Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Northern Ireland majority sceptical on political progress

Day 5 of our exclusive opinion poll reveals a segment of public fear a return to the Troubles

Only around a quarter of people expect things to improve in Northern Ireland by 2023

People are not hopeful about the future in Northern Ireland.

Only around a quarter of people expect things to improve by 2023.

The vast majority expect them to get no better with large groups anticipating a resumption of the Troubles or economic decline.

We asked people what future they expected for Northern Ireland in 10 years' time.

They were given four options and allowed to choose one.

The gloomiest 13.9% said they expected a "return to Troubles-era violence, nearly one in five (19.3%) expected "economic decline while less than one in 10 (8.1%) expected "economic growth" and 14% expected "a more stable and peaceful society".

The largest group, 29.3%, expected nothing much to have changed.

The remaining 16.2% didn't know, quite a low figure compared to other questions.

If we put the figures together, and excluding the undecided, just over a quarter (26.4%) expected things to improve in some way and the remainder (73.6%) expected things to either stay much the same or else get worse. There was little expectation of progress.

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This may be one reason people are switching off the political system and giving politicians such low approval ratings.

When we looked at non-voters 9% were optimistic, 6% expected a more stable and peaceful society and 3% believed the economy would grow. Eighteen per cent expected a return to violence, 24% thought nothing would change, and 21% predicted economic decline. First-time voters in the 18-24 age group are amongst the most pessimistic – 44.6% of them expected to see either a return to violence (21.1%) or economic decline (22.5%), but less than a fifth (19.4%) foresaw a future that included economic growth (8.7%) or peace and stability.

With these figures pessimism was fairly general, Catholics were more pessimistic about the economy (23.5% predicted decline) compared to Protestants (17.2%).

Protestants were marginally more fearful of a return to violence, 16.2% compared to 15.5% of Catholics, but the most pessimistic about violence were people of no religion, 18.1% expected to see it.

Men are more pessimistic than women. Worryingly, 22.5% expect violence, given young men did most of the fighting last time.

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