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|10 May 2022
||Good Judgment | Better Decisions
Which political party will win the most seats in the next Northern Ireland Assembly election?
A: Democratic Unionist Party [blue]
B: Sinn Féin [red]
C: Another party [gold]
Opened 19 March 2021
Closed 5 May 2022; resolved as “B: Sinn Féin”
Brexit has increased economic and political tensions in Northern Ireland, elevating the importance of the next Assembly election. The next Assembly election is scheduled for 5 May 2022. If the election date is changed, the question suspend date will be moved to the day before the new election date. If there is a tie for most seats, the question will be resolved in favor of the party with the most first preference votes (e.g., www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2017-2022/201…, see Table 5.1).
Examples of Superforecaster commentary in italics
AT A GLANCE:
21 April 2022 – Brexit has elevated the importance of the next Northern Ireland Assembly election, scheduled for 5 May 2022. While the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has won five of the last six elections, it is now polling below Sinn Fein (SF). Good Judgment’s Superforecasters as a group currently assign a 94% probability that SF will win the most seats.
SUPERFORECASTER COMMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS:
14 Apr 22 – Comment: The two polls in March show a 7% and a 6.8% lead for Sinn Fein over DUP. Nominations have now closed; 239 candidates are vying for 90 seats. There is no suggestion of unionists unifying against Sinn Fein.
05 Apr 22 – Comment: One month to go. Increasing Sinn Fein’s probability to 95% for passage of time and momentum in favor of Sinn Fein.
16 Mar 22 – Comment: The DUP/Unionist claim that the NI Protocol is illegal has been rejected by the courts. There seems to be no sign of the DUP reviving.
15 Mar 22 – Comment: Looking back at the past 10 elections, the winner of the popular vote became the largest party in all 10. I would be at 95% for Sinn Fein but I’m leaving open the possibility that the Democratic Unionist Party has an advantage owing to Northern Ireland’s voting system.
13 Mar 22 – Comment: Last month, a poll by the Irish Institute and Irish News generated headlines that Sinn Fein could be the largest party. However, elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly are conducted using Single Transferable Vote, a form of Proportional Representation. Taking second preferences into account, the data analyst Peter Donaghy thinks that the DUP would still be “slight favourites” to be the largest party, although it would be “very close”.
09 Mar 22 – Comment: Slight tightening in polls. The vote is split enough with many undecided voters that it’s not impossible that DUP comes back (though very unlikely).
08 Mar 22 – Comment: Just under two months to go until the Stormont May 5 election. More than 600k people have been born in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Belfast Agreement. This article cautions, “With several marginal seats, and a staggering near-90 per cent of those aged 20-24 on the electoral register following last year’s canvas, political parties should not take the historically inherited support of the post-Belfast Agreement cohort for granted.”
03 Mar 22 – Comment: Sein Fein is ahead consistently, but 1 in 5 say they do not know who they will vote for.
13 Feb 22 – Comment: Elections are getting closer, with SF still leading in the polls, and the DUP still having leadership problems.
08 Feb 22 – Comment: Paul Givan resigned in protest against the Brexit deal’s trade protocol.
03 Feb 22 – Comment: It is reported that the NI first minister (DUP) is poised to quit. The DUP could drop from second place in the polls. The UUP and APNI are not far behind them.
18 Jan 22 – Comment: The NI Protocol seems to be working quite well for NI and Ireland. Their trade is increasing. So if the UK tries to revoke the NI Protocol, it might have the unintended consequence of lowering support for the DUP.
03 Jan 22 – Comment: Polls seem generally solid for Sinn Fein, and a wave of DUP retirements probably won’t help with their vote share.
07 Dec 21 – Comment: Recent polls show DUP recovered some support against Sinn Fein. No third party has emerged.
03 Dec 21 – Comment: Last election was close: DUP 28.1% and SF 27.9%. DUP is only one seat ahead, and SF is still ahead in the polls.
14 Nov 21 – Comment: Two recent polls show the gap between SF and DUP at 24% to 18% and 23.5% to 20.6%. That is a lot closer than the previous polls, and might very well suggest that the election in May is going to turn out closer than expected.
02 Nov 21 – Comment: Indications of a possible early election.
22 Oct 21 – Comment: Because Unionist leaders are not working together, Sein Fein has a bigger opening.
14 Oct 21 – Comment: The EU offer to make it easier to move goods between GB and NI might be interpreted as a partial win for the DUP by unionist voters who are telling the pollsters that they have switched from the DUP to other parties. In order to get the most seats, the DUP first needs to get the most support among the unionists. But if the DUP rejects the EU offer, it seems likely that it will not pick up more support. Unlikely to happen, but if any single unionist party gets all the unionist vote, they would almost certainly get the most seats, beating SF.
13 Oct 21 – Comment: The August LucidTalk poll shows Sinn Fein holding a clear lead. Also, Sinn Fein came close to winning last time around, which bodes well for them for next year’s election.
