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Unionist pact boosts DUP hopes of recapturing East Belfast, says survey

By Liam Clarke

Published 09/04/2015

DUP's Gavin Robinson
DUP's Gavin Robinson

The unionist pact has given the DUP a significant bounce in the battleground constituency of east Belfast - making the party the runaway favourite to win back the seat, a new survey has revealed.

According to the Belfast Telegraph's latest monthly LucidTalk poll taster, Gavin Robinson is more likely than ever to win the East Belfast seat off Alliance's Naomi Long.

Our monthly poll result found that the DUP man is now 75% likely to win the seat.

He was 55% likely to take it last month - so that extra 20% is the bounce he received from the unionist pact. It means the fiercely contested seat, which DUP leader Peter Robinson lost in 2010, is very much his to lose.

Bill White of LucidTalk polling explained: "As a general guide 85% is secure, 65% is fairly marginal and 75% is sort of OK at this stage, but Gavin Robinson would need to be hitting 80%+ to feel confident, in our next and final monthly panel poll before the election".

The latest findings are the first since the unionist pact was announced by the DUP and Ulster Unionist. The parties agreed a pact involving four constituencies including East Belfast.

In the panel, 440 people were questioned and the results weighted to ensure they are representatives.

Of the other seats, 10 are judged racing certainties, 100% likely to go to the parties who currently hold them. These are North Antrim (Ian Paisley DUP), East Antrim (Sammy Wilson, DUP), Belfast West (Paul Maskey, Sinn Fein), North Down (independent, this prediction is unlikely to change even with the late entry of the DUP), Mid Ulster (Francie Molloy, Sinn Fein), West Tyrone (Pat Doherty, Sinn Fein), East Londonderry (Gregory Campbell, DUP), Lagan Valley (Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP), Strangford (Jim Shannon, DUP) and Newry and Armagh (Mickey Brady, Sinn Fein).

Besides East Belfast, the pact involved Fermanagh and South Tyrone where Tom Elliott of the UUP is standing for both parties, North Belfast (where the DUP's Nigel Dodds is battling off a challenge from Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein) and Newry and Armagh where Danny Kennedy of the UUP is hopeful.

These results show that the DUP has clearly got the best of the deal. Mr Dodds is now 95% likely to take North Belfast, a near certainty if he makes no slip-ups before the election, compared to a still healthy 85% last time. Mr Dodds is tipped as a future leader and it is a major objective to keep him in play.

In Fermanagh, Mr Elliott got a 10% bounce too but it is unlikely to be enough. Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Fein can rest relatively easy in her bed. She is 75% likely to take the seat - still in the comfort zone.

After East Belfast the seat most likely to change hands is South Belfast where the SDLP's Dr Alasdair McDonnell is just 65% likely to hang onto the seat. The likelihood of a DUP win slipped 5% since last month. Losing would be a big blow; Mairtin O Muilleoir of Sinn Fein could weaken Dr McDonnell and if that happens Jonathan Bell of the DUP is likely to win.

Another interesting contest is Upper Bann where the UUP (24%) and DUP and Sinn Fein (around 27% each) were fairly evenly matched in the local government and Assembly election in 2011. The DUP argues that voting for Jo-Anne Dobson of the UUP instead of the DUP's David Simpson (MP in the last parliament) could let Catherine Seeley of Sinn Fein in.

Our findings suggest that in February, Ms Dobson caused the DUP score for holding this seat to drop from 80% to 75%. Now it is back to an 80% probability for the DUP, but if Mr Simpson does fail it is a toss-up between Ms Dobson and Ms Seeley who benefits.

This may yet lead to a bunching of unionists around Mr Simpson or it could simply be a fluctuation. We will know next month.

Full results can be viewed here

  • The LucidTalk Northern Ireland (NI) Opinion Panel is made-up of 440 members and is carefully constructed using British Polling Council standards to provide an accurate representation of Northern Ireland opinion — via gender, area of residence, age-group, community background, socio-economic group, and employment group.
  • The LucidTalk Northern Ireland (NI) Opinion Panel is made-up of 440 members and is carefully constructed using British Polling Council standards to provide an accurate representation of Northern Ireland opinion — via gender, area of residence, age-group, community background, socio-economic group, and employment group.
  •  For each monthly Opinion Panel poll, participants are asked (a) their likelihood of voting at the 2015 Westminster election; (b) What party they currently plan to vote for; and (c) their current opinion regarding who would win in each of the ‘non-100%’ certainty seats.
  • The forecast table predicts the % likelihood of the named political parties winning the specific parliamentary seat. Vote share, size of vote, and/or size of majority etc are not provided.
  • Weighting is applied via LucidTalk computer-based prediction models. The opinion panel provides 80% of the final figure. Another 10% is contributed by recent LucidTalk polls and the final 10% comes from actual Northern Ireland elections since 2010.
  • Forecast tables are representative of NI opinion, and specific constituency opinion, to an error of +/-5%. *
  •  You can follow LucidTalk on Twitter: @LucidTalk.

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