Belfast Telegraph

What does Northern Ireland think of their political leaders?

By Bill White

Everyone complains about politicians and especially political leaders - well at least it seems that way.

So we thought it a good idea for our recent October BIG60 online poll to ask our poll participants to grade each of the NI Executive political party leaders from 0 to 100 in terms of their overall performance.

The party leader poll question we asked was: Taken 'in the round' - How do you rate each of the NI Executive Political Party Leaders performance over the past 2-3 months e.g. leadership, decisions made, media performance, etc.

You may have seen in previous reviews of our NI-Wide BIG60 (i.e. 60 Hours) online poll that we received a whopping 2,642 responses, and after data auditing we considered 2,517 in terms of the final results and analysis. 

So here is how our poll scored Northern Ireland's key political leaders. NB this poll was taken of course, before last Saturday's change of SDLP leadership, and we decided (properly) not to publish these results in full until the SDLP leadership election was over. 

So here are the results from the total poll, balanced and weighted to be reflective of Northern Ireland as a whole:

ni table 1.png

So we see that all the scores averaged out at less than 40! As may be recalled from schooldays the pass mark for exams was usually 40%, and in this context none of our key political leaders 'passed' the Northern Ireland opinion test.

It's interesting to note that Mike Nesbitt came out on top with a score of 37.2, and was practically joint top with Martin McGuinness who scored 36. Alasdair McDonnell was the lowest score, and noticeably Peter Robinson was second lowest, only 4 points above McDonnell. 

So how did Unionist voters, on their own, score the political leaders - here's how: PETER ROBINSON (DUP) 24.0, MARTIN MCGUINNESS (Sinn Fein) 25.5, MIKE NESBITT (UUP) 46.5, ALASDAIR MCDONNELL (SDLP) 14.5, DAVID FORD (ALLIANCE) 22.0.

We see that Mike Nesbitt is way ahead, and nearly double Peter Robinson's score.

Interestingly Martin McGuinness scores ahead of Peter Robinson among Unionist voters, though only marginally (and within the poll margin of error).

Remember, if you look at the actual poll question we asked participants to disregard their own personal political views when scoring the political leaders.

 However, although not directly related to his performance as a party leader, the recent publicity around 'other issues' connected with Peter Robinson, undoubtledly has had an impact on his score.        

Here is the way Nationalists/Republicans (ie SDLP, Sinn Fein voters) scored the political leaders: PETER ROBINSON (DUP) 18.4, MARTIN MCGUINNESS (Sinn Fein) 53.3, MIKE NESBITT (UUP) 30.7, ALASDAIR MCDONNELL (SDLP) 28.3, DAVID FORD (ALLIANCE) 39.1.

Not surprisingly Martin McGuinness leads, with David Ford second, but in a sort of reverse of the unionist scores Mike Nesbitt surprisingly scored ahead of Alasdair McDonnell among Nationalist/Republican voters.   

David Ford scores well overall, but noticably he scores better among Nationalist/Republicans than Unionists.

Undoubtedly overall Mike Nesbitt and Martin McGuinness are the winners in this leaders poll.

However, taking into account that Martin McGuinness is a leader of one of the 'Big Two' parties (at least in NI) then it could be said that Mike Nesbitt is the main winner.

Of course, like politics and life,  this can all change, and for our next leader rating poll-project Colum Eastwood will be on the roster as the new SDLP leader - so we'll see if that affects the scoring.       

Bill White is Managing Director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk.  You can follow LucidTalk on Twitter: @LucidTalk.


Polling was carried out by Belfast based polling and market research company LucidTalk. The project was carried out online for a period of 60Hours from 10am Monday 19th October to 10pm Wednesday 21st October 2015. The project used a combination of participants from the established LucidTalk Opinion Panel (1,200 members) which is NI demographically representative and balanced by gender, age-group, area of residence, and community background. In addition respondents for this survey were also selected from among those who were either invited or volunteered to participate. In total 2,642 completed responses were received and after data auditing 2,517 completed responses were included in the data and results analysis. The data has been weighted by gender and community background to reflect the demographic composition of Northern Ireland. Because the sample is partly based on those who initially self-selected for participation rather than a probability sample, sampling error can be higher than a standard targeted sample poll.

In addition, all surveys and polls may be subject to sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error. All data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-3.9%, at 95% confidence. All reported margins of sampling error will include the computed design effects for weighting.

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