05 Oct 21 – Comment: DUP’s demands for the NI Protocol to be dropped or else they would walk out of the NI government don’t seem to have caused any other groups to have capitulated.
28 Sep 21 – Comment: A call by the DUP leader for unionists to work together has been rejected by the Ulster Unionists.
14 Sep 21 – Comment: Hard to see a path back for DUP in this election.
10 Sep 21 – Comment: The DUP is threatening to walk out of the NI Government. It’s not clear what would then happen. In theory, an election would be called, but the UK Government could presumably take direct control over NI. If an election were to be held now, the polls suggest the DUP would lose over half the support it had at the last election. If the UK and EU agreed to ditch trade checks between NI and GB, the DUP could claim a victory and presumably get more support from voters, but neither the UK nor the EU seems likely to agree.
07 Sep 21 – Comment: EU extensions of border check waivers might help the DUP a bit.
05 Sep 21 – Comment: Poll from late August shows the DUP is not even the leading unionist party. Some of this might be temporary due to leadership problems, however.
31 Aug 21 – Comment: Support for the DUP, primary backers of an unpopular Brexit in Northern Ireland, keeps falling. While it is impossible to give an exact prediction because many final seats will be decided by extremely narrow margins and lower preference transfers could give some surprises, if I had to give a rough margin of how many seats each party is likely to have in the 2022-27 Assembly, Sinn Fein would come in first with 19-24.
15 Aug 21 – Comment: In the last election, Alliance won all its seats in unionist areas. I would expect them to gain seats from DUP there.
30 Jul 21 – Comment: Moving toward Sinn Fein and Another party answer options. Long way to go, but I think the DUP’s problems are not shallow ones that have to do with the current news cycle, but deep ones connected to the unpopularity of Brexit and the gradual shift away from social conservatism.
22 Jul 21 – Comment: I don’t see the UK wanting to renegotiate the NI Protocol, helping the DUP. In a BBC interview last week, Dominic Cummings said that the NI Protocol was just a “fudge” to enable the UK government to say that Brexit was done; they did not have any expectations that it was actually a workable solution for NI.
16 Jul 21 – Comment: In 1921, about 66% of voters backed unionists. In the last four elections, unionist parties have averaged about 43%. Since 2017, nationalist parties’ share has ranged from 36% to 40%, per BBC. Parties which are neutral on the constitutional question are now backed by about 20% of voters–twice the share they had 10 years ago.
12 Jul 21 – Comment: Voters are divided over the Protocol and Brexit, and 8 out of 10 voters say they don’t trust the DUP or its new leader on the issue, “with six out of 10 saying the same about Sinn Fein.”
07 Jul 21 – Comment: Unless there’s an early election, there’s enough time for the DUP to become more competitive, or for Sinn Fein to suffer missteps.
24 Jun 21 – Comment: It’s being said (by the DUP and UK government) that progress has been made with the EU to avoid the end of June deadline that would stop trade in cooked meats between GB and NI. This might avoid the NI Assembly collapsing and a NI general election being called soon. But if whatever is agreed only puts off a permanent solution to the NI Protocol for a few months, it might be too little to satisfy voters next year.
18 Jun 21 – Comment: The new DUP leader has been forced out after only 20 days. The DUP’s actions now could trigger an early election. If this occurs, the unionist parties seem almost certain to lose seats. If the Assembly staggers on until 2022 before holding elections, it is possible that the three unionist parties could reorganize themselves.
16 Jun 21 – Comment: Moving higher on Sinn Fein and watching if elections are going to be called in the near future: After Arlene Foster stepped down, Sinn Fein must endorse Paul Givan, nominated by DUP, and nominate a deputy first minister. If they don’t reach a deal, early elections could be called.
14 Jun 21 – Comment: What happens regarding the NI Protocol at the start of July is likely to change the popularity of the parties. What is due to happen is that the EU will say that with no agreement to the contrary, cooked meat products cannot be exported from GB to NI (because NI, like Ireland, is in the EU Customs Area, and GB is not). The outcome of this dispute is likely to have an effect on the election next year.
05 Jun 21 – Comment: DUP is in disarray.
30 May 21 – Comment: It looks like it’s Sinn Fein’s to lose, going by most recent polling info, but this would be a novel result historically.
27 May 21 – Comment: Unionist DUP and UUP have both selected new leaders. There seems to be some shuffling of preferences among the three unionist parties, with the DUP losing out and support going to the UUP and TUV. The significance is that the DUP is only 2% ahead of the UUP and is equal with the Alliance Party. It’s a while to the elections, but there doesn’t appear any easy way for Poots to persuade the former DUP voters who have moved to the Alliance (liberals), TUV (hard-line unionists), and UUP (conservative unionists) to switch back to the DUP. It looks unlikely that any of these four parties will be have the most seats after the next election. SF is also less popular than it was, but is more popular than any one unionist party. An interesting change is that the less aggressively unionist or nationalist are getting more popular (SDLP, Alliance, Green, PBP) with the support of about a third of voters.
