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#UCCVotes – Express straw poll results

On Monday, a day before voting was due to start, we opened our annual #UCCVotes straw poll. Last year we used Twitter polls to try and estimate how the SU would form itself, with the poll successfully predicting three out of the five main Sabbat positions. This year we turned to Google Forms, and opened the poll up to all positions up for grabs across the two days. Due to the limitations of Google Forms, we had to only allow people to put their first preference vote. Other alternatives to Google Forms, we felt, were not appropriate, or lacking in other key aspects.

We closed the poll at 4am this morning, having received over 400 votes total. The first question put to people was about what year of their studies they were in, and the second was about whether or not they intended on voting. Any respondents who said they would not be voting were not able to fill in the rest of the poll, so in the end 369 people polled said they intended on voting. Unlike the real life ballots, people voting in our straw poll had to vote in every election before they could complete the poll. With regards to demographics, the poll was mainly answered by first (29.5%), second (22.1%) and third (28.8%) year students, with fourth, fifth and postgraduate students making up the other 30 or so percent.

Starting with the college reps, 158 people from the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS), 97 from the College of Science, Engineering & Food Science (SEFS), 91 from the College of Business & Law (B&L) and just 23 from the College of Medicine & Health (M&H). With the exception of the low M&H turnout, the share of these stats generally reflects overall student population & turnout in actual votes.

First to Arts/CACSSS: This race, according to the voting pattern shown in our poll, was pretty much a two horse race between Alanna Daly Mulligan and Andrew Burke. Burke took the early lead, but as the day went on, Daly Mulligan got a nose ahead of Burke. It should be noted that Burke had shared the link to the poll on both his campaign page and personal page, while the other candidates (for CACSSS Rep anyway) did not. While there’s nothing wrong with a candidate sharing the poll, it could skew the results slightly. Regardless, at the close of polls, we had Daly Mulligan slipping passed Burke by just under 4%.

Predicted CACSSS Rep: DALY MULLIGAN, ALANNA

Next on to SEFS. Three candidates contested this race, and the pattern of voting generally held steady from moment one. According to the straw poll, Jack Hickey has a commanding lead over Iuri Mimoso and Mahrukh Rose, receiving over half of the votes on his own. This one is a tough one to call, as (speaking personally) I would say that Rose has the most visible on-campus presence, and Hickey’s posters mainly consist of memes with small font, but being top of the ballot may carry the vote if it’s close, and the numbers don’t lie when it comes to straw polls.

Predicted SEFS Rep: HICKEY, JACK

Business & Law next. An easy one to call, and our only uncontested race. RON (Re-open Nominations) started stronger than this, at times having as much as 35% of the vote, but it’s plausible that people feel more comfortable voting RON on a straw poll. Indeed, it’s also true that unopposed candidates generally receive more RON votes than contested ones. Regardless, it would take active negative campaign (or a resignation of candidacy) to give you any different result from the one predicted.

Predicted B&L Rep: CHADWICK, JEN

The last of the college reps is the Medicine & Health Rep. This had the lowest turnout of any of the colleges, which could suggest two (of a possible many) conclusions: med students, for whatever reason, didn’t like the or were too busy to fill out the straw poll, or that engagement with the SU and Express from M&H is low, at least on social media. While both of those are viable, it should be noted that we were informed that turnout was up this year for med & health about halfway through day one of voting. It’s also possible that the medicine & health candidates general lack of real online presence (e.g. one of the candidates did not make a campaign page until Monday evening), combined with the lack of a ‘high-profile’ med & health candidate (like Art Kelleher was last year) going for a sabbat position may have resulted in general apathy in the college, at least as far as this poll was concerned. Speaking of the actual results, Noel Brennan held almost a complete lead for much of the early period of voting, with Caoimhe Hennigan closing the gap slightly by close of voting. I didn’t get a chance to pop down to Brookfield or CUH yesterday to see for myself, and though the low turnout enhances the perception of the percentage, the old ‘top of the ballot’ thinking would lead one to agree with the poll.

