Jeffrey Donaldson apparently said in a speech to Newry and Armagh DUP members that the lost unionist seats in Strangford, North Antrim, and East Antrim were the product of a “splintering” in the pro-Union vote.
An analysis of the Assembly election results shows that this is not the case.
Mr Donaldson makes much of the fact there were (almost) four first preference unionist quotas in each constituency.
What he did not take account of was that some of the UUP vote was “soft” unionist and was inclined to transfer to the Alliance Party.
In North Antrim, the DUP’s Mervyn Storey missed out to Alliance by 288 votes.
The pattern of transfers shows that when the surplus of the UUP’s Robin Swann was distributed, 97 went to Alliance.
When the UUP’s second candidate, Bethany Ferris, was eliminated, Alliance benefited from 365 transfers.
This “leakage” of over 460 unionist votes proved to be influential in a tight contest.
Over in East Antrim, when the UUP’s Roy Beggs was eliminated, 352 transfers went to the two Alliance candidates.
When the other UUP candidate’s surplus was distributed, 616 votes “leaked” to the Alliance Party.
That is nearly 1,000 UUP transfers to Alliance rather than other unionist candidates.
In Strangford, the combined unionist vote was just over 1,200 short of four quotas.
The TUV’s Stephen Cooper was a little more than 200 votes away from victory in the end.
Unionism’s cause was not helped by the fact that the Alliance Party’s second candidate receive over 2,000 transfers from the SDLP, but there was no evidence that a “splintering” of the vote was to blame.
The tendency of more Protestants to vote for Alliance was the most important factor.
Paul Kingsley, Belfast
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