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'Phenomenal' LucidTalk Northern Ireland election poll within 1% of final result

By Bill White

LucidTalk carried out extensive pre-Northern Ireland Assembly election polling including two full NI-wide ‘Tracker’ polls in January and late February and the results turned out to be very accurate compared to the final results.

All the political party final vote share projections from the last LucidTalk ‘Tracker’ poll published on February 27, were within 1% of the actual election results, on average.

Indeed, many party-projection poll results were nearly spot on. Alliance and SDLP projections were within 0.3% which is a phenomenal polling performance.

However, equally important are the trend patterns that were forecast from the polling which were again 100% accurate - the increased turnout overall, the differential turnout between unionists and nationalist/republicans. For example proportionally more nationalists/republicans voted than unionists and the percentage share support drop for the DUP, and the surge in support for Sinn Fein and the Alliance party.

This performance matched LucidTalk's EU Referendum polling which forecast the NI result to within 1%. LucidTalk use online polling methodologies, with their now over 7,000-member representative opinion panel. Online polling is now the accepted methodology for accurate market research. For example, the online polls were the most accurate in terms of predicting the UK-Wide EU Referendum and the US presidential election.

Of course polling companies are always trying to improve systems and modelling to obtain even greater accuracy. For example, we need to research why the UUP were slightly overestimated and the DUP underestimated, and although we forecast a strong growth for Sinn Fein, this was also underestimated.

Part of this is that although we forecast a higher turnout (at around 59%), this was 5% out of the actual 64% turnout and this lead to a further underestimation of the extent of the differential turnout.

Yes, we did say in all our poll reports that nationalists/republicans seemed, according to our polling, more enthused to turnout than unionists, but our polling underestimated the total extent of this.

One point about the turnout, it’s interesting to note that the last electoral event in Northern Ireland was the EU Referendum which had a similar turnout to this recent NI Assembly election at around 64%. Research shows that voting is habit forming, i.e. voters tend to keep voting, non-voters tend to keep non-voting.

But that habit was broken in NI at last year’s EU Referendum when 110,000 turned out that hadn’t voted seven weeks previously at the 2016 NI Assembly election.

Those people were then more likely to vote again – and they did, because a large chunk of this 110,00 undoubtedly came out again last week. Our residence-area polling models showed this undoubtedly helped the Alliance party in particular at last week’s election. It’s likely now this group of former non-voters, will continue to vote, and that’s a big factor to consider for future elections.

Bill White, is Managing Director of Belfast based LucidTalk Polling and Market Research. You can follow LucidTalk on Twitter at @LucidTalk.

Belfast Telegraph results Centre - every count as it happened:  North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down

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