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Northern Ireland wants Clegg to be the next Prime Minister

By David Gordon

The Nick Clegg effect has even reached Northern Ireland, with the Liberal Democrat leader emerging as the man most people here want as the next Prime Minister.

A Belfast Telegraph poll has indicated that just over a third of voters in the province would like to see Mr Clegg as the next occupant of 10 Downing Street.

His 34% tally compared to 30% for David Cameron and just 23% for Gordon Brown.

The Liberal Democrat leader has enjoyed a poll ratings surge in recent weeks following strong performances in televised TV debates with his Conservative and Labour counterparts.

The poll also revealed a sharp difference between Protestants and Catholics over the prospect of David Cameron becoming Prime Minister.

Thirty-seven per cent of Protestants surveyed said they wanted the Conservative leader to win the race to power, but only 18% of Catholics held the same view.

Mr Cameron actually had the highest rating of the three party leaders among Protestants — just ahead of Mr Clegg on 34%.

For Catholics, he was by far the least favourite option, with his 18% showing a full eight percentage points behind second placed Gordon Brown.

The Liberal Democrat leader scored highest among Catholics, with 35% wanting him as next Prime Minister.

The poll was predominantly conducted before Mr Brown had his Rochdale “disaster” on Wednesday, when he was recorded describing a 66-year-old grandmother as a “bigoted woman”.

Mr Clegg's climbing poll ratings in Britain have been one of the stories of the General Election battle to date.

The “Clegg effect” began two weeks ago when he was hailed as the clear winner in the historic first televised debate between the party leaders.

The Liberal Democrats do not contest elections in Northern Ireland, although they have fraternal links to the Alliance Party. Gordon Brown's party also does not seek votes here, while the Tories have forged an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionists.

The poll was conducted by Inform Communications between April 22 and 29, with a total of 3,200 people interviewed.

Next Tuesday, the poll's findings on the General Election candidates throughtout the whole of Northern Ireland will be published. These will provide a fascinating snapshot of voting intentions across the province's 18 constituencies, ahead of the actual poll on Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph

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