Belfast Telegraph

Despite low performance marks, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are still judged Northern Ireland's best hope

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, watched by First Minister Peter Robinson at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast during a two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Dr Richard Haass, centre, flanked by the First and Deputy First Ministers, has begun political talks in Belfast
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in Brazil
Queen Elizabeth II outside St. Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, during a two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Crowds wave Union flags in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, as they wait for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II during a two-day as part of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour.
Chief Constable Matt Baggott speaking at PSNI headquarters
NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers visits the Scoil Eigse traditional music school as part of the Derry Fleadh
Irish president Michael D Higgins and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness


Catholics think the Queen is performing better as monarch than Martin McGuinness is as Deputy First Minister.

That is one of the quirkier findings thrown up as we asked our sample of voting age people to rate five public figures by performance in their jobs.

Their respective score among Catholics was close, +1.3 for the Queen and +0.9 for Mr McGuinness.

Overall, Her Majesty was the only public figure who received a positive approval rating of 2.8.

The other four rated were Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, who scored -9.3, Chief Constable Matt Baggott, who came in at -13.1, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at -1.8, First Minister Peter Robinson at -10.7 and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at -2.6.

We asked two questions about the perception of public figures.

The first question: "Which of the following party leaders do you feel represents the best hope for Northern Ireland?" was like a beauty contest in which judges have only one vote.

Respondents were allowed to choose only one politician, their "favourite" out of the list of the leaders of the nine Assembly parties.

There was no opportunity for registering a negative opinion.

The second question: "How would you grade the performance of the following in their jobs (Please grade 1-5, where 1 is excellent, to 5 very bad)?" was different.

It asked respondents to rate each of the people listed individually.

So, for instance, unionists gave a score to Martin McGuinness and republicans registered an opinion on Peter Robinson.

A positive rating did not necessarily mean support.

Some respondents may have felt that an individual was doing a good job even if they opposed the person politically.

For example, a person who did not support the monarchy in principle may have still felt that Queen Elizabeth was doing a good job.

This explains why some people, who are included in both lists, appear to score more highly in one than the other.

Taken together, one supplements the other.

The Queen's higher rating was boosted by other women who rated her 4.1, compared to men who scored her at 0.3. She was also more popular among the affluent AB group (4.5) than among the poorer DE category (0.4).

Broadly the young gave all the other candidates negative scores, ranging from a low of -14.9 for Matt Baggott to a high of -1.1 for Martin McGuinness.

Peter Robinson scored almost as badly as the Chief Constable among younger voters. He got -14.3, the worst score of any politician, but was closely followed by the Secretary of State who was rated at -13.4.

In terms of religion, Protestants showed more disillusion, rating all the candidates lower than their Catholic counterparts.

For instance, Peter Robinson scored -12.9 among Protestants but somewhat better among Catholics, with a rating of -8.8.

Peter Robinson fared badly amongst the DE social groups. In the rating question he scored -16.3 among this poorest section of society, while Martin McGuinness did better on -3.4.

This may reflect the feeling among some DUP analysts that the party is becoming more middle class and is losing its support in loyalist working-class areas.

In the first question, where respondents picked the best party leader, Mr Robinson was chosen by 21% of the DE category, with only Martin McGuinness ahead of him on 21.8%.

One analogy for Mr Robinson's conflicting scores may be support for a football team. Fans may feel their chosen team is performing badly but still support it against the other teams. So lack of support in the scoring question shows disquiet, but voters don't see a better alternative.

Certainly none of the other political leaders did as well in the DE group than Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson. The scores were: Alasdair McDonnell 6.9%, Mike Nesbitt 5.6%, David Ford 3.6%, Basil McCrea 3.2%, Jim Allister 1.6%, David McNarry 0.4% and Stephen Agnew 0%.

Overall, four leaders scored more highly among those who expressed an opinion than the projected votes their parties would win at an election, suggesting that they are an asset to their parties with the potential to increase its vote.

These are their names, with the party and its projected vote in brackets. Peter Robinson 33% (DUP 29.3%), Martin McGuinness 30% (SF 26.1%), Basil McCrea 6% (NI21 4.7%) and Jim Allister 4% (TUV 2.2%).

Leaders who did worse than their parties include Dr Alasdair McDonnell 9% (SDLP 13.8%), Mike Nesbitt 10% (UUP10.8%), David Ford 6% (Alliance 10.2%), David McNarry 0.5% (UKIP 1.6%) and Stephen Agnew 1.1% (Green 1.3%).

One difference between the election voting predictions is that 44% of respondents declined to say how they would vote but only 34% refused to pick a leader in today's questions.

Just 3.5% of Catholics said Peter Robinson was the best hope for Northern Ireland's future, while only 5.4% of Protestants said the same of Martin McGuinness.


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