By Oisín Vince Coulter
Use our simulator to see if you can build a majority government out of various potential results in the 2020 General Election. You choose which parties to put into coalition, and see if you can reach the magic number of 80.
Previous seat numbers are from 2016 General Election, not taking into account by-elections, resignations and defections.
All polling has inherent flaws – you are only imperfectly capturing the opinions of some people at a particular given moment in time. Even more than that, Irish election polling runs especially foul of our multiple seat constituency proportional representation, single transferable vote (PR-STV) system. This means elections in a given constituency don’t necessarily reflect the ‘national’ prevailing mood. That said, one can discern roughly how well different parties are doing relative to each other.
All polls so far point to Fianna Fáil emerging as the largest party, a Sinn Féin surge, Fine Gael faltering in their campaign, Labour potentially remaining stagnant or seeing small gains and the Greens seeing a solid increase in their vote and seat share. Smaller parties and independents are even more difficult to model for, as their support can be within the margin of error (plus or minus three percent, generally) of a national poll and yet is localised enough to deliver candidates into the Dail.
This result is based on the RTÉ ‘poll of polls’ from Monday, 27th Jan 2020 written by Prof. Michael Marsh of Trinity College Dublin. As he notes: “All three [polls] agreed in suggesting a decline in Fine Gael support, leaving it clearly behind Fianna Fáil, and an upsurge in support for Sinn Féin.” This result is simply an average of the opinion polls conducted so far.
Taking into account the growth in Sinn Féin’s polling numbers over the weekend, we could be facing their electoral breakthrough and potentially entrance into government. This result is closest to last night’s RedC Poll (Sat 1st Feb), and has both the smaller parties of the center and left seeing moderate gains or remaining stagnant, and Fine Gael’s support declining substantially. As Sinn Féin aren’t running as many candidates as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, both parties are likely to outperform their national vote in seat numbers. This result would change the dynamic of Irish politics forever.
This result has Sinn Féin and the Greens see substantial gains, Labour and the Social Democrats small gains and PBP/Solidarity maintain three of their six seats. The parties of the left would need to meet or outperform their polling, and would be a very bruising election for the civil war parties. It is close enough to Fianna Fáil’s preferred result, as it would allow them to form a government with Labour, the Greens, some independents and the Social Democrats. If that was the government then Fine Gael, like Fianna Fáil after the 2011 election, would find themselves fighting Sinn Féin to be the main party of opposition.
Civil War Dominance
A relatively conservative result with most voters sticking by the two traditional parties. This result would potentially involve a lower voter turnout, and would end in an outcome similar to the last election. It would require voters who had swung to Sinn Féin during the first half of the election to swing back or not vote, possibly as a result of focused campaigning by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that drew attention to the party’s past. Voters for other parties would also have avoided transferring to Sinn Féin, and the center left would see lower gains or remain stagnant.
Predicted by many during last year’s local-election count, the “Green Wave” has since lost much of its momentum. This result could come after a sudden upswell during the last week of campaigning; the environment would need to be far higher on the campaign-agenda than it has been so far. It would put the Greens in a strong position to dictate terms to whoever wishes to form a government with them. It would also be begin a seachange of climate policy in Ireland, and could see other parties taking the environmental policy far more seriously into the future.
Fine Gael Washout
Despite the high economic numbers, Fine Gael’s campaign has been pretty miserable so far because of their repeat-gaffes and terrible record on health and housing. A further fall in popularity could lead to this outcome, which would see voters punish the party at the polls and end the longest period of Fine Gael government in Ireland’s history. It would also most likely result in a coup within the party against Leo Varadkar. There is little in this outcome which is not to like.
This result would completely alter the Irish political landscape. It would force Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together into opposition, and would be the first time in Ireland’s history that its Taoiseach did not come from one of those two parties. While it is clear from the campaign so far that there is appetite for change in the country, breaking the cycle of civil war politics would require that to grow even further, and solidify substantially in the next week.