Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 February 2015

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That was the Euro election that was: Targeting shy voters is crucial

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ -  Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local  councils.  Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected.  Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.

Well, that was the Euro election that was. So how did the Belfast Telegraph's predictions go?

In summary, we slightly underestimated Alliance, Ukip and slightly overestimated the UUP, NI21 and SDLP. We got Sinn Fein, DUP, Greens and NI Conservations spot-on.

The TUV vote, which was underestimated, had a knock-on effect on some of the other percentage estimations. This is a problem with polling perceived 'Right-wing' parties and it takes time to get the modelling correct.

A few years back, Ukip polling figures in GB always underestimated their support, but that has become more accurate as Ukip has become more established.

Respondents tend to be 'shy' identifying themselves with parties who are perceived to be challenging the establishment.

Several years ago, the same applied to DUP and Sinn Fein figures; however, it is now more 'acceptable' to be a DUP, or Sinn Fein, supporter and polling figures for their support are now very accurate: Belfast Telegraph Euro estimates (Apri 30): Sinn Fein – prediction 26.2%/actual result 25.5%; DUP – prediction 20.8%/actual result 20.9%.

The election was the best-ever for Alliance and TUV, with SDLP pleased they increased their vote.

The premature euphoria UUP displayed after their council results had cooled by the Euro count. The UUP should realise local government results are based largely on the popularity of local candidates. Their Euro result reflected this, with their vote dropping about 20% from the council results.

The TUV are now in the position that Ukip were in a few years back in GB.

They're really in play in the political game, but they need to make that transition to be attractive to an even wider audience in order to make gains at the 2016 Assembly election.

This would mean moving from being mostly 'shy' voters to being mainstream.

This would also help with the polling.

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

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