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Upper Bann

My eye was caught by a confident Sinn Féin prediction that the party can win a second seat in Upper Bann next year, with constiruency chairman saying in public what I have heard privately from a couple of SF supporters:
In recent elections Sinn Féin's vote in Upper Bann has increased and, when taken with the demographic changes in the make-up of the population of the constituency, it is clear that Sinn Féin is in a position to win a third nationalist seat. The political break-up of Upper Bann is approximately 50-50 and if the nationalist electorate turns out on Election Day, Sinn Féin will win a second party seat. That sixth seat is not a ‘unionist seat' as recent speculation in the media would have us believe.
Well, I think that SF are.in a position to gain a second seat in Upper Bann next time, but it is much more likely to be from the SDLP. Looking at real numbers rather than fantasy, the community background of Upper Bann's inhabitants in 2001 came out at 55% Protestant (just under four quotas) to 43% (just over three) Catholic, which is not really 50/50 though would be on the cusp of delivering a third Nationalist seat if there was a direct mapping from community background to politics.

However the Nationalist vote in past elections was not high enough to credibly talk of a third seat. In the 2007 Assembly election the combined SDLP and SF total vote share was 38% - exactly the same as in 1998, nine years earlier. That demographic change is taking an awful long time to manifest itself.

That 38% vote share in 2007 was split almost 2 to 1 in SF's favour: the two candidates got 10,851 votes to the SDLP's 5,450. With a handful more votes, and better balancing, the Sinners could have ensured that both John O'Dowd and Dessie Ward stayed ahead of Dolores Kelly. As it was, O'Dowd was elected on the first count, topping the poll, and Ward struggled on as runner-up. I understand he has since left the party, so perhaps this week's statements are better interpreted as an attempt to boost internal morale than any reflection of reality.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
People tend to vote tribally.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
Hi Nicholas,

Enjoy your analysis as always although I think I disagree with a couple of assertions.

Firstly, in 2007 there was a dissident republican on the ticket who took 0.9% (and most of that transferred as opposed to being just a protest vote)

So the actual Nat/Rep vote stands at about 39% to begin with, which is more than any previous election here.

Secondly, you reckon that SF could take a seat at the SDLP's expense rather than an ulster unionist. It looks like the SDLP has a solid block just below a quota which isn't reducing anymore. Considering how the SDLP earn more transfers from the alliance and greens than most others, then suddenly their quota looks quite safe. So I think the argument about gaining a seat from the UUP is a fairly valid one.

What do you think?

John, London
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC)
You're right that I missed the dissident Republican in 2007. So the Nationalist vote increased by 0.9% over the 9 years from 1998. At that rate of growth, a third Nationalist seat is certain by 2049 or so.

I agree that the SDLP vote has held steady at 12.7% in the last two elections. But it was 15.7% in the 2003 Assembly election and 23.7% in 1998. It has shown rather more volatility than the combined Nationalist vote; SF's gains in the past seem to have come almost entirely from the SDLP, and I don't really see why that would not continue in the future.
Nov. 25th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
Having said which, the UUP are apparently running three candidates here, which is certainly one too many in a situation where they were very lucky to win two last time. So there is no telling what may slip through the cracks
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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