Archive for October 2011
While we’re waiting for tomorrow’s Presidential count, I though it might be distracting to look at the 2 party polls that were largely ignored (in part by me!) that accompanied the Presidential polls at the weekend.
FG 31%, 36%, 33.5%
LP 17%, 19%, 18%
SF 16%, 15%, 15.5%
FF 14%, 15%, 14.5%
GP 1%* , 1%, 1%
OTH 21%, 14%, 17.5%
First off, RedC are now lumping the GP into the OTH category, along with ULA, and so I’ve had to assume their score is the same as MRBI to be consistent. For ULA, I’ve again assumed a similar proportionate rise as the rest of OTH.
Secondly, there is a massive difference between the polls for FG (much higher in MRBI) and OTH (similarly in RedC). This would normally be off the scale unless one was a rogue poll, but I suspect it’s a spillover related to the ups and downs of Indo candidates in what has been a very volatile presidential election. Given more FG voters are supporting Independents than Gay Mitchell, you would expect this to have a short-term impact this has on what voters think their behaviour would be in a GE.
Taking the average of the two figures (a mini Poll-of-polls if you like) and the spreadsheet projects the following figures;
FG 68 seats
LP 35 seats
SF 24 seats
FF 13 seats
ULA 6 seats
GP 0 seats
OTH 20 seats
No great surprises I think, the main question is whether FG are artificially low (and OTH/ULA artificially high) as a result of the MRBI poll. I suspect FG would do slightly better if a GE was held tomorrow, but could go down to close to the MRBI finding if there was a GE after December’s budget, as clearly there’s a ‘new’ FG vote that’s open to offers. Labour, while they are holding up extremely well, I suspect they are getting a bit of a bounce from Michael D, and will do very well to be in this territory come January.
SF are doing quite well, but no better than in polls before the last GE, and so I would be very slow to say there has been a significant boost generated from the McGuinness candidacy, and they are no longer ahead of Labour in the polls. Even so, they are well placed to pick up on dissatisfaction with Labour post-budget, and unless the Govt has found €20 billion behind a sofa in Merrion Street, I suspect SF will be about 3% ahead of Labour in the January polls.
FF will be disappointed to be back where they were polling before the GE, but with no (explicit) candidate in #Aras11, it probably isn’t as bad as it could be, and they too will be hoping to pick up on post-Budget anti-Govt sentiment (although I suspect their success in this will be limited, given most people will still blame them for the broad thrust of the Budget, if not the individual details). I’d imagine they will try to argue that aspects of the approach of the Govt, rather than the bottom line will be their tack, but their problem is that there is a plurality of opposition parties and Independents. If they were the only really opposition party, they could expect some traction, but if FG/LP voters don’t like what is proposed in December, they are more likely to go to SF/ULA/OTH than to the party that everyone else blames for the need to have a painful fiscal adjustments in the first place. That said, if LP fall in Dec/Jan, they are likely to fall below FF in FPVs, if not seats.
Other than that, little to comment upon, given the miserly detail on ULA et al. I would note that the broad left would have about 73 seats on this projection, which might have longer term implications, but is more likely to reflect a time when a majority of voters are about to give their #1 to Michael D, SF, or David Norris in another type of election. I suspect it will not be as pleasing to my eyes come January.
But we’ll see, eh?
I’m assuming they’re correct (am tied up a bit later) but RedC figures have been extensively leaked, and they suggest that Gallagher is entering the final week in a very strong position. The figures are;
Gallagher 40% +1,
Michael D 26% -1,
McGuinness 13% NC,
Norris 10% +3,
Mitchell 6% -2,
Dana 3% +1
Davis 2% -1
Apparently the polling took place early this week, but while there has been bad publicity for Gallagher in that period, there had been before it and he’s increased his vote, so I’d not be sure that would make much of a difference.
On the face of it, it looks nearly over.
