Monday 8 June 2009

European Parliament election – first results

The proportions of the first preference votes received by each candidate are as follows:

Bairbre de Brún (Sinn Féin): 26.0%
Diane Dodds (DUP): 18.2%
Jim Nicholson (UUP): 17.1%
Alban Maginness (SDLP): 16.2%
Jim Allister (TUV): 13.5%
Ian Parsley (Alliance): 5.5%
Steven Agnew (Green): 3.3%

The proportions of the vote won by the two blocks (and the third 'non-block') in 2009, with the 2004 figures shown also for comparison:

Unionist: 49.0% (2004: 48.6%)
Nationalist: 42.2% (2004: 42.3%)
Other: 8.8% (2004: 9.1%)

These results are superficially identical to those of 2004 – all the changes at block level are less than 0.5% – the unionist proportion has recovered by 0.4%, the nationalist share has dropped by 0.1%, and the 'other' share has dropped by 0.3%. The big stories, though become visible when you look within the blocks.


The biggest story of the election – possible the only real story of the election is the collapse of the DUP vote. The party slumped to only 18.2%, it's lowest ever score in an EP election. The choice of Diane Dodds, and her appalling television appearances, has been blamed, but there is also a level of extreme-unionist rage with the DUP or having gone into the Executive with Sinn Féin. According to the DUP themselves, this election represents a "disaster". And it is – they have lost 87,415 voters (almost 50%) since the last EP election in 2004, some to the TUV and others to apathy. That is a shockingly bad outcome.

The DUP vote has gone in two directions: to the TUV (probably all of Allister's 66,197 votes came from ex-DUP voters) and to the apathetic, or perhaps more accurately, the turned-off.

For the DUP there is a dawning realisation that the TUV represents a genuine constituency, which takes its votes almost directly from the DUP. In order to stave off further losses and defections the DUP will probably move sharply to the right to recapture the extreme-unionists who have voted for the TUV. So for the foreseeable future (at least until after the 2011 year-of-elections) there will be minimal cooperation with Sinn Féin – no devolution of policing and justice, no Irish language measures, no concession on education, nothing. How this will play in nationalist circles is difficult to say. Having frozen the work of the Executive for much of 2008 in return for unrevealed promises from the DUP – which it seems have not yet been honoured and may now not be – Sinn Féin is not likely to be feeling charitable. However, freezing the Executive again may benefit the DUP who will then be seen as 'confronting Sinn Féin'. What else can Sinn Féin do?

Jim Allister, once seen as a mere thorn in the side of the DUP, received 28% of the unionist vote. The size of his vote has come as a surprise to many, but was signalled by this blog amongst others. By doing so he humiliated the DUP and opened the possibility for the TUV to play the role of extreme-unionist opposition in the three more important elections that must come in the next two years. The role Allister will play may well be the exact same role that the DUP itself played vis-à-vis the UUP in the period 1998-2007. Reports from the count verification say that he received more votes from the North Antrim boxes than the DUP, and he may be tempted to stand there in the upcoming Westminster election. However badly this EP election has stung the DUP, the loss of Ian Paisley's Westminster seat to their nemesis would be like a stake through the heart. There is still a significant constituency of anti-GFA unionists, and they are likely to use all possible means to upset the current arrangements.

A smaller, but still interesting story is the performance of UCUNF. Nicholson received 17.1% of the vote. This represents a small increase with respect to his tally in 2004, but a drop compared with 1999, and calls into question the potential of the UCUNF experiment. While UCUNF will argue that the non-merger is a new development and should be given time to bed down, the candidate, Nicholson, is a very long-standing politician and cannot be considered as a 'new brand'. It seems that he continued to receive the core UUP vote, and probably also received the Tory vote – but since the Tory vote at the most recent election in which they stood (2007 Assembly) was only 3,457, no-one will have noticed. It seems that UCUNF failed to excite the palate of the electorate.

It should be born in mind that the turnout in this election was exceptionally low: 42.8%, which demonstrates a level of apathy amongst the electorate which is not typical for Northern Irish elections. The results of this election cannot, therefore, be used to accurately predict the outcome of Westminster, Assembly or local elections.

28 comments:

hoboroad said...

SDLP getting transfers from the TUV

hoboroad said...

Third time lucky for the DUP ha ha ha ha ha

hoboroad said...

