Belfast Telegraph

Poll results not likely to worry MLAs

Editor's Viewpoint

Yet another potential casualty of the stalemate at Stormont is revealed in this newspaper today, and this time it will affect a large proportion of the local population.

The Rates Support Grant from central government to poorer local councils to help them maintain vital services has been cut by £732,000, but there is fear it could be reduced further or even axed.

Only four of the 11 local authorities don't need the handout, and the rest are so concerned that they may band together to oppose any further cuts in support.

But should the MLAs who are refusing to restore devolved government be worried about their future as day-to-day problems continue to mount as austerity brought on by the stalemate continues to bite?

It would seem not, at least at the minute. A significant majority of people on both sides of the community are in favour of the restoration of devolved government, support its institutions and back power-sharing.

The poll conducted by the Economic and Social Research Council throws up few surprises. Supporters of the two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, remain polarised on issues like an Irish Language Act and Brexit, and the parties' respective leaders, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, win little admiration from those in opposing camps.

It is on supposedly controversial social issues that the biggest surprises emerge. Leaving aside the undecided voters, more DUP supporters were in favour of same-sex marriage than against, a finding that seems to run counter to the party's stance. It was Ulster Unionist voters who took a harder stance, with a slight majority against.

On abortion, a surprising 41% of DUP voters were in favour of changing the legislation, while only 32% of Sinn Fein voters took the same stance, even though the party is pro-choice.

It is no surprise to see that young people are turned off by politics here, with only a third of 18 to 24-year-olds bothering to vote. Similarly disenchanted were those who declared themselves neither unionist nor nationalist, with only 37% going to the polls.

However, the two main parties will take comfort from their electoral successes, which they see as the truest expression of public opinion.

But that doesn't augur well for a softening of positions when talks resume despite the ongoing economic difficulties.

Belfast Telegraph

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