Is there any comfort that Michael D’s campaign can take from this? Nothing really, and they’ll be hoping there is something in the detailed data that will make it closer in practise. Firstly, the transfers of McGuinness, Norris & Mitchell. If these are going to Gallagher/MDH in the same proportion as last week, it *is* over. However, if the identification of Gallagher as FF has consolidated that “ex-FF” vote, it’s equally possible that the anti-FF vote will transfer better among each other. Michael D didn’t make up the ground he needed among these transfers last week, and will be hoping to do better in this week’s sample.
Another detail which will be pored over is the “likeliest voter” figures, which last week suggested Gallagher’s 12% lead last week would shrink to 8% if restricted to voters who rated their likelihood of voting as 7-10 to 10/10. 51% of voters were 10/10, close to the likely turnout, and so that’s not unlikely to be the actual voters on the day. If that stays the same, the margin on FPVs would be 10% this week. Combined with a better transfer rate, you could still be looking at a final count of 53/47, the sort of gap that could still be made up in the final week of the campaign.
But this would be lazarus stuff. Michael D hasn’t really dropped, it’s just that everyone he would expect good transfers from has seen a decline in their vote, apparently moving to Gallagher. Mitchell is now at 6% and doesn’t even seem a good bet for saving his deposit, something that would at least have got more FG voters out to vote, and then to transfer for him. Similarly, Norris has not prospect, and those who demanded his right to run may have found other things to divert their attention. McGuinness transfers were going strongly to Gallagher last week, and unless they have moved significantly they are not going to benefit Michael D. And Davis now has slipped into the margin of error with Dana, and their transfers will be negligible.
Not over. But not far off. Only an effective “stop Gallagher” effort will stop his election next week, and at this stage it seems unlikely that this will materialise.
I need a glass of wine…..
EDIT: The Sunday Times also have a Behaviour and Attitudes poll. Slightly more encouraging for MDH, but less of a track record means less reliable. It gives Gallagher a lead of 38/26, MMG 17%, GM 8%, DN 6%, MD 3%, DRS 2%.
Lashing this out before catching a train with one of the wains, so please excuse any typos….
I’m sure everyone who follows this blog are aware of the latest RedC Aras poll, which shows Gallagher storming into a commanding first preference lead, and the field effectively whittled down to him an Michael D Higgins. For any who haven’t, the FPV figures are as follows;
Gallagher 39% (+18)
Michael D 27% (+2)
McGuinness 13% (-3)
Mitchell 8% (-2)
Norris 7% (-7)
Davis 4% (-5)
Dana 2% (-3)
First, the obvious. Gallagher’s vote has almost doubled, and it’s largely at the expense of the other Independents, who losing votes hand over fist, and all of whom are dead ducks now, with no way back. Secondly, Michael D is gaining votes, but not at the rate that he could stay ahead of that kind of surge. SF are also leaking now, and are perilously close to the 12.5% required to hold their deposit. Given the absence of FF, this would represent a step backwards for the party if replicated on the day, and they will be hoping that a sympathy factor, based on a media onslaught and the Primetime debate controversy, will help stem the tide that is going against their man. And finally, Mitchell is approaching meltdown, and it will take a Herculean effort by the FG party machine for them to save their deposit. It is still possible that they could overtake SF in there is a continued decline in the Derryman’s fortunes, but even that achievement appears less than odds on.
OK, what else?
Well, as you will also know, the poll was taken before the Primetime debate. Most people believe that Gallagher performed poorly in that debate, handling the FF question particularly badly, and his odds lengthened at Paddy Powers following it (a trend reversed by the publication of this poll). Personally I doubt this would be enough to wipe out a 12% lead, but one suspects it would have some impact.