Predicted M&H Rep: BRENNAN, NOEL

Now we move into the non-Sabbats, starting with Oifigeach Gaeilge. This is the first time there has been more than two candidates for this position in several years, with the position typically going uncontested. Edel Burton took the lead early on, with Antóin  Dullaing catching up fairly well. While the gap has closed significantly since, say, 1pm yesterday, Burton has held her lead well, and should take the position. Definitely an election with it all to play for today.

Predicted Oifigeach Gaeilge: BURTON, EDEL

Equality next, and again this poll comes with a small caveat: Maeve Richardson shared the poll on both her campaign page and her personal page, which could account for the result here. Quite like Oifigeach Gaeilge, Equality is a position that is rarely contested, and if it is, there’s usually only two candidates. Maeve took the lead early on, commanding an even greater lead than at the close of polls, but Browne O’Neill has since made good ground. Though the sharing on campaign pages might have coloured the result, I would say that Maeve’s team seemed to be more visible away from their stand during the day. If I were to guess, I would say the result is much closer than the poll shows, again with it all to play for today.

Predicted Equality Officer: RICHARDSON, MAEVE

On to the first of our paid positions with Ents Officer, and outgoing SEFS Rep Ronan Carey seems to have ran away with it. Carey started strong, and generally floated at holding around 70% of the vote, but Cronin received a lot of votes in the latter half of the day. Will it be enough to catch Carey? Not in our, poll it wasn’t, as though Cronin was able to knock 20-or so percentage points off of Carey by the end, that’s still equivalent to the gap between them now. Could be an upset, but going by the poll it would take a lot of hard work by Cronin and his team.

Predicted Ents Officer: CAREY, RONAN

Now for the first full sabbatical officer position up for grabs, and it’s Commercial & Communications Officer. Last year outgoing Comms Officer Barry O’Shea was unopposed, and subject to a targeted RON campaign. This year there won’t likely be any call for a RON vote, as there are three candidates for the role. Amy Poland took the early lead, and was then caught by Finnerty. Faye Murphy stormed the polls towards the end, unseating Poland from the top spot. It could be said that Poland’s involvement in student media (namely Motley Magazine) could mean that her supporters/campaign team were more aware of the Express, and that we would be doing a poll (or indeed that our readers were at least somewhat more familiar with her name). Tough race to call, will definitely come down to transfers in the end. As with our poll, I suspect that Murphy may come out on top, if only by a small margin, as her campaign posters are very eye-catching and distinctive – they’re very reminiscent of general election posters, which are designed with catching a voter’s eye in mind. If this is the case, then it’ll be our outgoing Oifigeach Gaeilge in the Comms hotseat.

Predicted Comms Officer: MURPHY, FAYE

Moving on to Education, and a very competitive election between current UCCSU Council Chair Aaron Frahill and Law Society Education Officer Alice O’Brien. It should be noted that Frahill is a staff member of the UCC Express (disclaimer: he has taken a leave of absence from his position as Film & TV Editor until the end of elections, as is UCC Express policy, and has not nor will not have any input into election coverage), and our reader’s familiarity with his name may have skewed the poll slightly. However, it should be noted that the result shown in the graph is generally consistent as it was throughout the day. At times O’Brien may have gained a point from RON, but it hovered around the 70% Frahill mark from start to finish, essentially. O’Brien could turn it around, but it would likely take a lapse in concentration from Frahill’s team, and hard graft from O’Brien’s. Frahill being an active member of the SU (and a well liked one, according to our recent survey), and a former Arts Rep (Arts is the most populous college) should carry him over the line.

Predicted Education Officer: FRAHILL, AARON

Welfare next, and the first time there’s been more than three candidates for Welfare in several years (prior to around 2013/14, Welfare generally had five candidates per year on average). As with Education, the graph at the close of polls wouldn’t look too dissimilar from one made at the beginning of the day. Niamh Connery, who arguably had the most visible presence on the ground yesterday, has been fairly dominant in the polls thus far. While the two McCarthys and Martina Hanley have been bobbing up & down, Connery has generally held firm. As with any race with more than three candidates, transfers could be a difference maker here, but going by first preference votes, Connery should win hands down.

