When political daydreaming passes for electoral analysis
// November 2nd, 2011 // GE11
There was a quite stunning piece of ‘electoral analysis‘ in the Irish Times yesterday, now I’m no holder of a candle for Sinn Fein as most would know but this piece is a complete distortion of SF’s presidential campaign and it’s successes as well as it’s failures. And don’t worry I will be getting to the low speed pileup that was the Fine Gael campaign in due course.
The article has a number of clear errors in analysis that have to be down to someone completely misreading the data either due to wistful daydreaming or a deliberate attempt to pull the wool of people’s eyes. Whose eyes exactly is unclear.
For a start his basic premise is underpinned by the assertion he repeatedly makes that Sean Gallagher as a candidate, both in his profile and message, was as equivalent to FF as Martin McGuinness was to SF. This despite the many months in which Sean Gallagher was loud in his claims he was carrying no torch for FF. And while I personally believe that Sean Gallagher’s involvement with FF was considerably deeper and more significant than the ordinary foot solider that he sought to portray himself as, I think it is wildly inaccurate to suggest that all those who supported Sean Gallagher were avowedly doing so because he was the FF nominee to the same extent as those who voted for Martin McGuinness were doing so because he was the clear nominee of the SF organisation and was clearly going about the land espousing SF policy.
Mr Flynn goes on building his house of misaddressed canvas cards by conflating vote numbers for two elections that had quite different turnouts, even though comparing the actual number of SF votes in Feb 2011 to those of Martin McGuinness in Oct 2011 makes no sense at all when one election had a turnout of 70% and the other 56%.
He further claims “…Fianna Fáil supporters, offended by the attack on a candidate who had only one degree of separation from their party, flocked to Gallagher in their hundreds of thousands.” For 100s of 1000s of voters to switch from SF to Gallagher is factually impossible. If 100s of 1000s had switched to Gallagher from SF then the SF vote must have been much higher than the polls were showing. And then even more people would have had to switch from Gallagher to Higgins to balance out this incredibly influx of true FFers who were telling the pollsters up to days before this that they were voting for Martin McGuinness. So the drop in Martin McGuinness’ support from the polls to polling day mus have been huge, except it wasn’t: he was on 13%, 13% then 16% and finally polled 13% on election day itself. So no 100s of 1000s of FFers came home to Gallagher from McGuinness after the Frontline.
Gallagher lost 12% from the weekend preceding poll to polling day, and this supposedly with 100s of thousands coming back to him from SF. 100s of 1000s not a 100,000 but 100s of 1000s, so a multiple of a 100,000. Sean Gallagher got 28% of the vote or just over 500,000 votes, imagine how small his vote must have been before SF’s great error on the Frontline…err..what’s that you say… Sean Gallagher was on 40% in the polls prior to this, or closer to the 700,000 figure that Michael D. Higgins got on polling day. but how could someone who gained 100,000s of votes from SF end up on 200,000 votes less than they were projected to get before SF’s gaffe. That’s FF calculus for you!
We also get a very laboured piece about how SF’s vote where they had a TD was down on their GE result, ”Furthermore, when the performance in the 14 constituencies where Sinn Féin had TDs elected in February is analysed, it shows that it lost more than 26,000 votes” except that this drop in votes is much more down to the lower turnout overall than any great drop in the SF vote. Disguised in this guff is the real fact that the overall SF vote did go up, despite the lower turnout!
Truth be told SF actually saw a bigger increase in their vote share in those constituencies where they currently do not have a TD. With the benefits of incumbency for their sitting TDs come the next election, this means any growth in their party vote % will likely see them retain what they have with the same or even a lesser national poll and increase their representation quite nicely on even a modest overall national rise. But that’s wouldn’t make such good reading for the FF inclined insider that might be taking comfort from reading or even writing such an article.
In looking at the Dublin West by election results we get some weird guilt by association from this sentence ”Similarly, in the Dublin West byelection, the turnout was down by 6,770 votes while the combined vote of the Labour and Fine Gael candidates fell by 6,400 votes. ” which is meant to be underlined by the follow up ” All this while what was effectively a Fianna Fáil presidential candidate and a bona fide Fianna Fáil byelection candidate were performing very well.”
So just for the casual readers at home, that’s repeat that the overall vote was down 6770 and the Labour and FG combined vote was down by 6440. This is clearly intended to get the impression that it was just the Labour and FG voters than stayed at home while the FF core came out for their man.
He then caps all his baloney with choicely overegged political mayonnaise by misusing the data to suggest that we are now privy to some magical new information about FF’s core vote that we didn’t before…what could this be, you wonder. You will wonder in vain. All the numbers suggest is that there is some potential from FF to grow their vote from the 17% achieved in Feb 2011. Yet this supposedly new fact is one that would be evident to anyone who was even remotely aware of the 2007 and 2002 election results and FF’s history of electoral success in Ireland since its foundation. FF have a potential, a potential mind, for a vote percentage higher than that achieved in Feb 2011. Shares may go up as well as down. Heavens to Betsy, what a revelation but that does nothing to prove that there is now some new higher FF core vote. I wonder if someone failed to explain the difference between actual and potential to the poor lad. There is a strong feel of a Chewbacca defense to these final two paragraphs.
The piece underlines the supposed impartial nature of the piece with the final line
“Odran Flynn is an electoral analyst” electoral illusionist is more like it.