Secondly, there’s the issue of transfers and likely voters. I got the paper today hoping to get the level of detail on this that previous RedC polls have had, and was surprised to see less of this published than normal. There are no specific figures for transfer rates or #2 votes, but Richard Colwell (RedC MD) says that Michael D beings to catch Gallagher “as Mary Davis, David Norris and Gay Mitchell all transfer strongly to him. However the question is whether this will be enough before Martin McGuinness is eliminated, as he transfers strongly to Gallagher”. The unwillingness to say what way the poll indicates would suggest that it’s too close to call
If we were to assume from the above that Mitchell and Norris were going 60/20 MDH/SG, Davis 55/30, and Dana and MMG 30/60, the final result would be Gallagher winning by about 8-9%. But we don’t know the transfer rates, and ones from previous polls are now useless as the Mary Davis vote of a fortnight ago isn’t the same cohort as today, given the swing since then.
Also of interest is when you look at committed voters. RedC ask voters how likely they are to vote on a scale of 1-10, and discard 1s 2s and 3s, on the reasonable basis that they tend not to vote. This is of particular interest in a vote like this where turnout is not expected to be high, with the last Presidential election attracting a turnout of 50% or so. Those who are “definite” (i.e. 100% likely, according to them) in this poll, interestingly, amounts to some 51% of those polled, the gap is narrower, with Gallagher at 38% and Michael D up to 30%.
Both of these factors combined could, if stretched, be used to suggest that the lead on the final vote among those who will actually vote is around the margin of error, but personally, I think Gallagher would still have won on the final count if the vote had been held early last week, based on these figures. The question, given the volatility of the figures, is whether he has built up an unstoppable momentum, or whether the “easy come, easy go” principle applies.
The poll is likely to be a game changer in a number of respects. Firstly, Gallagher will get the attention other potential winners have received, and it remains to be seen how he handles this. Certainly his views on FF, and more recent revelations about him getting funding from boards he sat on are unlikely to help him. But is may also arouse some sympathy. Perhaps more pertinently is whether Michael D continues to adopt the ‘play it safe’ policy, or starts being more expansive about his values, and the sort of Ireland he wants to see.
But it’s game on. And if I had to bet the house on a result, having done the figures, it’s Gallagher’s to lose.
Just edited a typo in that last blog entry – I had inadvertently given LP 12% (as opposed to 18%) in the Summer MRBI poll!
Some of you will recall a poll being published last month by the Sunday Times, conducted by “Behaviours and Attitudes”, a polling company with little record of measuring party support. This poll was significantly out of step with other companies at the time and so I didn’t devote time to analysing it, but the Sunday Times have used them again this weekend, with findings that the people are, apparently overwhelmingly, in favour of cuts instead of tax rises.
Given the use of polling to try to persuade politicians, I think it’s worth having a look at how reliable B&A are.
As a company, they’ve not been used, generally, for party polling, but to measure attitudes. One example covered here attempted to measure our attitudes to sex and sin. Interesting stuff, and certainly good for filling column inches, but not something that can be tested really – it’s not like there will be a referendum on the issues tested. Good clean fun, but nothing that establishes the quality of the polling in the first place.
As I’ve pointed out beforehand, most of the big 3 (MRBI, RedC & Lansdown Millward/Brown) have a particularly decent record in calling General Elections. They’ve been doing it long enough, and they have records that 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 outside the margin of error (by 0.4%) and when you’re assuming a 3% margin of error to 95% probability, that’s about what you’d expect if polling was being done as close as perfect as possible (those margins are due to random statistical variation, not sample or method error). It’s worth noting that MRBI were closest (for the second GE in a row), Millward Brown were 2nd and RedC were third. (Unless you could my predictions which were slightly closer than MRBI, ahem!)
The B&A poll on 4th September had the following party totals;
Obviously, if this had been a finding of a major company poll, this would have been big news, showing sudden swings from LP and to FG. The most recent poll had been an MRBI one (who were closest in the previous 2 General Elections). This showed FG at 38% and Labour at 18%. Assuming they haven’t suddenly become pants at polling, this suggested that, if B&A figures were true, Labour had lost some 6% over the summer (more properly between 3-9%), and FG had gained a similar amount.
