Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph poll: There's something for everyone to feel positive about

Analysis by Bill White

Well the fur's flying! The trouble with polling is the results will never please everyone, and that has certainly been the case with this week's Belfast Telegraph-LucidTalk poll.

In terms of the party political poll I've had complaints that the NI21 poll-score is unrealistic and too high, the UUP too low, this, that, and the other, and that additional parties should have been included in the poll as choices.

To clear up this latter point, it is normal polling policy to only include political parties who are currently in the legislative body referred to in the poll, in this case the NI Assembly. As such we did not include parties like e.g. the PUP or NI Conservatives.

In any case we offered a choice of nine parties (yes nine!) to our poll respondents, and you can appreciate that on a practical level this is more than enough for any of us to consider in one go! Indeed it shows the fragmented nature of politics here, particularly on the unionist side.

If we had included the NI Conservatives and PUP then we would have had 11 parties in the poll.

It's worth noting that only two of these 11 would have been nationalist/republican, with eight of the other nine being unionist parties of one type or another (not defining the Alliance party as unionist).

The NI21 poll score has been criticised as being unrealistically high. However, I did not find their poll score surprising.

It is normal for new parties to score well as there is a novelty factor and some people, subconsciously, like to be associated with something new or the latest thing. The trick for NI21 is to keep and build on this support level, and it remains to be seen whether they can do this.

Regarding the UUP poll score, if you drill down into where their support comes from you find that they have made gains from the DUP in unionist heartlands like east Belfast, North Down, South and East Antrim.

However, countering these gains is the fact that they've recently lost two MLAs – Basil McCrea and John McCallister, who have formed NI21.

Both McCrea and McCallister have strong personal followings in their constituencies, and the UUP should realise that you can't take such a loss (equivalent to David Cameron losing 40 of his MPs), and expect your poll-score to increase, at least in the short term.

Considering the loss of McCrea and McCallister, along with David McNarry before that, the fact that the UUP poll-score has remained approximately stable at 10.8 could be viewed as an achievement.

The other parties can all take something from their poll-scores, with the Alliance remaining roughly the same on 10.2, and the SDLP making a small advance.

The DUP were down a point, with Sinn Fein down a half a point, but both can be pleased that they are keeping their large solid leads as the two major parties in NI politics.

The DUP's poll score is just about good enough for them to consider running two candidates in next year's European election, however as the DUP know, there are many other factors to consider in making this decision, apart from poll ratings.

Bill White is managing director of Belfast-based Polling and Market Research company LucidTalk — polling partners to the Belfast Telegraph

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