Northern Ireland news

Opinion Poll: Nearly half of Sinn Féin voters plan to transfer to SDLP candidates

Second preference votes by party. Graphics:
John Manley Political Correspondent

Almost half of Sinn Féin voters will transfer to SDLP candidates at the local government election but the latter's supporters are unlikely to reciprocate, a new poll suggests.

Alliance looks set to pick up two-thirds of SDLP initial transfers and around a quarter of Sinn Féin's, the data indicates.

The survey also found that more than half of DUP voters plan to give their second preference to Ulster Unionists, with fewer than a quarter immediately transferring to the TUV.

May 18's local government election is based on the single transferable vote system, in which votes can be cast for more than one candidate in order of preference.


The latest opinion poll reveals which parties voters plan to give their second preference to. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The results of the latest survey on behalf of The Irish News-University of Liverpool-Institute of Irish Studies found that 48 per cent of those planning to vote for Sinn Féin will give a second preference to the SDLP.

However, just 2 per cent of SDLP voters plan to transfer to Sinn Féin.

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When Alliance supporters were asked which party they would give their second preference vote to, most said the SDLP (29 per cent), followed by the Greens (27 per cent) and the Ulster Unionists (19 per cent). Just 8 per cent planned to transfer to Sinn Féin.

In response to the same question, 48 per cent of Sinn Féin voters said they planned to transfer to the SDLP, with 25 per cent opting for Alliance and 15 per cent for People Before Profit.

SDLP voters overwhelmingly indicated they would vote down the card for Alliance, with two-thirds (66 per cent) planning to give Naomi Long's party their second preference. Contrastingly, just 2 per cent signalled their intention to transfer to Sinn Féin, with 10 per cent opting for People Before Profit and 5 per cent transferring to the UUP.

A majority of DUP voters (51 per cent) will give an initial transfer to the Ulster Unionists, while 21 per cent will give the TUV a second preference, followed by 14 per cent to Alliance and 5 per cent to the SDLP.

When Ulster Unionist voters were asked where their second preference would go, 39 per cent said the DUP, followed by 29 per cent to Alliance and 16 per cent to the TUV.

A majority of TUV voters (83 per cent) plan to transfer to the DUP, with 11 per cent giving the Ulster Unionists a second preference.

Other noteworthy figures include 83 per cent of Aontú voters planning to give a second preference to Sinn Féin but only 1 per cent going the other way. The favoured destination for People Before Profit transfers is Alliance and Aontú, both 29 per cent.

Dr Sean Haughey from the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool noted how the majority of DUP transfers in the survey flowed towards moderate unionism – ie to the UUP, rather than the TUV. 

"Opposition to the Windsor Framework is to the fore of TUV politics at the moment but DUP voters do not appear to be tripping over themselves to lend support to TUV candidates in terms of second preferences," he said.  

"SDLP voters have no love for Sinn Féin but the reverse is true for Sinn Féin voters, almost half of whom intend on transferring to the SDLP."

He said Naomi Long would be happy with her party’s "transfer capture".

"It empirically verifies that Alliance is indeed a broad church which attracts second-preference support from across the political spectrum," he said. 

:: Carried out by SMR on behalf of The Irish News-University of Liverpool-Institute of Irish Studies, the survey sampled the opinions of 1,013 Northern Ireland adults aged 18+ between April 11-21. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent.