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10 June 2004 Edition

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Poll power

BY ROBBIE SMYTH

With voters going to the polls today in the Six Counties and tomorrow in the 26 Counties, the day of reckoning is finally upon us. And as you sit in pubs, armchairs or even a count centre over the weekend, if you can get a pass, the question on your mind as the tallies and counts come in is how accurate were the opinion polls?

This week, An Phoblacht pulls together the core results of the previous month's polls. Compared to the 2002 Leinster House elections, there has been a decrease in the level of surveys, with only the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner with RTÉ, and the Sunday Business Post polling.

In 2002, many polls were found to be suspect, particularly some which failed to show the Sinn Féin victories in Dublin Southwest and Kerry North and those that significantly overestimated the scale of the Fianna Fáil support.

The three polling companies publishing surveys in this election claim that their poll methodology was conducted within the guidelines of ESOMAR, the World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals, who can be found at esomar.org if you're interested.

By Sunday night, we will know which, if any, of the pollsters have been closest to the mark. Of particular interest to republicans will be whether or not the pollsters have again underestimated the support for Sinn Féin.

European elections

Sinn Féin's polling in the Red C Euro polls has been at a slight variance to its local election results. In March, the party came in 9%, rising to 11% in April, 9% in May and 10% last week. The Business Post Red C polls do not give definitive constituency breakdowns.

Sunday Business Post/Red C poll June 2004

Euro election voting intentions

Fianna Fáil 33%

Fine Gael 24%

Labour 12%

Sinn Féin 10%

Green Party 10%

PDs NA

Sinn Féin in the EU constituencies

The Irish Times/TNS mrbi survey puts Sinn Féin support in Dublin at 12%, up 1% on their May poll. The Irish Examiner/Prime Time poll conducted by Lansdowne Market Research also found a 12% support for Mary Lou McDonald.

In East, the June TNS mrbi poll has Sinn Féin's John Dwyer at 10%, up 1% on May and at variance with the Lansdowne Irish Examiner poll, which had Sinn Féin at 7% on 28 May.

David Cullinane's poll showing for Sinn Féin has grown 2% to 8% in June, according to the TNS mrbi poll. The 21 May Lansdowne poll puts Sinn Féin in the South constituency at 6%.

In the Northwest, Pearse Doherty's poll support grew from 9% in May 2004 to 15% in June, according to TNS mrbi.

The surge in support for Sinn Féin in the Northwest constituency had already been picked up in the Lansdowne survey for the Irish Examiner and RTÉ's Questions and Answers. Published on 25 May, they also had Pearse Doherty at 15%.

The Lansdowne poll promoted a breaking of ranks in the coalition, with Fianna Fáil's Jim McDaid claiming that Justice Minister Michael McDowell's continuous attacks on Sinn Féin "militates against me". McDaid also said the Progressive Democrat Minister was "wired to the moon".

EU Constituency polls - the Sinn Féin vote

Irish Examiner/RTE/ Lansdowne Irish Times/TNS mrbi

Dublin 12% 12% (+1%)

East 7% 10% (+1%)

North West 15% 15% (+6%)

South 6% 8% (+2%)

Note: The Irish Times conducted two polls in each constituency on 18 to 19 May and 1 to 2 June.

Local Elections

The Sunday Business Post has conducted four polls of voter intentions on local elections. The polls were conducted in March, April, May and June. The Sinn Féin vote has held at 11% throughout, with a 12% peak recorded in the April poll.

The Irish Times/TNS mrbi survey has asked voters about local election voting intentions in their last two polls. The paper also has a rolling survey which asks, "If there was a general election tomorrow, to which party would you give your first preference vote".

Local election voting intentions, June 2004

Sunday Business Post/Red C Irish Times/TNS mrbi

Fianna Fáil 29% 32%

Fine Gael 23% 22%

Labour 12% 15%

Sinn Féin 11% 11%

Green Party 5% 4%

PDs 4% 3%

Citizenship

The last TNS mrbi poll on citizenship was conducted on 1 and 2 June from a sample of 2,000 voters. The Red C poll was done between 28 May and June 2nd.

Irish Times/ TNS mrbi Sunday Business Post/Red C

Yes 57% 54%

No 22% 29%

No opinion 21% 17%

A McConnells advertising agency survey conducted between 12 May and 20 May on behalf of the Referendum Commission found that 66% of citizens will vote in the referendum, 16% would probably vote, 7% undecided, 7% probably not and 4% definitely not. 80% of adults were aware of the referendum and 57% knew that it involved citizenship issues. An 82% turnout in a referendum would be unprecedented in the 26 Counties.

How the polls are done

Red C

Red C is a relatively new company, started by two former directors of Lansdowne Market Research. The company uses a telephone poll to estimate vote share. The company believes that phone use is sufficiently high enough to allow it get an accurate view of all voters. They set quotas for age, gender, social class and region.

The June Red C poll involved interviewing 1,006 adults between 28 May and 2 June. Red C put their accuracy level at plus or minus 3%.

TNS mrbi

The Irish Times/MRBI poll involves a 26-County quota of just over 2,000 adults, interviewed face to face at 200 locations. 500 interviews were conducted in each of the four EU parliament constituencies. Voters were shown a sample ballot paper for the EU constituency in which they would be voting.

The 26-County total party vote figure is accurate within plus or minus 2%, they say, while the EU constituency polls are accurate within plus or minus 5%.

Lansdowne Market Research

Lansdowne surveyed just over 500 people in each of their EU constituency polls. Their sample was representative of gender, age, social class and region. The margin of error they estimate to be between plus or minus 4.4%. The interviews were conducted in the respondents' homes using mock ballot papers.

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