Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Northern Irish public satisfied with PSNI - but not Chief Constable Matt Baggott

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott

Our polls shows that the Police Service of Northern Ireland received a modest net approval rating of 1% – higher than Chief Constable Matt Baggott (who scored -13.1%) or either the First or Deputy First Ministers.

This figure shows mild satisfaction with the PSNI, but not overwhelming public confidence.

In fact, the figures show that just over half of people (51.6% in all) either didn't express an opinion (25.3%), or else said they felt neutral on the issue and considered that the PSNI was doing an average job.

The high level of apathy and indecision undermines claims that policing is a subject of fierce contention or is in crisis.

By comparison, the Stormont Assembly got a far lower net approval rating of -60%.

The PSNI appears to be more popular with Protestants, who gave it a net approval of +16.5%, compared to Catholics who gave it -2.5%.

Yet  it also contradicts claims of widespread Protestant alienation from the force over the policing of loyalist protests and arrests in loyalist areas.

Instead the old picture of Protestants being somewhat more enthusiastic about the forces of law and order than their Catholic neighbours appears to be holding true.

Gerry Lynch of LucidTalk, our polling partners, points out that policing has made some progress in terms of cross-community acceptability, even if it is not as much as it would like.

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He said: "While the differences are real and worrying, they do represent a transformation of opinion among Catholics from the days of the RUC."

He calculates that the gender gap was even wider, with women giving the PSNI a net approval rating of +14% while the male rating was -11%.

Amongst the lowest income DE social classes 27% rated the force's performance excellent or good while 26% rated it bad or very bad, giving it a net approval rating of +1, similar to the population as a whole.

Mr Lynch said: "The pattern of support for the police by class is complex. Working class respondents are more likely to have strong feelings about the PSNI one way or another, while the middle classes are more neutral."

Yet even amongst the highest earning AB managerial class, 25.6% thought the police had done either excellently or well, and 23.3% rated its performance not good or very bad.

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