East Belfast: Mini exit poll points to strong showings for Alliance, DUP, UUP and Greens

Stephen Hamilton voted DUP because "I don't want McGuinness as first minister". Photo by Ben Lowry
Stephen Hamilton voted DUP because "I don't want McGuinness as first minister". Photo by Ben Lowry

Alliance have polled strongly in East Belfast, the DUP has held much of its vote and there is a wide spread between other candidates with a particularly strong Green showing.

Those are the possible conclusions that can be drawn from my exit poll at Elmgrove Primary School in the constituency.

Sophie Reed and Aaron Devine voted Alliance because "we just align with a lot of their views". Photo by Ben Lowry

Sophie Reed and Aaron Devine voted Alliance because "we just align with a lot of their views". Photo by Ben Lowry

The school on the Beersbridge Road is not unlike the seat as a whole, albeit somewhat more unionist than average.

My micro poll of almost 300 exiting voters between 5pm and 9pm had the following findings in terms of first preference votes:

DUP 60 (31.9%)

Alliance 59 (31.5%)

In PR, voting all the way down the ballot paper maximises the voter's influence

In PR, voting all the way down the ballot paper maximises the voter's influence

Ulster Unionist 23 (12.2%)

Green 14 (7.4%)

PUP 10

Hutton 10

TUV 6

Courtney Labour 3

Labour Alternative 2

Conservative 1

Won’t say 99

(For context see previous exit polls at this location below)

If the findings are replicated across the constituency, Naomi Long will have comfortably topped the poll and the Greens will be in with an outside chance of the sixth Assembly seat.

I asked voters which candidate they had put as their first preference, and among DUP voters the answer was mostly Sammy Douglas, among Alliance voters it was Naomi Long, and among Ulster Unionists it was Andy Allen.

However, these findings need to be treated with caution given that Mr Douglas and Mrs Long were the recommended first choice of their party candidates locally.

Even so, Mrs Long seems to have polled particularly well because Alliance voters overwhelmingly cited her by name as their candidate whereas voters for other parties often could not remember for whom they had voted.

The findings also point to respectable showings for John Kyle (PUP) and Maggie Hutton (Independent) although neither candidate is likely to perform as well in outlying areas.

For Alliance to have come anywhere near the top of Elmgrove would appear to be a healthy vote. However, this time the DUP vote will have been reduced by the multiple other unionist candidates who were absent last year, and so their showing also seems healthy.

In 2015, Elmgrove was slightly more unionist than East Belfast as a whole. My exit poll found:

Gavin Robinson DUP 131 (52.6%)

Naomi Long All 102 (41.0%)

Neil Wilson Conservative 10

Ross Brown Green 6

Spoiled ballot 3

Won’t say 55

And in 2010 at Elmgrove I found:

Peter Robinson 53 (35.3%)

Naomi Long 52 (34.7%)

Trevor Ringland (UUP-Tory) 23 (15.3%)

David Vance (TUV) 22

Won’t say 42

For context as to how Elmgrove is weighted slightly towards unionism, in 2010 it divided unionist-Alliance 65.3 per cent to 34.7 per cent while East Belfast as a whole (excluding nationalists) divided 61.5 per cent to 38.5 per cent.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor