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DUP and Sinn Fein still dominate votes as SDLP and UUP play catch-up

By Liam Clarke

The DUP and Sinn Fein are set to maintain their domination of politics in Northern Ireland.

The two main parties will keep their lead over the UUP and SDLP in next year's general election, the Belfast Telegraph poll has revealed.

The UUP will be pleased to have scored nearly twice the Alliance total of 6.2%, but disappointed to have fallen behind the SDLP, for whom 15.1% of respondents intended voting.

The poll asked respondents: "Assuming all political parties run in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies at the Westminster election in May next year, which political party do you currently intend to vote for in that election?"

This can only be taken as a guide to party support on the day of polling because next year all parties will not run in all constituencies. Smaller parties will run only in some, and on the unionist side there is talk of pacts between the UUP and DUP to run joint candidates or support each other in constituencies like East Belfast and South Belfast.

This will distort the picture, but it was impossible to make allowances for it because the candidates have not yet declared. The easiest result to compare this poll to is probably the European election this year when Northern Ireland was a single constituency, so all voters had the opportunity to support each of the main parties.

Don't knows (DKs) have been excluded from the overall figures because they are unlikely to vote.

The results of the poll, with European election first preferences in brackets are DUP 25.9% (20.9); Sinn Fein 24.0% (25.5); UUP = 11.8% (13.3), SDLP 15.1% (13); Alliance 6.2% (7.1); TUV = 5.2% (12.1); Green Party 0.5% (1.7); UKIP = 0.9% (3.9); NI21 = 0.4% (1.7), and Others 10% (0.7).

The fall in the TUV vote could be attributed to the fact that the party's leader Jim Allister, who has name recognition and a high profile across Northern Ireland, was standing in the European contest. The only "other" in the European contest was Mark Brotherston of the Conservatives. In a Westminster election, others might also include smaller parties like People Before Profit and Lady Sylvia Hermon, who holds the North Down seat with a comfortable majority.

Until this point the figures have excluded DKs to give an overall picture. From now on they will be included.

In Lady Sylvia's constituency of North Down, a quarter of those surveyed (24.8%) said they intended voting for "others", by far the highest in any area, though she got 63.3% in the last Westminster election. Thirty-two per cent of people surveyed in North Down believed the best constituency service was provided by "others".

Voters across Northern Ireland were asked to say who provided the best constituency service in their area, regardless of who they voted for. The two big parties came out top (DUP 17.6% and Sinn Fein 19.1%), but Alliance (15.9%) and the SDLP (13.7%) scored well amongst the smaller parties. The UUP scored 7.7%, TUV 6.6%, Ukip 1.3% and the Greens 0.4%.

In this poll the DKs came to 30% of the electorate compared to around 40% in our last opinion poll and just under 50% non voters in the European election.

Further reading:

How our poll was carried out

Polling was carried out by Belfast-based polling and market research company LucidTalk. The project involved interviewing a random sample of 1,089 Northern Ireland residents, aged 18+. The sample of 1,089 was carefully selected to be demographically representative of the residents within the targeted geographic area i.e. Northern Ireland.

Polling took place from September 11-24 this year. The project used 20 poll questions agreed with the Belfast Telegraph and other poll project partners. All poll questions were agreed with the project partners, and also to British Polling Council (BPC), and professional market research standards, to ensure neutrality and balance.

All data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-2.9%, at 95% confidence, All reported margins of sampling error will include the computed design effects for weighting.

LucidTalk is a member of all recognised professional polling and market research organisations.

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