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Northern Ireland Assembly elections: the latest party poll results and seat predictor

By Bill White

Published 08/04/2016

Graph 1: At the NI Assembly election in May 2016, which political party are you planning to vote for as a first preference?
Graph 1: At the NI Assembly election in May 2016, which political party are you planning to vote for as a first preference?

As you may have seen from our February reports, LucidTalk are running regular 'Monthly Tracker' polls of their Northern Ireland Opinion Panel during the build-up to the NI Assembly elections on May 5 and the UK EU Referendum in June.

The LucidTalk Opinion Panel (currently 1,400 members) consists of Northern Ireland residents (age 18+) and is balanced by gender, age-group, area of residence, and community background, in order to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland.

The objective of these scheduled and regular monthly 'Tracker' polls is to research opinion on key issues at key points in time during this critical pre-election period + track changes in trends and opinions about key topics and issues on a monthly basis.

These key issues include: Political Party popularity, Party Leader ratings, Key election issues, and EU referendum opinion.

For this 'March Tracker' poll-project our 1,400 member NI Opinion Panel was targeted, and invited to participate, and after data auditing 970 full responses were recorded in terms of the final results.

Graph 1 shows the Political Party scores in terms of the question 'At the Northern Ireland Assembly election in May 2016 which Political Party are you planning to vote for a first preference?' - NB the results shown excludes non-voters (those intending not to vote) and Don't Knows.

NB NI21 has now been excluded due to that party not now running any candidates in the forthcoming NI Assembly election.

So compared to our February Opinion Panel Poll, the changes are as follows:

DUP -0.5%, Sinn Fein +0.3%, SDLP +0.1%, UUP +0.4%, Alliance +0.3%, TUV +0.4%, UKIP -0.2%, Green Party nc, NI Conservatives -0.2%, PUP -0.3%, PBP nc, Others -0.3%.

So the DUP have dropped a 1/2 point from our February Opinion Panel Poll, with the UUP seemingly being the main beneficiaries with their poll score going up 0.4%.

However, it's worth noting that the TUV have also advanced 0.4%, and for the first time on our polls have broken the 4% total score mark - this continues the TUV growth trend over our recent polls.

Growth by small amounts admittedly, but as with all polling it's the trends that are important. Perhaps the high scores that Jim Allister is recording in our Leaders poll ratings (see next report) is feeding through into the overall TUV party poll score. Undoubtedly Jim Allister is the TUV's biggest asset.

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have advanced a small bit, along with the Alliance party, with the Independents/Others dropping a bit - showing perhaps that some of the 'Others' vote has gone back to the mainstream parties.

Of course what everyone usually asks is how these poll scores will translate into seats, and this is when an even larger error can come into the scene, apart from the normal polling error as detailed below.

But we used our NI Assembly seat predictor for the recent Irish elections, and achieved a pretty good performance in terms of a prediction - so here is our latest NI Assembly seat prediction using our March Opinion Panel poll, as well as other recent polling:

LUCIDTALK NI ASSEMBLY SEAT PREDICTOR

How it works: Our NI Assembly seat predictor model takes into account the last four most recent LucidTalk polls on NI Political Party support i.e. October 2015, February 2016 (BIG100 poll), February 2016 (NI Opinion Panel Tracker Poll), and March 2016 (NI Opinion Panel Tracker Poll i.e. this report).

We also incorporate previous election results including NI Assembly, Westminster, and the Euro election in 2014, including vote transfer patterns.

These individual poll results have been included in the modelling, along with the trends. The trends show how political party support has been growing, declining, or remaining the same over the 2010 to 2016 period.

We also apply a weighting factor in terms of our 'Wisdom of Crowds' poll question which asks each respondent their views as to how each political party will perform at the May NI Assembly election - regardless of their own political views and preferences.

Various additional weighting factors have also been applied to all the polling data and research to reflect the structure of the forthcoming NI Assembly election e.g. Alliance concentration of their support in key east NI constituencies, which is a benefit in terms of gaining seats.

However the model does not take into account candidate 'name recognition', party campaign machine strengths, and obviously the progress and flow of the election campaign which has still a long way to go!

So here is our 4th April 2016 NI Assembly seat prediction for the May 2016 NI Assembly election - Figures in brackets show the change since our February NI Assembly seat prediction Tracker:

DUP: 32.8 (-1.1), Sinn Fein: 26.9 (+0.2), SDLP: 14.7 (0 - nc), UUP: 17.9 (+0.7), Alliance: 8.9 (+0.3), TUV: 1.9 (+0.1), UKIP: 0.8 (0 - nc), Green: 1.0 (+0.1), NI Conservatives: 0.3 (-0.1), PUP: 0.8 (-0.1), PBP: 1.3 (+0.1), Independents/Others: 0.7 (-0.2).

How to interpret the results: The results are presented to one decimal point to allow us to show trends up and down on a monthly basis with our monthly Tracker Opinion panel polls. The changes since our last Opinion Panel Poll (February) are indicated in brackets.

The way to interpret the results is e.g. Alliance score 8.9 which means they are predicted for 8 seats with a 90% chance of gaining a ninth seat, the TUV are also predicted for 1.9 seats meaning probably Jim Allister is certain to hold his seat, with a very good 90% chance of a second seat - maybe Henry Reilly in South Down? All the other scores can be interpreted in a similar way.

So the big changes since our February poll have been the DUP dropping 1.1 seats, and the UUP having a good increase of +0.7 seats. Alliance have also had a good increase of +0.3 seats, which is a good trending result for them. All the other changes are minimal. Looking at our modelling, a factor maybe

impacting these changes has been our 'Wisdom of Crowds' poll which shows that a significant view from all respondents is that the UUP will make some gains at the election whilst the DUP will have some losses.

It's noticeable that a large No. of e.g. Alliance and even DUP voters, have a positive view of the UUP's election prospects and also NB a positive view of Mike Nesbitt's leadership - However, they themselves are still voting Alliance and DUP!

So the challenge for Mike Nesbitt and the UUP is to actually get voters to switch to them and not just think they're 'good guys' and going to do OK at the election!

Project – Background Information

Methodology:

Polling was carried out by Belfast based polling and market research company LucidTalk. The project was carried out online for a period of 60 Hours from 10am 30th March to 10pm Friday 1st April 2016 (60 Hours).

The project targeted the established LucidTalk Opinion Panel (1,400 members) which is balanced by gender, age-group, area of residence, and community background, in order to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland. 1,022 full responses were received, and a data auditing process was carried out to ensure all completed poll-surveys were genuine 'one-person, one-vote' responses, resulting in 970 responses being considered in terms of the final results.

All data results have been weighted by gender and community background to reflect the demographic composition of Northern Ireland. All data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-3.0%, at 95% confidence.

All surveys and polls may be subject to sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting. NB In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

LUCIDTALK – PROFESSIONAL CREDENTIALS

LucidTalk is a member of all recognised professional Polling and Market Research organisations, including the UK Market Research Society (UK-MRS), the British Polling Council (BPC), and ESOMAR (European Society of Market Research organisations).

The BPC are the primary UK professional body ensuring professional Polling and Market Research standards. All polling, research, sampling, methodologies used, market research projects and results and reports production are, and have been, carried out to the professional standards laid down by the BPC.

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