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Bill White

Unionist voters still split between DUP, UUP and TUV as Sinn Fein hold comfortable lead

Bill White


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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Credit: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

So, the results are in from our Winter 2022 NI ‘Tracker’ poll, and we see that Sinn Fein are still comfortably in the lead as Northern Ireland’s (NI) largest party on a projected 25% vote share, up 1 point from our Autumn poll last November.

The DUP are down one point in second place at 17%, and are 8 points behind Sinn Fein. With the UUP on 14%, and the TUV on 12%, it could be said the unionist vote is still split three ways with the DUP a bit in the lead.

It should be noted that this poll was run exactly at the time that the dual-mandates story was raging, and this may have impacted, and held back, the DUP poll score from advancing. We also ran a poll question about dual-mandates (also known as double-jobbing) which showed that 76% of NI were against ‘double-jobbing’. DUP voters were split on the issue – 47% were OK with dual-mandates, but 41% of DUP voters were against. This 41% is a chunky number to be against the policy, taking into account these are the DUP’s own voters saying this! Yes, the DUP can say this proposed change of policy on dual-mandates came from the UK government, but it looked as if the DUP were involved in some sort of ‘deal’, to give them an advantage in this Mays NI Assembly election. This may be unfair – but perception is everything in politics, and this dual-mandates debacle has undoubtedly been harmful to the DUP and impacted their poll score.

Sinn Fein are now trending upwards (albeit slightly) but are still not reaching the heights of their polls scores in the South, which are 30%+ in all the polls. The SDLP are down one point at 11%, though this shows their vote-base is pretty solid, as they have now been polling around this 11%-13% level for a very long time.

Alliance are also down 1 % point on 14%. This could be because they seem to be losing some of their ‘soft unionist’, or what is also known as ‘small-u’ unionist voters, to the UUP. This sector of what were Alliance voters, are perhaps finding the UUP are now more attractive, taking into account the liberal policy agenda and image that the new UUP leader Doug Beattie seems to be promoting. Doug Beattie also has the advantage that he, once again, gets the most positive score in our ‘leader ratings’ poll question – on a score of +14. Not an overwhelming positive score (our scores range from +100 to -100), but all the other party leaders had negative scores, with Boris Johnson scoring a very negative -82 from the NI public, in terms of his performance! Indeed, taking into account all the current news around the PM we also polled on whether he should resign, and it showed 78% of NI think he should!

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The TUV have gone up 1pt to 12% and have now been polling at around this 10%+ level over the period of our last 3-4 quarterly polls. This shows they have consolidated a fairly solid base way beyond what they achieved in the 2017 NI Assembly election. However, compared to the DUP and UUP, the TUV have more limited resources, so whether they can hold onto this support through the heat of the election campaign remains to be seen.

The Green party are up 1 point, with perhaps their small advance being down to attracting some voters from Alliance. ‘Others – Independents’ are also up 1 point.

So all-in-all, not much change from our Autumn poll (November 2021), with the key point coming out of the poll still being that the DUP, UUP and TUV are sharing the unionist vote in such a way that it is allowing Sinn Fein to hold a comfortable 8 point poll lead.


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