Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

The Queen gets a surprise endorsement by Northern Ireland's Catholics - and is more popular than Martin McGuinness

Day 3 of the Belfast Telegraph's exclusive opinion poll puts monarch at the top of public approval ratings

Queen Elizabeth II outside St. Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, during a two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Crowds wave Union flags in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as they wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II during a two-day as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Crowds wave Union flags in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as they wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II during a two-day as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Irish president Michael D Higgins and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Irish president Michael D Higgins and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

The Queen has come out on top in our poll for her performance in office – doing surprisingly well with Catholics as well as Protestants.

Her Majesty has been voted the most effective of a range of office holders in our exclusive research conducted for us across Northern Ireland.

Participants were asked to rate Queen Elizabeth, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, DUP leader Peter Robinson, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Irish President Michael D Higgins on their performance.

Participants were asked to score each leader's performance in office on scale ranging from Excellent to Very Bad.

Overall the Queen scored +2.8, the only positive score of the whole five.

She got a positive score across all religious groups – for Catholics it was lowest at 1.3, it was 1.5 among people of other religions, 2.2 for people of no religion and 4.1 for Protestants.

By comparison, all the other leaders got negative approval for their performance, with Matt Baggott coming bottom with 13.1 and President Higgins coming second best with -1.8.

Both heads of state may have benefited from their visits to Northern Ireland.

During the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, President Higgins met the Queen in Belfast and, at a cross-community event, provided the necessary diplomatic cover for Martin McGuinness to shake both their hands.

The Queen, once dubbed "Elizabrit" by republicans and reviled for her role as head of the UK's armed forces, has also seen her stock rise across the community as a result of her visit to Dublin in May 2011.

On that historical trip she visited the Garden of Remembrance and spoke of things in Anglo-Irish history "which we would wish had been done differently or not at all".

Statistically many of those who contributed to her rating will not have been monarchists.

But they will have rated her performance in her public role good or excellent rather than bad or very bad.

Although none of the other leaders got a positive rating, they can take some comfort from the fact that none did so badly as the Assembly at Stormont. It got a record-busting low rating of -60 in an earlier question.

The question also showed weaknesses in the DUP support base.

Peter Robinson scored -16.3 among the DE social group, the poorest section of society.

There are internal concerns that as the DUP attracts more middle class and business support it may lose touch with loyalist working-class concerns.

Mr Robinson lost his seat in East Belfast at the last Westminster election and the party was taken unawares when the flags protests, which it initially encouraged, ran out of control last winter.

By comparison, Martin McGuinness scored better, -3.4 in the DE grouping, showing that Sinn Fein still has a good grip on its working-class support base.

Only Matt Baggott fared worse than Mr Robinson with the working class and unemployed. He got a score of -19.

When they were asked to choose only one of the nine Assembly Party leaders as the person "offering the best hope for Northern Ireland", Mr Robinson had the largest support, at 22.1%, closely followed by Mr McGuinness on 20%.

This time, when they were forced to make a choice rather than rate performance, Mr Robinson did get DE support and in terms of voting intention 19.8% of DE voters said they would vote DUP, the same as the proportion backing Sinn Fein, and more than three times as many as any other party. Mr Robinson's personal rating was boosted by support from a higher proportion of AB voters, the highest earners, many of whom said they would not actually vote in an election.

 

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