Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

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Elections round-up: DUP European results predicted ahead of vote

LucidTalk continue their review of each of the NI political parties, how they fared at the European elections, and their prospects for the future – here we look at the DUP

DUP's Diane Dodds celebrating her re-election
DUP's Diane Dodds celebrating her re-election

DUP come in right smack on our prediction! – DUP: Our prediction 20.8%/Actual result 20.9%.

Alongside our Sinn Fein prediction this is the main Euro election prediction we should really crow about! In our pre-election predictions, we said:...like Sinn Fein, our 2012-2013 NI Assembly election polls, showed strong solid support for the DUP at a regular 27-30% score. Our recent Opinion Panel survey showed this still strong support, but with a small downward trend. The big question is how Jim Allister will affect the DUP performance in this election, as our poll research shows that Allister obtains 80% of his support from former DUP voters......, The big factor in Dodd’s favour is the formidable DUP election machine, backed up by their sizable field of council candidates, canvassing...our system predicts a Euro poll 1st preference result of 20.8%’. (Belfast Telegraph, 30th April).

We predicted 20.8% for the DUP at the Euro election, and they scored 20.9% - i.e we got it right to within 0.1% - OK, let’s be professional about this – there is an element of luck in getting a prediction as exact as this! Yes, our polling methods, and prediction systems are good, and improving all the time. But there’s no polling company, or individual, that can predict an election result to within a 0.1% margin (not without a bit of luck!). If we could make predictions to within that sort of margin all the time, we’d be working on elections (and stock markets) worldwide and making a lot of money! 

However, leaving the Euro election prediction aside, the DUP should have noted the ‘danger signal’ in the above pre-election commentary i.e. ‘...Our recent Opinion Panel survey showed this still strong support, but with a small downward trend...’. It’s hard to predict the extent of this downward trend, but we detected it in our Opinion panel survey (conducted 4-6 weeks before the election) and it certainly was shown in the DUP performance at the local government elections.

Why do our Assembly election polls (2012 – 2013) predict 27-30% for the DUP and our prediction falls to 20.8% at the Euro election – the main answer is Jim Allister. However, undoubtedly within this is also a ‘small downward trend...’ as we predicted. The good news for the DUP is that, following the Euro election results, our Assembly election model still currently (NB I say currently) predicts the DUP scoring back at the 26-28% level again in any NI Assembly election. Actually these election patterns mirror what happened between the 2009 Euro election and the 2011 Assembly election. The Euro election suits big names like Allister, the Assembly election suits the DUP, with their big election machine, and lot’s of incumbent MLA’s which is always an advantage. This DUP score of 26-28% is slightly lower than our 2012-2013 Assembly election polls, and it will be interesting to see if this is also reflected in our next Belfast Telegraph – LucidTalk NI-Wide poll coming later this year.

People sometimes complain about the accuracy in polling, and of course there is an error factor in all polling predictions – However, this error factor can be determined mathematically and is always published with all our polls. However, one thing that is never wrong in polling, either with our polls or others, are trends. If a polling trend for a particular political party is downwards, then there are undoubtedly less people considering voting for that party than before, at that particular time. The error comes in determining the extent of these trends. As per above, our Opinion Panel poll showed this downward trend for the DUP as ‘slight’, but we could be wrong, as it could be a larger downward trend. This should worry the DUP.  

Bill White is managing director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk, polling partners to the Belfast Telegraph

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