Friday 2 December 2016

Polls were close, but underestimated FF surge

Published 29/02/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is surrounded by well wishers at the count centre at City Hall, Cork
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is surrounded by well wishers at the count centre at City Hall, Cork

Although far from perfect, the opinion polls published in the month leading up to the General Election largely predicted the eventual outcome.

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The disastrous polls seen before the last UK general election failed to materialise here, although pollsters did not spot the scale of rising support for Fianna Fáil.

Based on an average of 10 polls published between January 31 and February 22, Fine Gael would have secured 28.2pc of the vote, followed by Fianna Fáil at 19.8pc, Sinn Féin at 18pc, Labour at 7.8pc and Independents/others at 26.1pc.

Voters largely followed this pattern, but with crucial differences.

Fine Gael secured 25.52pc of the vote, almost 3pc below what the polls had suggested. Fianna Fáil came in with 24.35pc, almost five points above the predicted result, while Labour came in at 6.61pc, below what the polls had forecast.

Despite the enormous gains made by Sinn Féin, its vote did not marry with what was expected. The polls suggested it would secure 18pc of the vote - it ended up with 13.9pc.

The 10 opinion polls also underestimated support for Independent and other candidates, who secured 29.63pc of the vote, three points above what the polls had suggested.

No poll can be entirely accurate, given that so many voters wait until the last minute before making their choice.

The RTÉ/Behaviour and Attitudes Exit Poll notes that 15pc of voters only made up their mind which way to vote on Thursday and Friday last week. Another 20pc said they made their decision in the final week.

And not everybody truthfully says how they're going to vote, meaning polls are - at best - an estimate at a point in time.

Irish Independent

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