne have been rubbished for some time by some FG posters on in particular, despite having as good a record in General Elections (I’ve outlined elsewhere why I believe you can’t compare effectiveness in predicting GE results with other elections).  The posters generally pointed to RedC as the most reliable, despite having no better (and arguably a worse)  record in predicting GE results.  This time, despite (yet again) being held closer to polling day than the other companies final pre-polling day efforts, RedC were actually the furthest out of all the respected polling companies, as I suspected they might be.

The last MRBI poll, which I flagged as the one to watch (having been extremely close in ’07), was the first of the “final” polls to be published, leaked on Sunday evening and published in Monday’s Irish Times.  They were out by 0.9% for FG, 0.4% for LP, 1.4% for FF, 1.1% for SF, 0.2% for GP, and 0.4% OTH, making their total deviation a very impressive 4.4%.  Millward Brown/Lansdown came out the following day and were 1.9% out for FG, 0.6% for LP, 3.4% FF, 1.1% SF, 0.8% GP and 0.6% OTH, making their deviation a less impressive (but still solid) 8.4%.  The last official poll of the campaign came from RedC (as in 2007) and as in the previous GE, they failed to make this advantage work for them, with the least accurate prediction of the final vote.  They were 3.9% out for FG, 1.4% for LP, 2.4% for FF, 0.1% for SF, 1.2% for GP, and 1.4% for OTH, a whopping 10.4% overall.

As regular readers will be aware, I went out on a limb and posted my predictions on polling day and my figures were out by 1.8% for FG, 0.1% for LP, 1.1% for FF, 0.1% for SF, 0.2% for GP and 0.9% for OTH, a total deviation of 4.2%.  And finally, another MB/L poll, this time an exit poll for RTE, gave figures that deviated by 0% for FG, 1.1% for LP, 2.3% FF, 0.2% for SF, 0.9% for GP and 0.1% for OTH, a total deviation of 4.6%.

In summary, the total number of percentage points the last projections were out by was as follows;

MRBI 4.4%

MB/L 8.4%

RedC 10.4%

IPR 4.2%

Exit 4.6%

Now, that’s not to rubbish RedC, polling is a complicated discipline, but rather I think it does shoot the credibility of those who ridiculed the other company results, particularly people who poured scorn on MRBI for recording figures that they didn’t agree with, and who took particular exception to my basing projections on their data.  MRBI by contrast were the closest of all the polls in the final week (even better than the Exit Poll) and the only prediction I’m aware of being closer was mine, which was based in large part on their poll anyway.

So next time you hear someone scorning a polling company, check who they are, who they support, and look at the evidence.

Written by Dotski

February 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. […] […]

    Polling results

    February 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

  2. As a regular reader of your site, can I compliment you on your excellent analysis of polling and your highly accurate final prediction. I was reading a while ago that after Labour infamously went into coalition with Fianna Faíl in 1992, their opinion poll standing actually rose to 22%, which would pour scorn on the traditional assumption that Labour’s entry to into coalition with F.F was what led to their calamitous defeat in 1992. What do you think are the short term implications in terms of opinion poll support for Fine Gael and Labour of both entering and, for Labour, staying out of coalition?


    February 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    • Cheers Ruairí.
      On the going into Govt, LP support in polls rose during the period of negotiation with FF in ’92, not sure what it was shortly after, but I think the evidence is, for good or ill, that when LP went into Govt as a minority party in the past, they always were down in the following election (every time in the history of the state). How much this is as result of being the junior partner, and how much is just part of being in govt (which is what they want anyway) I’m not sure, and it’s hard to establish as many times ppl aren’t even sure why they’ve moved from a party.

      Good question though, and I may give it a bit more thought and do a post on it if there’s interesting evidence when I start digging…


      February 28, 2011 at 12:50 am

  3. I voted Labour in Sligo though my vote ended up helping to elect a Sinn Fein candidate – not something I do without some reluctaance.
    I am both amazed and furious to hear lab spokespersons prating about an excellent record-breaking result. I think both the campaign and the result was aappalling in all the (favourable) circumstances.
    The real question now for labour party supporters – given teh almost unquestioning enthusiasm for immediate coaalition, pretty muh without conditions – is: will there be a Labour Party in 2020?
    I greatly doubt it.


    February 27, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    • I think they should negotiate for govt, but not at any price. Politics is about govt at end of the day, and if they can get a good deal, I’d support it, given how crucial govt policy is at present, but if not they should go into opposition. Oviously what the bottom lines are have to be considered, but it’s not simple, and there are always trade-offs. I was anti-coalition in the 80s, but for all its failings I think the 2 govts they were in in 92-97 were actually excellent govts and did a lot of good things. They may not get the thanks, but the point of politics is to do the good stuff in the first place


      February 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

  4. Well JODO, I am a long standing supporter who has acted as an unpaid adviser to one LAB front bench person for some years.

    I agree that the only sensible action for Labour is not to participate in Govt. with FG. Indeed with a highly divided opposition I don’t see that FG will have any problem running the country with around 76 seats and won’t need Labour anyway, other than as a mudguard. There is likely to be at least five opposition groups with speaking rights,

    Sinn Féin
    Trots & Dolly mixture lefties
    Idealogical Right wing

    You will also have some of the other non party TDs, happy on expenses and trips far away from the wife. The right to employ two people will also give two unemployed relations some work and temper actions leading to another election.