Dido leading for Unionism or scraping through on UCUNF transfers LOL

kieron said...

Horseman,

Horseman,

Are you going to analyse the differntial turnout between Nationalist and Unionist constituencies? I think, I regret to say, it must challenge the assumption of the speed of the Nationalist catch-up which underpins much of your thinking.
There is still a 6% gap even after the preferntial Nationalist differntial which must be about 5% (?) is allowed for.

An equal turn out between Unionists and Nationalists will stretch that differntial to about 10% ?.

Mack said...

Kieron -

Nationalist parties roughly held their proportion of the vote, despite a greater fall in turn out in nationalist constituencies (22% vs 20% according to electoral stats expert Sammy Morse). Clearly, this is consistent with an overall increase in nationalist numbers.

--->
IIRC, the 2001 census put RCs at around 44% of population. Bear in mind that proportionally more are below voting age. Then bear in mind that not all Catholics are nationalists, not all Protestants Unionists. Also, Alban Magennis did very well from transfers from the Greens and Alliance (who in turn did better East of the Bann, in Unionist constituencies). The electorate is probably about 42% Catholic. A 42% nationalist vote is probably down to turnout differential.

I don't think this election is inconsistent with analysis presented here.

kieron said...

One element of comfort is that the turnout differential (between the 2 communities) has apparently narrowed since last time out and this time out it may have been partly swallowed up by the improving Nationalist demographics.

But, given that the next 2 elections are quite soon (2010,2011) an improving Unionist percentage may be expected (over 50%?) because there is less time for demographics to impact - assuming that is that more Unionists come out to vote in a continuing narrowing of the turnout differntial between the 2 communities.

hoboroad said...

Sinn Fein Gold UCUNF Silver DUP Bronze

kieron said...

Mack,

the point is - although there is a greater fall in the Nationalist % turnout it is still higher and yet they still only get 42% of the vote? That doesnt seem to stack up to me.

Horseman said...

kieron,

With a t/o rate of 42% we're really straying into unreliable territory. I agree that the t/o next year (or this autumn) and in 2011 will improve, but it is likely that the waters will be muddied by more 'other' candidates than an EP election produces. Particularly the locals in 2011 will attract a lot of unexpected candidates, I think. So they will cause a drop in the unionist % (and the nationalist %). The EP election, being fairly abtract and with a high quota was always the 'purest' election in NI, so its a pity about the t/o rate.

kieron said...

Horseman,

therfore we are unlikely to see any improvement in the Nationalist % as long as the Unionist turn out rate continues to improve at a faster rate than the demogrpahics - which it has done over the last 5 year period.

Mack said...

Kieron -

The Catholic proportion of the electorate is lower than the total Catholic proportion of the population.

Protestants make up maybe 53% of the population and maybe 55% of the electorate (I'm guessing a bit here). But Unionist parties only got 49% of the vote and the SDLP did better on transfers from the centre.

The centre ground took about 8% of the vote. Presumably both Catholics and Protestants vote for them.

Therefore a nationalist vote, broadly similar to the Catholic proportion of the population (assuming sectarian logic of Catholics vote nationalists) - is actually pretty spectacular. Given that some Catholics are voting for the Greens and Alliance, it could only be achieved by a higher turnout.

Perhaps you think the Catholic proportion of the electorate is higher? Perhaps it might be around 43% or at most 44% (given the census was 8 years ago), but it won't be much higher. A vote of over 42% nationalist is still very good given those demographics.

Horseman said...

kieron,

I think Mack is right. Some of the Catholic electorate is 'hidden' in the votes for the Greens and Alliance, so you have to look at the breakdown after their votes have been distributed (I haven't seen the distribution of Allister, but I really doubt if there were many Catholics lurking there!).

And what do you find?

After the redistribution: Unionist = 52.8%, Nationalist = 45.6% (the remainder did not transfer).

So it may be that over 45% are 'default' nationalists.

Horseman said...

Apologies, I've just seen the figures for Allister's transfers. When you look at the 'final' figures after all the transfers, de Brun and Maginness together have 46.1% of the total. Dodds and Nicholson have 51.2% between them.

That's not such a wide gap.

kieron said...

Mack,

As I posted above I am conjecturing here but as I mentioned below -

"An equal turn out between Unionists and Nationalists will stretch that differntial to about 10% ?."

