East Belfast is going to be tight, an exit poll for the News Letter suggests.
I spent much of the day – four hours in the morning and two hours at peak time in the evening – at Elmgrove Primary School, where I also carried out a poll in 2010 that gave the first concrete suggestion that Peter Robinson had lost his seat.
One thing seems clear from today’s findings: Naomi Long has polled well and Gavin Robinson, if he wins, is unlikely to win by a landslide.
He is ahead at Elmsgrove, but the seat is a little more unionist than the average.
My headline tally was:
Gavin Robinson DUP 131
Naomi Long All 102
Neil Wilson Conservative 10
Ross Brown Green 6
Spoiled ballot 3
Won’t say 55
In 2010 I found:
Peter Robinson 53
Naomi Long 52
Trevor Ringland (UUP-Tory) 23
David Vance (TUV) 22
Won’t say 42
So the combined unionist tally then was 98 to Naomi’s 52.
Naomi’s share of the vote is up from 34.7 per cent to 41.0 per cent. The combined unionist vote share is down from 65.3 per cent to 52.6 per cent.
In other words, Alliance seems to have increased its vote despite Conservatives and Greens picking up votes – around six per cent.
This is quite an achievement, both because many such small party voters are seen as ‘non tribal’ that Alliance needs, and also given that last time Peter Robinson seemed to suffer a protest vote.
If replicated across the seat, the final result will be close.
Note that Elmgrove in 2010 divided unionist-Alliance 65.3 per cent to 34.7 per cent while East Belfast as a whole (exluding nationalists) divided 61.5 per cent to 38.5 per cent.
If you try to even out the difference between the two, and weight the Elmgrove snapshot, it would suggest that Gavin is fractionally ahead across the constituency as a whole.
The turnout at Elmgrove was said to be typical at 49 per cent.