So maybe they had? If so, you’d expect it to show up in the other company results. However, no joy for them there. MRBI have since come out with a poll that has FG at 35% (i.e. 3% down on July), and Labour 17% (down just 1%, unlike B&A well within the margin of error). Millard Brown (who were second closest to the result in February) also have released a poll since the B&A one, and this actually showed Labour up 1% to 20%, and FG down 2% to 40%. RedC, who came 3rd in February, do have Labour down in their latest poll, but within the margin of error, to 16%, and FG down a whopping 8% to 33%.
In other words, all the other polling companies have B&A’s latest results well out on FG and LP, not just in the totals, but in the trends they were suggesting. Notably, their findings suggest an electorate that are more right wing than that found by the other pollsters, which of course, would not make them unattractive to a paper in the News International stable.
This isn’t to suggest that they aren’t a real company, that their polls are fraudulent, or even to suggest that there is bias at work. It’s just to point out that, as polling companies go, their figures lack the credibility that more serious pollsters have earned over the years. I don’t know why the Sunday Times have chosen them, certainly they don’t have the brand recognition or credibility that the big 3 have, and can only hope it’s because they are cheaper.
Judge them on their results, that’s what I always say….
It’s half-time in a (turgid) Andorra-Ireland match, and so I’ll be brief….
This morning’s MRBI poll in the Irish Times has made some headlines, with SF recording the second highest rating of all the parties. The following are the party shares, and the IPR projections (again, ULA are within the OTH column, and so I’ve estimated their share on the vote as being pro-rata that amount)
FG 35% (-3) – 69 seats
SF 18% (+8) – 29 seats
LP 17% (-1) – 32 seats
FF 16% (-2) – 16 seats
ULA 2% – 4 seats
GP 2% (NC) – 1 seat
OTH 10% – 15 seats
SF will be unsurprised to see LP still getting a better ‘bonus’ than they do, but may be encouraged by how little it puts them ahead in terms of seats. In 3 cases (the 2 Donegals and Louth) a seat depends on them running a second candidate they didn’t last time, but still they will be very happy with this. Largely, their gains hit the other parties more or less across the board.
I’ll not go into enormous depths about the poll, but I’ll just make the following observations;
1. Contesting the Presidential election has been, obviously a good move for SF, but I suspect the main reason it has been as successful as it has is the onslaught from Gay Mitchell and others on SF. By making SF the focus of FG/Govt scorn (in a way that FF used to be) they have apparently consolidated opposition to the Govt around a single party.
2. The gender gap, as has been commented by others, is startling with their support at 28% amongst men, but only 11% among women. Some might assume that this would always have been the case, but no, not at all. Last January, RedC ran a poll for Paddy Power which showed a very different story. On that occasion, SF were 14% nationally, so they are up 4% in the intervening months. And how much higher were they among men? They weren’t. In that poll, they rated 12% amongst men, and 15% amongst women. In other words, since January, SF have risen 16% among men, but dropped 4% among women. Really.
Now, that level of variation in January is m.o.e. stuff, but the current variation isn’t, so there clearly has been a very significant shift in SF support between the GE and now.
There’s not enough evidence to say for certain what has happened, but at the time in January I believed that SF’s rise was, in part, a surge among public sector workers, who are quite predominantly female. Since then, it appears that they have lost some of this support, but gained more among men, apparently especially lower income and younger men.
It may be that this is a slight rouge element of the poll, as the variation between women and men out-strips anything I can recall in other polls, and I am reluctant to make any judgments based on this. But it’s something no doubt we’ll see detailed in future polls in some detail, now it has become a matter of public comment.
anyways, back to Andorra-Ireland…..
One of the puzzling things about the Presidential Opinion Polls, for an outsider, might be as to how there could be such a large discrepancy between FG’s ratings in the state of the parties, and Gay Mitchell’s figures, with his score skittering between a half and a third of their party figures.
