Belfast Telegraph

Welfare reforms are here to stay as public wakens to link with new jobs

By Bill White

Well, if you've reviewed the 'welfare' and 'Maze development' poll question results you will see once again that it's the patterns behind the main headline results that are the most interesting.

One noticeable statistic from the welfare reform question was that of those who answered that they wanted to 'confront Westminster by refusing to either change welfare payments or cut other budgets', over 50% were Catholics (51.5%). However, it should be noted that a sizeable number of poll respondents, nearly one in two, said they wanted the welfare reforms adopted – 47.6% excluding the Don't Knows.

This reflects the polls in Britain which are showing an increased acceptance of the reforms, even among Labour voters. Most people now accept that there's a link between the welfare reforms and the spectacular number of new jobs created in the British economy.

It's noticeable that the Labour party has gone quiet on this issue, and it's highly likely it will continue with the current welfare reforms if it should gain office next May. So Conservative or Labour in Westminster, it looks as though the welfare reforms are here to stay. Local parties should take note.

Regarding the Maze development question and whether the Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PRC) development should go-ahead, again it was not surprising that a high proportion of young people, nearly one in two, supported the full development including the PRC.

As one of the 18-24 year-old poll respondents said, 'Yes to jobs, no to history'! However, not surprisingly there was a very large difference of opinion on this issue between Protestants and Catholics. On both questions gender again showed males were more likely to take the higher risk option with e.g. most of the respondents who want the full Maze development to go ahead being men, whereas the majority of those who wanted it stopped until agreement was reached were women.

The Ardoyne parading question showed substantial support for the idea of an independent inquiry – 41.6% (excluding Don't Knows). Equally importantly, this idea attracted healthy cross-community support: Protestant, 47.4%, Catholic, 30.9%, None/Others, 21.7%.

  • Bill White is managing director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk

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