That is probably in line with your suggestion that 55% of the electorate is Unionist. A levelling in turnout rates will probably see an actual increase in the Unionist block % over the next few elections.

I think Horseman has been a little optimistic in his view on speed on the converging community numbers because he does not factor in the the STILL higher Nationalst turnout.

kieron said...

Horseman,

Good - 5% is better than 6%. Do you agree that we may see an increase in the Unionist block at the next elections if the turnout rates continue to converge.

Have you seen any analysis that shows the relationship between the community background make-up of the constituencies and the turn out at these elections.

Pedro said...

Excellent points Mack. I suspect the chain reaction to the TUV leant a certain relevance, and therefore impetus towards participation, on the unionist side which was lacking on the other side.

Pedro said...

It is also a recognised phenomenon that older people are generally more likely to vote - this would help unionism.

Anonymous said...

Horseman et al,

Could somebody explain this in plain English!

For us mere mortals.

Faha said...

I think it is difficult to draw any conclusions on future elections based on this election due to the very low turnout. The total number of voters decreased 65,853 from 2004 to 2009 (11.87%).This actually underestimates the extent of the stay at home voters since the electorate increased from 1,072,669 in 2004 to 1,161,566 in 2009. That is an additional 89,000 voters on the register as of June 1 ( voters could register until May 19th for this election ). If these 89,000 voters had voted at the same rate as other voters in 2004 one would expect another 45,000 votes this year if all voters voted at the same percentage as 2004. So instead of 594,000 voting there were only 484,000, 110,000 less than expected.

There appears to have been a significantly greater stay at home vote in the nationalist community compared to the unionist community. Compared to 2004 , voter turnout was down 3.6% in North Down, 6.1% in East Antrim, 6.4% in Lagan Valley, 6.5% in South Antrim and 9.3% in Strangford. The 4 worst constituencies were Fermanagh-SouthTyrone at 19%, Foyle at 15.1%, West Tyrone at 15.1% and Mid Ulster at 15.1%. Newry and Armagh was only slightly better at 12.8%. Obviously the nationalist constituencies in the west had a much steeper drop in turnout compared to 2004 than the unionist constituencies in the east. Does anyone know why ?

Pedro said...

Does anyone know why ?
The TUV essentially. This meant that there were serious isues within the unionist bloc which energised the relevant factions.

kieron said...

Faha,

"There appears to have been a significantly greater stay at home vote in the nationalist community compared to the unionist community."

I think this is wrong - the turnout rate is HIGHER in Nationalist areas - its just that it fell more from an even highter level from the last euro election. I am guessing/estimating but it is still about 5% higher if not more than Unionist areas.

hoboroad said...

Jim Allister says he is running for the North Antrim seat in the next
Westminister General Election

Anonymous said...

Allister is only going to motivate the nationalist vote all the more I think.
Unionists can vote for him all they want, SInn Fein are going nowhere and they will have to deal with it.

hoboroad said...

Yes Allister is going to damage the DUP.I just hope Big Ian live's long enough to see his life's work turn to dust.Is Peter Robinson turning into Gordon Brown?Only time will tell?I notice that the DUP put up Jeffrey and Arleen to make excuses for the dismal preformance.Where they afraid the Punt or Nigel would lose their cool in front of the TV cameras?

hoboroad said...

Are Jeffrey and company going to be the DUP's lambs to the slaughter?Reg Empey got to right little Jeffrey has run two failed election campaign's for the DUP I very much doubt he will get a chance at a third?The DUP insulted the intelligence of the voters and has now paid the price.

hoboroad said...

How long is it before Allister's doing the DUP's greatest hits.Appearing at midnight shows of strength with men on lonely Antrim hilltops with firearms certificates.Maybe he will protest against the pope.I wonder if he has bought several thousand Red Berets.What about a petition against the Saint Andrew's agreement.How about some Loyalist Days of Action.Or a Loyalist Strike.Maybe invade a small village in Monaghan with 500 loyalist paramilitaries.

Anonymous said...

But what is achieved by this temporary conjunction of republican electoral support over that for the unionists?
For a decent critique of the northern elections visit:
http://revolutionaryireland.blogspot.com/2009/06/2009-european-elections-northern.html

Nordie Northsider said...

Anonymous wrote, referring to the DUP: SInn Fein are going nowhere and they will have to deal with it.

There's a slight ambiguity to that sentence