Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Opinion polls are road map to a normal society

This week's opinion polls in the Belfast Telegraph have given important guidelines as to what people are really thinking about, concerning the major issues of the day.

They have underlined the divisions over parades and flags, and also disillusion with the politicians at Stormont, as well as the abiding regard for the Queen who topped the poll in approval ratings.

The Belfast Telegraph is the only paper in Northern Ireland which invests in such polls, because we believe that they give an important and statistically relevant picture which helps to underpin an informed debate about the future of the province.

Whenever our politicians talk at length, they claim to speak for a majority, but these scientific polls help us to decide whether these claims are true or not. For the most part, the polls have shown that the politicians are talking only to a narrowing band of their own converts, rather than to the large majorities which they claim to represent.

What has been striking about the polls overall is the huge numbers of people who say that they do not cast a vote and who refuse to be identified by the traditional religious or orange and green labels which for so long have been taken as the norm for Northern Ireland.

It is not because these people are apathetic about voting, but rather because they do not feel engaged in the political process. This is a serious matter because voting is the lifeblood of democracy, and a lack of voting reflects badly on this most precious asset of our way of life.

It is abundantly clear that there is a large number of potential voters out there who may be willing to become engaged, but only if they are attracted by the right policies.

Clearly, the votes are there for the leaders who can help us to break out from the political straitjacket which has imprisoned Northern Ireland for so long.

Our polls are therefore a worthwhile investment in helping people to make more informed choices for themselves, on the long road towards building a normal society.

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