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Disaster for DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson as Sinn Fein extends lead to eight points

DUP chief the least popular leader in NI by a considerable margin

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Survey: Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Brian Lawless

Survey: Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Brian Lawless

Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Michelle O'Neill. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

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Survey: Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Brian Lawless

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson faces a major challenge to be First Minister as DUP support has fallen again with Sinn Fein opening up an 8% lead over its rival.

With her party on 25%, Michelle O’Neill is on course to secure Stormont’s top job after May’s Assembly election, according to a LucidTalk opinion poll for the Belfast Telegraph.

On 17%, the DUP is down by one point — and Sinn Fein is up by the same — since our last poll in November.

The Ulster Unionists and Alliance are jostling for third spot, both on 14%.

The Beattie bounce has flattened out, with UUP support unchanging from the autumn. Naomi Long’s party is down, and the Greens up, by one point.

Jim Allister’s hope of securing company on Stormont’s benches remains alive, with TUV support also up one point to 12%.

By contrast, Colum Eastwood will be disappointed to be making no inroads with either Sinn Fein or Alliance supporters. The SDLP is down one point to 11% — its lowest rating in our last six polls.

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A total of 3,112 people took part in the poll last weekend, with the sample weighted to reflect the Northern Ireland population.

It was held as the DUP leader was embroiled in controversy over the government’s proposal to reintroduce double-jobbing in Northern Ireland.

The plan, which has since been dropped by the Tories, proved deeply unpopular.

Three-quarters of people were against it, with overwhelming opposition among supporters of all the main parties except the DUP, whose voters who were split on it.

Sir Jeffrey is the most unpopular local party leader by a considerable margin. Some 70% of voters think he is doing a bad or awful job, including 54% of unionists — up by 13 points from November.

Both Doug Beattie and Jim Allister scored significantly higher among unionists, with only 29% and 34% of voters rating them negatively as leaders.

A meagre 15% of people believe that Sir Jeffrey is doing a good or great job.

Michelle O’Neill, who is not well-rated in the poll, still scores twice as high as Donaldson.

While support for his party is stationary, Beattie’s personal rating remains very strong. With 43% of people thinking he is doing a good or great job, he is the most popular local party leader.

Naomi Long (38%) takes second spot, followed by Colum Eastwood (36%).

Michelle O’Neill lags behind on 29% as she remains deeply unpopular with unionists, three-quarters of whom rate her performance as bad or awful, but only 12% of nationalists say the same.

Sir Jeffrey is the most unpopular local politician with nationalist voters — a staggering 94% believe that he is doing a bad or awful job, which is three points higher than even Jim Allister scores.

Some 81% of Alliance and Green supporters rate the DUP leader negatively, while only 32% view the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister in the same light.

The prospect of reintroducing double-jobbing did not go down well with the public — 76% are against it.

Sinn Fein voters were the most opposed, with 95% saying it was wrong, along with 93% of Alliance, 92% of SDLP and 77% of Ulster Unionist supporters.

The DUP was the only party which had more voters in favour of the proposal than against it — 47% supported bringing back double-jobbing, with 41% opposed.

Two years after the return of devolution, the public remain unimpressed with Stormont.

The Executive as a whole scores poorly, with just 13% of voters saying it is doing a good or great job and 57% branding its performance bad or awful.

Unionists are much more disillusioned than any other group — 67% rate the Executive negatively compared to 41% of nationalists and 48% of Alliance and Green voters.

There is no vote of confidence in either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State. Some 88% of voters here believe Boris Johnson is doing a bad or awful job, and 72% say the same of Brandon Lewis.

Methodology: how the poll was conducted and the findings obtained

Polling was carried out online from 1pm on January 14 to noon on January 17, using the established LucidTalk Northern Ireland online opinion panel (13,816 members), which is balanced to be demographically representative of Northern Ireland.

Some 3,426 full responses were received, and these were then audited and weighted to a 3,112 responses NI representative data-set used for analysis in terms of the final results.

The final data-results were then weighted by age, gender, socio-economic group, previous voting patterns, constituency, NI constitutional position, political-party support, and religious affiliation. All results are accurate in terms of being NI representative to within an error of +/-2.3% at 95% confidence.

LucidTalk is a member of the British Polling Council (BPC) and abides by its regulations. As per BPC regulations, the full Data-Tables for this poll-project will be published on the LucidTalk website from January 25. These will include full methodology, and the weighted and unweighted data for each question.

LucidTalk is the only NI (and Ireland) based polling and market research company that is a member of the British Polling Council.


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