Growing number of Sinn Fein voters oppose abstentionist policy, poll finds
The number of Sinn Fein voters who think the party should take its seats in Westminster has grown significantly, according to a new opinion poll.
The finding comes after Catholic weekly The Tablet called for the House of Commons' oath of allegiance to be modified in order that Irish republicans can take their seats.
A leader column in the international weekly calls for a similar oath to that at Stormont, where MLAs promise to obey the law rather than pledging allegiance to the British monarch.
The LucidTalk survey of those who have voted for Sinn Fein at any stage in the last five years, published by The Irish News, shows support for the party's abstentionist policy has dropped from almost complete unanimity to just over three quarters (75.9%).
When the same survey was undertaken in late 2017, only 1.6% of Sinn Fein voters said the party's MPs should take their seats, whereas the latest survey shows 20.6% advocated a policy shift.
However, the party has long said it will not change its policy of Sinn Fein MPs refusing to sit in Westminster, despite the party's vote share falling by 6.7% in the last general election.
LucidTalk's Bill White told The Irish News the poll results reveal Sinn Fein's voter base had moved but not enough to prompt a rethink by the party's leadership.
"This can be viewed as big change, as although there's still a big majority for the abstentionism policy, the minority of Sinn Fein voters who think this policy should be dropped has grown from under 5% to now around 20%, compared to when we last polled the Sinn Fein voter base on this issue over two years ago," he said.
"Though it has to be said that there are still over three out of four Sinn Fein voters who still support the party's policy on abstention from Westminster, so on these figures the party leadership couldn't change this policy at this stage without causing a split".
Belfast Telegraph Digital