Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland parties in 'don't know' camp on non-voters

By Bill White

Who are these non-voters? The question has puzzled politicians for decades, and they're on the rise not only in Northern Ireland, but in Southern Ireland, the UK, and other western democracies.

The latest figures from the current Belfast Telegraph-LucidTalk poll, suggest that the Non-Voters are growing again, and are up four points from our last poll in November 2012.

It's always been thought that non-voters are poorer, younger and less educated, however the latest Belfast Telegraph-LucidTalk poll results suggest this isn't the total picture.

It seems that non-voters fit into several groups, or clusters as the US pollsters call them, and that there isn't a single type of non-voter.

These clusters in terms of what the US pollsters have determined are: Doers, Don't Knows, Unplugged, Irritables, and Alienateds.

'The Doers' are probably the most puzzling group of non-voters, as they look more like voters in their attitudes and characteristics than non-voters.

Our poll shows a high number of the 'AB' socio-economic group (high income professionals) are non-voters, and we should perhaps place them in our own 'Doers' cluster. These people are educated and relatively affluent, and are more optimistic about their future than other non-voter clusters.

The main reason this 'Doers' group give for not voting is that they don't think it makes any difference to their lives.

Another group, called the 'Don't Knows', largely ignore politics and public affairs.

The 'Unpluggeds' are disproportionately young and unconnected to news events.

The 'Irritables', are keen information consumers, know what is going on, and are angry.

They are mostly in the 25-64 age-groups and are therefore older on average, than the 'Unpluggeds'.

The 'Alienateds' are angry like the Irritables, yet removed like the 'Don't Knows'.

The Alienateds are not news consumers, and along with the main 'Don't Know' group, they tend to answer 'Don't know/No Opinion' to most of the poll questions.

We can perhaps assume that a high proportion of the 'Irritables' and perhaps some of the 'Alienateds' make up a large part of the flag and parades dispute groups. They could be part of the disconnected 'DE' socio-economic group (low income, unemployed) based in loyalist working-class areas in the east.

So, what non-voting clusters should political parties target?

The parties, particularly currently on the unionist side, seem to be working hard on the 'Irritables' and 'Alienateds' as these are the groups most active in the parades, culture, and flags disputes.

But perhaps our local political parties should target the 'Doers' and 'Unplugged' clusters.

These two groups will be key to any future election success.


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