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Online poll results: What do NI voters make of political developments in the Stormont crisis?

By Bill White

Published 08/09/2015

Mike Nesbitt of the UUP
Mike Nesbitt of the UUP

Well our 'Big90', our 90 hour online poll, was a great success with a whopping 2,143 submitting full responses.

As a first level of security our systems were set-up as 'One Device - One Vote' i.e. one Vote/Survey per device (PC, laptop, tablet etc.) - if a second 'vote' was attempted from the same PC device it immediately displayed a message that it was blocked. However, our systems also tracked e.g. IP addresses, pseudo email addresses etc., and rejected any possible 'multiple votes'.

So after the poll closed, as a first step, we carried out a thorough audit to detect possible 'double votes'.

This process resulted in 211 responses being rejected, leaving a total of 1,932 accepted responses. Unfortunately there were undoubtedly genuine one-person responses within that 211 that got discarded, but we believe it's better to err on the side of rigour.

All collated data was then weighted (by gender and community background) in order to produce a representative view of NI Opinion. As this was an 'open invitation' survey-poll there is/are higher error factors with these projects, in comparison with our official 'targeted sample' polling projects. However, we're sure the 'trend-results' will still be informative, if taken as an approximate view of current public opinion in NI. 

So what were the key trends? Here are the results from the first question: What do you think of the Ulster Unionist Party's (UUP) decision to leave the NI Executive?         

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And here is a breakdown of what Unionists only thought of that decision:

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As can be seen a huge 82% of Unionist voters thought the UUP decision to leave the NI Executive was the correct one - i.e. thought it an 'Excellent' or 'Broadly good' decision. By the way to those who complain about the large error in polls like these - they're right, as I've explained above. But even if you build in the predicted error, even double that error, and apply this against this result, it doesn't matter in terms of the main conclusion i.e. 82% is just too high a score for there to be any doubt that a substantial majority of NI Unionists (UUP, DUP,TUV, UKIP, and other Unionists) thought the UUP decision to leave the executive was the correct one. 

Another question we asked was: Broadly speaking - How valuable to NI, and how vital to NI's future, do you think the current NI Political Institutions are? Here are the results:

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So around 57% think the institutions are 'Very important', or 'Somewhat important' - not overwhelming but still a majority. And here is what Unionists thought about the same question:

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As can be seen the Unionists are bit less enthusiastic about the institutions than the NI public as a whole, with only 48% thinking the institutions are 'Very important', or 'Somewhat important'. In effect the Unionists are sort of split 50/50 (with a slight trend towards support) re. the usefulness of Stormont, the Executive, and Assembly.

So what do the NI public think about the chances of the institutions surviving. We asked: Over the next few weeks and months - How hopeful are you for the survival of the NI Political Institutions i.e. the NI Assembly and Executive?

FusionCharts (26).jpg  

It sort of works out at a bit pessimistic but not overwhelmingly so - nearly 1 in 3 (31%) are still 'Very Hopeful' or 'Somewhat Hopeful' that the institutions will survive. We also we see that 43% are 'Not Hopeful' or 'Totally not Hopeful' that the institutions will survive., and over 1 in 4 (i.e. approx. 26%) think the chances of survival are only 50/50. Interestingly there was no real difference between Unionists and Nationalists regarding this question.  

So even taking into account the additional error that applies to these 'open invitation' online polls (i.e. in addition to the errors that apply in standard polls), there are some key results and trends that can be stated.

First of all, Mike Nesbitt has struck a chord, in that a substantial majority of Unionists think that his decision to leave the NI Executive was the correct one.

NB this is not just UUP supporters - a substantial chunk of DUP supporters also support his decision. However 48% of Unionists (nearly 1 in 2) think the current institutions are 'Very Important' or 'Somewhat Important' (with 12% neutral). So perhaps we can say that Yes, Unionists overwhelmingly support the UUP's decision to leave the Executive, but they would probably like this to lead to a reform of the institutions, to make them work better, not their downfall.

More results later in the week including whether there have been any changes in voting intentions because of the UUP decision to leave the NI Executive.

Bill White is Managing Director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk, polling partners to the Belfast Telegraph. You can follow LucidTalk on Twitter: @LucidTalk.  

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