Home > 2011 presidential election, Electoral history, Irish politics > Transfers in Irish presidential elections

Transfers in Irish presidential elections

With seven candidates and none polling at 50%, there will be multiple counts in this election. The number of counts depends on how far apart the candidates are from each other at the lower end. If the candidate G is at 2%, F at 4% and E at 8%, then F and G can be eliminated together, as even all of G’s votes could not put F ahead of E. As many can be grouped in elimination as follow under this logic (as below, when Dana, Roche and Nally were eliminated together, as Nally and Roche could not together have put Dana ahead of Mary Banotti). The count will continue until one candidate reaches 50% of the remaining vote.

It is likely that there will a large proportion of non-transferable votes by the last count, as many might not fill their ballot to the candidates remaining by that point; for example, if someone voted 1 McGuinness, 2 Norris, 3 Davis, and left the rest blank, their ballot would not be in contention between the two candidates currently leading the polls.

Here then is a summary of the three elections to date with more than two candidates, to give an impression of the proportion of votes that were transferable to candidates in the last count, and how heavily they favoured particular candidates. In both 1945 and 1990, the Fianna Fáil candidate fared poorly on transfers, and in 1990, it was enough to push Robinson ahead of Lenihan on the second count. As polls this weekend stand (Irish Times/MRBI, SBP/Red C, Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes), Michael D. Higgins will have to both narrow the gap on first preferences between himself and Sean Gallagher, and win an a significantly greater proportion of the transfers than him on successive counts to win this.


Candidate First Count Second Count Total
Vote % Transfers % of
Patrick McCartan (Ind) 212 834 19.6% –212 834
Seán Mac Eoin (FG) 335 539 30.9% +117 886 55.4% 453 425
Seán T. O’Kelly (FF) 537 965 49.5% +27 200 12.8% 565 165
Non-transferable +67 748 31.8%


Candidate First Count Second Count Total
Vote % Transfers % of
Austin Currie (FG) 267 902 17.0% –267 902
Brian Lenihan (FF) 694 484 44.1% + 36 789 13.7% 731 273
Mary Robinson (Lab) 612 265 38.9% +205 565 76.7% 817 830
Non-transferable +25 548 9.6% 25 548


Candidate First Count Second Count Total
Vote % Transfers % of
Mary Banotti (FG) 372 002 29.3% +125 514 38.8% 497 516
Mary McAleese (FF) 574 424 45.2% +131 835 40.8% 706 259
Derek Nally (Ind) 59 529 4.7% –59 529
Adi Roche (Lab) 88 423 6.9% –88 423
Dana Rosemary Scallon (Ind) 175 458 13.8% –175 458
Non-transferable +66 061 20.4% 66 041

Note: The percentages next to the column for the second count give the percentage of the transfers received by the remaining candidates and those not transferred, not the percentage of total remaining votes.

  1. David Dancey
    25 October, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Good to see a breakdown of past election results! I wonder if the methods of expressing the figures are the clearest however. It isn’t immediately obvious that the percentages in the second count boxes are the percentages of the second count. My initial reaction upon viewing it was that these were the percentages of the vote that the candidates had at the second count. This would be germane to the subject and might be interesting to include (but it’s also extra work and hassle, so, maybe not either).

    • William
      25 October, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks David. It was more that I was focusing on how transfers split rather than the final figures that I displayed it that way, but you’re right, I changed it to make it a little clearer that way. There’s a count by count table I hope to do over the weekend looking a transfer percentage breakdown from the candidates eliminated, more interesting as there’ll be many more counts.

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