Shifting sands - latest polls reveal fascinating election landscape

Tríona Doherty

Longford-Westmeath is shaping up to be one of the most interesting constituencies in next week’s General Election, according to a leading elections analyst.

Dr Adrian Kavanagh, a lecturer in NUI Maynooth and expert in the geography of elections, estimates that based on national poll figures, Longford-Westmeath could be expected to return one Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael, one Labour, and one ‘Other’ TD to the Dáil following the February 26 vote.

However he says that Sinn Féin’s rising popularity could upset the local political status quo.

Dr Kavanagh’s analysis of the latest Red C poll, undertaken this week by the Irish Sun, estimates party support levels nationally as follows: Fine Gael 26 per cent, Independents and Others 25 per cent, Sinn Fein 20 per cent, Fianna Fáil 18 per cent, Labour Party 9 per cent, and Green Party 4 per cent.

With Fine Gael down 2 per cent and all other parties up between one and three percentage points on the previous weekend’s poll, Dr Kavanagh labelled it a “Blue Tuesday” for the governing party.

Should these national trends be replicated at constituency level, party support in Longford-Westmeath would stand at 31 per cent for Fine Gael, 23 per cent Fianna Fáil, 14 per cent Sinn Féin, 13 per cent Labour, Green 1 per cent, and Other 18 per cent.

Based on these figures, Dr Kavanagh initially estimates the four seats will be filled as follows after the General Election: two for Fine Gael, one Fianna Fáil, and one Other (non-FF, FG, Labour, Sinn Féin, or Green ).

However, when he amends these estimates to take other factors into account - such as large numbers of Independent candidates, previous election results, and probable vote transfer patterns - it looks more likely that Longford-Westmeath might return one Fianna Fáil, one Fine Gael, one Labour, and one Other TD to the Dáil.

This analysis clearly takes into account the poll-topping form of Labour’s Willie Penrose over the last number of elections.

However he also points out that given improved levels of support for Sinn Féin since the last General Election in 2011, the party’s local candidate, Cllr Paul Hogan, would be competing strongly for a seat in Longford-Westmeath, and could well win a seat if his electoral performance proves better than the national trend.

In the three-seater Roscommon-Galway constituency, Dr Kavanagh estimates that one Fine Gael and two Other candidates will be returned.

While not offering predictions in the strict sense of the word, Dr Kavanagh’s analysis reveals the situation that might arise in Longford-Westmeath if the swing evident in the national poll was to be consistent across every constituency.


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