Predicted Welfare Officer: CONNERY, NIAMH

Nearly at the end now, as it’s just Deputy and President to go. Deputy first, and Kelly Coyle looks to easily take the vote, receiving over 2/3rds of the vote in the straw poll. This outcome should come as no surprise, as it would be very hard for anyone to topple an outgoing sabbatical officer – they, essentially, have a platform for the year, and it’s almost guaranteed that freshers, at least, are more likely to know them than know you. This isn’t to say this was Coyle’s reason for running last year (it would be kind of ridiculous, in my opinion, to seriously suggest that), but it will stand to her now when looking for votes from ordinary students. It doesn’t help Liam Meighan’s chances that Coyle was voted the most well-liked officer of the current SU in our recent survey. Meighan has been saying a lot of the right things, but with an opponent already so knowledgeable about the job, and what comes with it, it would take a Herculean effort to outpace Coyle at this stage.

Predicted Deputy President & Campaigns Officer: COYLE, KELLY

Last but not least we have President. Right off the bat it has to be said: with this many candidates running, transfers will play a part in the result. Whether they give you the votes you need to just pip your rival at the post, or they push you over the quota before the competition can rally, transfers will play some role in this race for the top spot. Eoin Collopy, considering his involvement with Martin Scally’s successful campaign last year, would have been considered the outright favourite going into the election, but Quercus scholar Alan Hayes is giving him a run for his money. Hayes and Collopy went back and forth for pole position, but Hayes has eked out a slight lead to take the poll. With only thirteen votes between Hayes and Collopy, we could be seeing several recounts as we did in this race last year. It should be noted, however, that many on the ground feel that Tommy Cahill has an outside chance of taking it, that this poll may not reflect his popularity among maybe less-involved students. Regardless, our poll has an outright winner, even if it is just by 13 votes.

Predicted President: HAYES, ALAN

There you have it! There’s obviously another day of campaigning to go before we get an official result, so anything could happen! We’ve been informed that quorum (the minimum required amount of votes for the elections to be considered valid) should be easily met, if it hasn’t already been. An interesting proposed exec, as it will have a majority female executive for the first time potentially ever (seven women versus six men). Speaking hypothetically, that number could rise to a potential 10 women officers, as President and Ents are the only position with no female candidates. Considering the fact that UCC SU has only had two female presidents in its 80-year history, a majority-female SU could help to break that glass ceiling that seems to be there.

It also looks good for those elected who may want to run again, as four out of six sabbatical officers predicted have either already served on SU Exec or are outgoing officers, as Coyle (outgoing Welfare), Frahill (outgoing Council Chair, former Arts Rep), Murphy (outgoing Oifigeach Gaeilge) and Carey (outgoing SEFS Rep) were successful in their elections last year.

Also in the poll: We look to be staying affiliated to the Union of Students in Ireland, as 74.8% of students said they would vote to affiliate, with only 16% saying they would vote no, and 9.2% saying they did not intend to vote in the USI referendum.

YOUR PREDICTED SU EXEC FOR 2018/19:

Alan Hayes (President), Kelly Coyle (Deputy President & Campaigns), Niamh Connery (Welfare), Aaron Frahill (Education), Faye Murphy (Comms), Ronan Carey (Ents), Maeve Richardson (Equality), Edel Burton (Irish), Alanna Daly-Mulligan (Arts), Jack Hickey (SEFS), Noel Brennan (Med & Health), Jen Chadwick (Business & Law).

The above will be joined on SU Exec by the Presidents of the Clubs & Societies Executives respectively, which are elected at their own AGMs, the Chair of Student Council, who will be elected at the last council of the year (provisional date: March 23rd), and the Postgraduate Officer, who is elected in October. The officers of the Equality Working Group (LGBTQ, Gender Equality, International Students, Mature Students, Disability and SÁMH), who do not sit on the SU Executive, will be elected at a by-election on March 20th.