    I can’t see FF playing any active role in the next Dáil. The party leader will be trying to rebuild the party and most of his TDs are on the older side and unlikely to be interested in hard policy graft, let alone turning up in a Dáil if the Govt has a majority of 55 plus. This just leaves the boys and two girls from SF.

    FG can leave the Ceann Comhairle in place or give it to someone else, Howlin or Rabbitte are pompous enough to take it, reducing the opposition by one.

    Indeed if things get tight Enda could buy a few off cheaply with junior posts, I have no doubt McGuinness would change sides to kick a few more Civil Servants and the Eton old boy has also promised his fealty.

    There is also a huge danger of a Govt. with a 50 plus seat majority. Politics would move to the streets because Dáil activity would be a waste of time as the Govt. steamrolled everything through. I just don’t see very many of the FF deputies bothering to make the effort in questioning legislation, most of the SF reps are too new and don’t have the insider support required to provide active opposition. Ranting Trots are easy fodder for any Civil Servant. (I have more than once had to write a reply to a question I had prepared for my front bencher.)

    The Committee stage of legislation does not provide any chance for witty one liners and was never of huge interest to Joe Higgins.

    There is also a much more worrying side. A FG/Lab coalition would have an unheard of majority in the Seanad also. FG are the biggest party in local Govt and Lab also increased their number of cllrs. last time. FF will have about 8-10 Senators and the university 6. A FG/Lab coalition would be an elected dictatorship.


    February 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    • […]There is likely to be at least five opposition groups with speaking rights,

      Sinn Féin
      Trots & Dolly mixture lefties
      Idealogical Right wing

      Not quite, as I was toldover on cedarlounge. There can be only one technical group (and it must have a maojority of the TDs who were not elected for a party that got seven or more seats).

      So, PBBA, SP, Healy and two others (Catherine Murphy & John Halligan?) could form a group with priority speaking rights and squeeze Ross, Ming, Grealish, Lowry, and Healy-Rea out to the margins.


      February 28, 2011 at 1:59 am

      • Doh. Bad sums. Currently 13 Non-party, 2 SP & 2 PBPA to make 17 in total (assuming Galway East, Laois Offaly, and Wicklow don’t increase that), so a technical group wound need 9. A Left one could be:

        2 PBPA, 2 SP, Catherine Murphy, Maureen O’Sullivan, ?John Halligan?, ?Finian McGrath?, ?Thomas Pringle? .


        February 28, 2011 at 2:07 am

  5. Tomboktu, The numbers required for party/technical group recognition can be adjusted, as has been done in the past. If I was advising FG, I would reduce the number to four and let the opposition fight it out. Remember “divide & rule”, it works every time.

    If you could get another ginger group apart from the 4th internationalists, so much the better. By the way I would not regard on the left, more of a mé féin man, out to accumulate more on top of his various pensions.


    February 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm

  6. I would like to go back to my core point, which is a majority of 50 plus would be no more than an electoral dictatorship.

    This would give certain elements the chance they have been waiting for to move to street protests and other actions leading to violence. RBB and friends would legitimately be able to say that they are wasting their time in the Dáil and time to take their activities outside of it.

    There are a lot of issues bubbling under the surface of Irish society, in particular racism. As massive emigration of the natives take place, it will be easy to point out the non Irish as scapegoats. No country has ever suffered massive emigration of its native population while having a substantial non national community until now.


    February 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

  7. First let me add my thanks to you for your analysis. It added to my enjoyment of the election and contributed to my winning the sweep in work amounting to €545 !!
    In regard to the Labour Party in government. Clearly in terms of the next local and general election entering goovernemnt is a bad idea. However in the long run we are all dead. It seems to me that the key thing is that there is, as the Greens(RIP)had, a scheduled review preferably in Sept 2013.
    As if the ship is to be jumped that is when it is to be done.
    More generally I would be interested in your view on what to lowest outcome in seats that the current Labour Party and Fine Gale % could deliver if Fianna Fail transfer repellance was normal


    March 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    • Chris, delighted to hear it helped you win all that dosh!
      Like the Keynes quote (it’s one I sometime use myself) and I think the point about the review date is very good, especially as it will also result in FG behaving a bit better if in place.

      As regards the difference if FF got normal transfers, I don’t think it would actually make an awful lot of difference, I think 155 of the 165 TDs elected would’ve been elected if their were no transfers. What might be interesting is that the transfer rate internally for FF was quite low, which suggests that their ‘core’ vote was even lower, with a substantial part of their 17% or so being personal votes that didn’t transfer to their running mates.


      March 2, 2011 at 12:08 am

  8. […] MRBI maintaining their record as the polling company who come closest to GE results, as I outlined here, however they are well regarded (particularly among FG supporters).  The poll shows really no […]

  9. […] speak for themselves. In the last GE, all measured FF, FG, LP, SF, GP and OTH quite well, and as I point out here  in the final polls of the GE 2011, of the 18 party totals, only one (FF in the L& M/B) was […]

  10. […]  This week, RedC are reporting them as within the margin of error of one another.  Given the record of them and the other top-3, and given RedC under-estimated LP by 2.5% in their final pre-election […]

  11. […] the best polling companies, and outperformed RedC in their final poll of #GE11, as you can see from this comparison of how the polling companies did.  Given this, it is probably worth taking note of what they […]

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