Senior members of the DUP have backed Peter Robinson to carry on as First Minister and party leader.
The vote of confidence comes after a Belfast Telegraph poll revealed a 56% majority in favour of Mr Robinson stepping down from the top post.
Crucially, within the Protestant community, 39% of those polled believe he should resign.
Mr Robinson appears to have been damaged politically following revelations that his wife Iris had an affair with a 19-year-old and obtained £50,000 from two property developers to bankroll her lover’s business.
The First Minister maintains he has no questions to answer in relation to the case.
Party members yesterday dismissed our poll — and insisted Mr Robinson retains the full backing of the DUP. Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson claimed there was “strong support” for him continuing to hold both posts.
“The poll indicates strong support amongst unionists for Peter Robinson remaining as First Minister,” he said.
“Frankly, I don’t expect nationalists would want a unionist to remain as First Minister, so no surprise there. That is a product of the bigotry that we have in our society.
“Peter has the strong support of the party and, as the poll demonstrates, strong support in the unionist community.”
Mr Donaldson said the 39% of Protestants who wanted Mr Robinson to resign did not include DUP members.
“The DUP doesn’t get 61% of unionist votes, and the fact that Peter Robinson gets 61% backing shows that, not only has he the full support of the DUP, he also has substantial support from other unionists.”
Meanwhile, Nelson McCausland rejected the Belfast Telegraph’s poll and said the DUP was fully supporting its leader.
“I would assume that that figure (56% overall) includes a large number of people from the nationalist community,” he said. “On the other figure (39% of Protestants), I am sure many of those are members of the Ulster Unionist Party. They are not members of the DUP.”
He added that it was “certainly the case” that Mr Robinson had the full backing of his party.
Ian Paisley Jnr declined to offer any comment — because he had not seen the poll.
Put to him that the findings were quite clear, Mr Paisley Jnr added: “It’s not quite clear, polls are never quite clear.”