Sunday 24 September 2017

Women are second choice in General Election 2016

Only the capital votes to give the next Dail any kind of gender balance

Lisa Chambers
Lisa Chambers
Catherine Ardagh
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The 'average' woman candidate running in the General Election received almost 1,000 fewer first-preference votes than the 'average' male.

An analysis of voting patterns across 27 constituencies finds that only in Dublin did women buck the trend - voters tended to cast more first-preferences in favour of women than men in the capital, but in all other parts of the country they favoured men.

And it reveals that of the constituencies analysed, voters in Dun Laoghaire were most likely to favour women candidates, while the Wexford electorate were least likely.

The analysis of more than 1.3 million first preference votes was carried out by the Independent.ie Data Science Team.

It suggests that women candidates face an upward struggle to convince voters to elect them to Dail Eireann, based on the number of first-preferences cast.

The figures come as the number of women running for office sharply increased this year.

Of the 546 candidates running in the election, 385 (70pc) were men and 161 were women (30pc).

The number of women running is almost twice the number which went to the polls in 2011, when just 86 out of 566 candidates were female -just over 15pc.

This is due to the introduction of gender quotas, which aim to increase female representation in the Dail to reflect broader society.

Under the Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012, State funding of political parties will fall by half unless they ensure that at least 30pc of their General Election candidates are women, and 30pc men.

This has led to the substantial increase in the number of female candidates.

In the last Dail, some 25 of the 166 TDs were women. This was the highest number of women deputies in the history of the State - but the number is expected to increase by the time all votes are counted.

But the analysis shows that voters in this General Election have tended to give their first preferences to men.

Data scientists examined the first preferences of just over 1.3 million voters across 27 constituencies. Votes for 335 candidates were analysed, of which 226 (67pc) were men and 109 (33pc) were women.

It reveals:

•Nationally, the average number of first-preference votes per man was 4,205. For women, it was 3,260.

•Only Dublin bucked the national trend. Of the eight constituencies examined, men received an average of 3,314, compared with 3,701 for women.

•The worst-performing province was Leinster, excluding Dublin. Of nine constituencies, women received an average of 3,004 compared with 4,866 for men.

•Munster is next, where voters across eight constituencies gave 4,291 votes to every man but just 2,907 for each woman.

•In Connacht-Ulster, just two constituencies were assessed. The analysis found that women received an average of 3,201 compared with 4,665 for men.

The best-performing constituency of those analysed was Dun Laoghaire, where five of the 11 candidates were women.

There, Fine Gael candidates Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Maria Bailey topped the poll, but failed to be elected on the first count.

The average number of first preferences for women in Dun Laoghaire was 7,225, compared with 3,852 for men.

The worst-performing constituency of the 27 was Wexford where women got 1,567 votes each, and men received 5,333.

A total of five of the 17 candidates running in Wexford were women. After the first count, the highest-polling woman was Aoife Byrne (FF) at eighth.

The gender quota will be increased to 40pc within seven years, meaning the number of women candidates will have to increase if parties want to continue to receive State funding. Around €5.4m is distributed, and the fund is a vital source of income given the restrictions on private donations.

Fianna Fail, for example, receives €1.1m per year, based on its share of the 2011 vote. If it did not meet the gender quota requirement, its funding would drop to €550,000.

There has been opposition. Fianna Fail member Brian Mohan took a case to the High Court saying he was prevented from contesting his constituency's selection convention in Dublin due to the party selecting a woman candidate, Mary Fitzpatrick.

He claimed the legislation was unconstitutional, however, his case was dismissed on a number of grounds.

Mr Mohan has indicated he will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Sunday Independent

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