23 May 21 – Comment: A new poll shows a deep split among the unionist parties. Because of their losses, DUP is now tied with Alliance, while SF is far ahead. The effect on seats shouldn’t be as strong because of the transferable voting system, and the election is still a ways away, however.
15 May 21 – Comment: Edwin Poots is the new DUP leader. He is a socially conservative religious unionist. The DUP has been losing support, with less socially conservative unionists moving to the Alliance Party, and more socially conservative unionists moving to the TUV. It’s hard to see how anyone can appeal to both groups. The DUP has the added problem as being the NI party that supported Brexit (when most voters did not) and then supported the UK Conservative Party, but blocked an EU Withdrawal Deal that could have kept the whole of the UK aligned with EU trade and agriculture rules.
13 May 21 – Comment: With the resignation of Arlene Foster, DUP seems to be in a disarray. I expect there will probably be a long negotiation over the summer before a new First Minister is in place, and the election will likely still be a referendum on DUP and Brexit.
04 May 21 – Comment: The DUP has a very small electoral college of DUP elected MPs in the NI Assembly and DUP elected to the UK Parliament. It’s not certain that the views of the electoral college, who are going to select the new DUP leader, match the views of the unionist part of NI voters, so it’s not clear that having a new leader will improve the DUPs chances of winning the most seats in the next NI election.
03 May 21 – Comment: DUP has been headed on a downward trajectory for almost 3 years now. Alliance, which has been growing over that time, has nearly caught up. Sinn Fein has been steady for over a year.
29 Apr 21 – Comment: Arlene Foster is stepping down as party leader and some of her potential successors are much more religious and/or nationalistic. If one of them gets the job, the party will probably lose moderate voters.
26 Apr 21 – Comment: I think this plays into support for Sinn Fein: A public opinion poll shows NI voters are concerned about the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on political stability.
26 Apr 21 – Comment: The unrest is continuing.
22 Apr 21 – NI split over Brexit trading deal, poll shows. Comment: The disconnect on Brexit and how Ireland is treated differently than both UK and countries remaining in the EU will serve as a wedge issue that will throw support either to SF or Alliance. Still a lot of uncertainty.
11 Apr 21 – Comment: DUP and SF are the lead parties, with DUP having slightly more seats now but SF slightly ahead in the polls. Reading about NI and the issue of union with Ireland, a rising number favor it. Somewhere in the 42% range. This bodes well for SF. The violence in Dublin would seem to detract, so the next poll should be key.
03 Apr 21 – Comment: There is not a lot of polling, but Sinn Fein seems ahead.
29 Mar 21 – Comment: The fallout from Brexit may still be a big issue in NI in May 2022, and the DUP will be seen by many unionists as to blame (for supporting Brexit and the UK Conservatives’ UK-EU Trade Deal). If so, the DUP might not pick up many second preference votes from people whose first preference was another unionist party.
29 Mar 21 – Comment: I place the probability of a DUP win above the current polling data, given that running for re-election in 2022 is likely going to be aided by significant economic tailwinds.
28 Mar 21 – Comment: Since the last election, both DUP and SF have bled significant numbers to alternatives in the polls. Another disadvantage is that they are in a “power sharing agreement” and so both have to deal with any voter anger against the status quo. The use of the single transferable vote electoral system could affect the results.
25 Mar 21 – Comment: Nothing stirs the emotions in NI like the re-unification question. A census took place in NI on 21 March and the results are very eagerly awaited, as many expect it to show for the first time a Catholic majority and hence the renewed debate about reunification.
24 Mar 21 – Comment: I’m inclined to think Brexit is going to cost the DUP some in the next election.
22 Mar 21 – Comment: Last time, SF were very close to catching the DUP in seats and are currently leading in the polls, so they are the more likely winners, but polls this far out may not be predictive.
21 Mar 21 – Comment: The big question in this election is whether it is run as a possible re-unification battle. If so, this will galvanize the unionist turnout and possibly lead to many unionists voting DUP to try to ensure reunification can be kept off the table after the election.
21 Mar 21 – Comment: When you look at their polling, then the share of vote they receive, both DUP and SF gain a few points in actual share of vote above their polling numbers. Although this is not always the case. In the 2016 election, SF underperformed their polls by 1.8%.
20 Mar 21 – Comment: Brexit is likely to splinter DUP’s past support to more hardline Unionist/loyalist parties. Conversely, even though SF’s stated degree of support has declined in NI recently, they remain clearly dominant over other Republican parties. Despite the growth in stated support for Alliance, I can’t see them having a sufficiently well-established support base (outside of a few specific districts) to be in contention for being the largest party.
20 Mar 21 – Comment: The power-sharing system looks unstable and will probably be unable to continue indefinitely. The DUP appears to have made a major political error in supporting “Leave” in the Brexit referendum, when the majority of voters in NI voted “Remain.” The polls show that support for the DUP has dropped from 33% to 19%. Interestingly, polling shows support for SF has also fallen (from 32% to 24%). So the leading Unionist party and the leading Republican party have together seen support drop from 2/3 of the total to 43% of the total.
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