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Testing time for politicians and public in online survey

By Noel McAdam

The Belfast Telegraph has put politicians to the test, asking them the fundamental question: Do you belong to the correct party?

Our ‘ True Colours ’ online survey has also allowed us to query whether they support — or even recognise — the policy positions of their respective parties.

Politicians from all parties were invited to take part — as individuals. At the same time thousands of readers have also been taking the test over recent weeks.

Almost 7,000 people have completed the exercise. Leaving aside the constitutional issue, the survey takes participants through a series of policy statements on a number of issues which they are asked to back, oppose or stay neutral on.

They are then given a percentage breakdown for which party their overall views come closest to, for example, 65% DUP or 75% SDLP, and so on.

And of the total number who completed the survey — 6,983 — the significant majority (2,286) were told their views most closely match the Ulster Unionist Party.

In contrast, 1,759 are Sinn Fein, 1,064 are SDLP, 981 are Alliance and 890 DUP.

It is by no means a scientific study, since all of the sample involved volunteered.

But participants are asked in the survey to declare themselves in political terms, with 2,462 naming themselves as unionists, 2,177 as nationalists and 2,179 as ‘other’.

Thus, if the exercise was to be next Thursday election, Ulster Unionists would be romping home. So why is the party failing to get its message across?

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said: “I believe that the findings illustrate that the Ulster Unionist Party is winning the ideological battle of ideas and articulating the views and policies which connect with the electorate.”

The SDLP’s South Belfast candidate Conall McDevitt — one of the politicians who took the test — said: “I think it reflects citizens’ demands to see greater honesty in politics.”

Sinn Fein and Alliance were also asked to participate but did not respond in time.

Platform for Change activist Robin Wilson said in a World Values Survey 10 years ago the average political position in Northern Ireland was exactly the same as the world average — a little right of centre.

“And which party in the region can best be defined as a little right of centre? The Ulster Unionists, of course,” he said.

Factfile

The Belfast Telegraph's True Colours online survey allows voters to identify their place on the traditional political spectrum after answering questions which typically divide political parties of the centre, left and right. Now take the Belfast Telegraph’s True Colours test yourself. You may be surprised where you end up. Click HERE to give it a go.

How they did . . .

SAMMY WILSON — DUP

The Finance Minister emerged at just 75% DUP — much to his own surprise.

Mr Wilson, a DUP member for more than 30 years, light-heartedly cast doubt on the Telegraph survey after taking the True Colours test in his constituency office.

“I am only three-quarters a DUP man,” the East Antrim candidate admitted. “I am sure that is not true. Obviously the Belfast Telegraph assessment of me is wrong.”

CONALL McDEVITT — SDLP

The outgoing South Belfast MLA was relieved to emerge as 86% SDLP. But the survey also showed he mapped onto Sinn Fein at 65%, Alliance 65%, UUP 53%, and DUP 48%.

“The test was interesting and highlights a couple of things to me. Firstly there are genuine policy differences between the parties, but also that there is a huge amount of common ground in Northern politics. I am not surprised by this,” he said.

DAVID McNARRY — UUP

The veteran Assembly Member found his ‘best match’ was his own party — but at just 68%.

The politician fighting to retain his Strangford seat said: “I thought it was an extremely interesting exercise and well done to the Belfast Telegraph for producing this.

“We must make the connection with the voters so that they realise that it is the UUP which comes closest to their feelings, aspirations and hopes...”

DAVID VANCE — TUV

To his annoyance, the hardline member of Jim Allister’s party emerged as 68% DUP.

Mr Vance, who is running in Upper Bann, said: “I got DUP 68% in the poll! Despite saying I would not vote DUP, and have an entirely different set of priorities.

“I’m surprised it didn’t say to vote Sinn Fein, given the Siamese twin relationship of that party with DUP. A bizarre poll that seems to direct people away from different views.”

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