There are a number of reasons, in my view the main one being that he’s unsuited to a values type election, i.e. There are people voting FG now, not because they agree with their values, but because they see the State in a hole, and reckon FG will be the most brutal in pulling us out of it. This opinion gets some weight from a Presidential poll taken before the GE, when RedC found that, if Mairead McGuinness ran for FG against Norris, Bertie, Crowley, Michael D and Fergus Finlay, she would have polled some 13% (compared to 35% for FG in the previous poll) It is also possible, as I suggested in the last post, that the absence of FF means that being the “anti-FF” candidate no longer carries the same benefit.
While the January poll offered 2 choices for FF and LP, it was still way under half of the support her party was getting, which should’ve indicated to FG that this was not going to be a walk in the Park for them as a party. Further evidence arrived in June when a selection of four FG candidates, all representing different strains within the party, mustered less than 30% between them, even after exclusion of undecideds, with last-placed Gay Mitchell in the margin of error at 2.6%. It is beyond most people’s comprehension how Mitchell could have been picked following that poll – it clearly showed that FG were in serious trouble, and needed as many votes as possible to have a decent showing. Enda Kenny saw this when he pushed for Pat Cox, and Mairead McGuinness would, based on that poll, appear to have been a decent bet, but to go for the only candidate with no apparent personal vote was reckless, as they appear to be learning to their cost.
Nevertheless, many FG members appear perplexed, as they have bought into the myth that he’s a great vote getter, whereas the reality is that he is no more than competent, even in elections that suit his temperament.
His most recent outing was the 2009 European Elections, when he topped the poll in Dublin with 23.78% of the vote. Not bad, but above what FG would have got with another candidate? Probably not. On the same day, there were Local Elections, and the FG vote in Dublin amounted to almost exactly the same. In Dublin City and County, FG candidates got a total of 23.73% of the vote. In other words, the Mitchell vote was almost exactly at the same level as the party vote in the LEs, among the same voters on the same day.
His previous test was in 2004, again an EP election coinciding with the LEs. On that occasion, he polled 21.51%, again without a running mate. On this occasion, it was at least above the FG LE performance, but only marginally at less than 3%, and given how low the base was, it wasn’t something you could really use 7 years later to justify someone as an über candidate.
Previous to that, his electoral tests were in Dublin South-Central. There, his prowess was largely agreed to be the result of intensive clientelism, and a well oiled local machine, neither of which will come into play in this election, but let’s have a look at how he did anyway. His base was always in the mid-to-northern end of the constituency, and if he had been serious about brining in a running mate he would have had one from the more middle-class Terenure end. But Gay was always too canny to allow something like that happen, and
he eh, the party, chose Catherine Byrne (now a TD) as his running mate. She had come third in the previous bye-election, polling decently in his areas, and getting 20%, but was based in the Inner City, and if Gay wanted to outpoll his running mate in places like Terenure, she was the candidate to have on the ticket.
In the end, the vote was badly split, and he got 12.37% to her 4.57%, a combined vote of less than 17%. Given the advantages he had as an incumbant TD, geographically based in the middle of the constituency, and with his running mate at the end least FG-minded, his FPV of 5,444 on that occasion does not scream “winner” to me.
Going back to the last century, he managed to top the poll by crushing his running mate Ruairi McGinley in 1997, getting 22% to McGinley’s 3%. Again, its obvious that he was never keen to have a strong running mate, and McGinley a debutant, was never going to challenge Mitchell, who clearly saw topping the poll (and enhancing his reputation) as more important than bringing on a running mate. But even if you take it that this was evidence of his great vote getting ability, his strongest appeal was among what used to be called the “Senior Citizen” vote in Drimnagh and Crumlin. 14 years on, many of those voters are with us no more, and those that are certainly aren’t going to swing a national election.
I suspect he may still poll better on the day, but if he does it won’t be because he is a greater campaigner. It will be because he could hardly do worse. The best FG can hope to come out of this election is a realisation that those votes don’t “belong” to them, and listen to a wider circle than the lads who turn up for branch meetings. Had they chosen Mairead McGuinness, they would probably be in the mix now, and this would be a very different election. As it is, there will be a lot of soul searching in the party this Halloween.