A rural backlash against the green party?

Inspired by the ever-insightful Colin Murphy I wanted to understand how the decline in support for the Green Party was influenced by a 'rural backlash'.

So, I had a look at the change in Green Party vote 2019-2024, (focusing on areas where they ran in both elections) and I then compared the change in vote share with population density.

The chart below shows how Green Party's vote share declined more in urban areas compared to rural ones. While of course Green Party support is stronger in urban areas and therefore has more votes to lose in urban areas. Still, it is quite clear that the party's vote share in rural areas declined on average by less than in urban areas.

For example, in Ennistymon LEA, in west Clare green party support dropped from 15% to 13%, as compared with Castleknock LEA in Dublin, where it plummeted from 27% to 7%. Both candidates in these areas were co-opted. For the Green Party to have performed better in Ennistymon and Dingle than Blackrock and Castleknock is illuminating.

This dynamic is reflected in the European elections where Grace O'Sullivan's vote dropped by 3.6% in Ireland South compared to their 8.9% drop for CiarĂ¡n Cuffe in Dublin.

While there may very well be a significant rural opposition to the green party, it would be incorrect to suggest that the party has lost more votes in rural Ireland than in urban Ireland over the past five years.

This dynamic may also instead highlight the limited effect of negative attacks on a small party.

It is worth remarking on the fact that the LEA where the Green Party had it's biggest increase was in the Dingle peninsula, Corca Dhuibhne, increasing from 10% to 13%. Surrounded by what is otherwise Healy Rae country in Castleisland LEA, Kenmare LEA and Killarney LEA and where perhaps the most vociferous opposition to the greens is. Support for the green party is generally small in rural Ireland. It is a section that probably doesn't look to the likes of Michael Healy Rae for inspiration.

There are also lessons here in relation to the futility of attacks on small extreme parties.

Finally, in relation to the contest for the leadership of the Green Party. Any small party on 3-4% of the vote nationally has to be thinking about it's existence and shoring up it's vote. While we have a proportional electoral system it is not perfectly proportional. Small parties generally need to be very transfer friendly in order to get the same share of seats as they get share of the votes.

To have a chance in a five seat constituency a party typically needs at least 8% of the vote in that constituency. With the party on 3-5% nationally an even distribution of votes across the country is of relatively little use. For four and three seat constituencies it is harder again. The survival of the green party requires it to stack votes up in urban areas.