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Vote of confidence in Stormont for its handling of coronavirus crisis

Almost seven in 10 people in Northern Ireland are happy with how Stormont has handled the coronavirus emergency, according to a new poll.

LucidTalk's survey, which focused on how the UK, devolved and Irish Governments have dealt with the Covid-19 crisis, took place in May and received 1,851 responses.

Out of all the Stormont ministers, Health Minister Robin Swann scored highest when asked about their individual performances - with 71% of participants giving him a 'good/well' score'.

Some 61% of those surveyed said First Minister Arlene Foster had performed well while 53% thought deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill had performed well.

Mr Swann received a higher positive score with unionists (85%) when compared to Mrs Foster (69%).

When it came to performing badly, out of all the UK and Ireland's political leaders, only Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a worse result (64%) than Sinn Fein vice-president Ms O'Neill (36%).

However, this came down to the negative response she got from unionists.

Overall, Northern Ireland's government scored quite highly with the poll's participants as 68% agreed that the Executive has done 'well' when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

This is comparable to the scores that the Scottish and Irish governments also received - 63% and 66% respectively.

However, 21% said the Executive had performed 'badly', while only 18% thought the Scottish Government had and 13% believed the Republic had handled the crisis badly.

Commenting on the poll, Bill White, Managing Director of LucidTalk, explained that Mr Swann received a better result than DUP leader Mrs Foster due to a higher unionist score.

"This, combined with the more positive way nationalists/republicans scored Robin Swann when compared to Arlene Foster, and the same pattern applied - even more so - with the Alliance/Green/others voting block, leading to the overall final Northern Ireland score for Robin Swann being top of the local ministers," he said. "Michelle O'Neill comes second from bottom on all measurements - i.e. with only Boris Johnson below her.

"The key reasons for this are the very negative scores she got from unionists - i.e. when compared to the scores Arlene Foster got from nationalists/republicans, which were more to the positive end of the scale - although still not overwhelmingly positive.

"Also, the Alliance/Green/others voting block scored Michelle O'Neill approximately the same as Arlene Foster, when it is usual for this voting block to score Michelle O'Neill ahead of Arlene Foster."

Elsewhere in the poll, 70% of voters stated that the instructions coming from Westminster were 'not clear' but the reverse applied to Stormont as 69% said information was clear.

However, 28% believed that the Executive's instructions were not clear - the second highest negative score.

Participants were also asked if it was right or wrong for the Executive to start loosening the lockdown restrictions now and in three, four or five weeks time.

More than half (54%) said now, although when asked if they should be relaxed later, 85% agreed.

Reflecting on these results, Mr White stated: "The key point to note here is the strong trend of people wanting the lockdown to end. It's notable that the Northern Ireland people support the loosening of the lockdown now but they really want it to happen 'in a big way' in three to five weeks' time."

The poll also asked that in the context of Northern Ireland, how worried were people about the impact of Covid-19.

The overwhelming majority of people here are worried about all factors of health, finances and jobs, with 91% expressing fears for the local economy.

There were marked differences of opinion between DUP and Sinn Fein voters in this section of the poll.

Fewer than half of DUP voters were worried about their finances (44%) and their jobs (40%), when compared to Sinn Fein voters - 68% and 64% respectively.

Belfast Telegraph