It is often argued that local politicians don’t reflect what the people want. However, the latest opinion poll seems to show that the debates within and between the different parties reflects public opinion and it is a mixed bag for government too.In the latest poll support for St Andrews is the largest group (49%) but below an outright majority. Public wariness/scepticism remains strong at 38% while opposition is lowest at 12%. In comparison with the Hearts and Minds poll (pdf file) both support and opposition is down, 5% and 11% respectively, with a corresponding rise in unsures of 15%. Outright support for St Andrews is also unevenly spread, 60% support among Catholics but 43% among Protestants. The general lack of enthusiam is reflected in a continuing scepticism that it will not work and how successful the Paisley and McGuinness working relationship will be.
On devolution of policing and justice, a majority of Catholics are in favour but a minority of Protestants. On policing it appears Protestants want to see action but a quarter of Catholics are looking further reforms before Sinn Fein joins.
All parties and government can take some comfort in a decline in outright opposition but the high degree of uncertainty among the public gives little room for complacency and plenty of people that need convinced. The DUP argument that St Andrews is a significant success does not seem to have impacted on Protestant opinion and despite Hain’s claims about ‘DUP backbenchers’ they are clearly reflecting widely held concerns. On the basis of the poll the DUP needs to show some delivery on its outstanding issues to impact on attitudes. Sinn Fein still has a small rump of outright opposition but more noticeable is the quarter of Catholics that do not think enough has been achieved on policing for a shift in position. Despite a drop, opponents of St Andrews could still make significant gains if they got the 12% opposition to the polls.
Government will take heart from the majority support for acting tough if it doesn’t work but the lack of wholehearted support or enthusiam means the parties will not be fearing an electoral backlash if it doesn’t.
Links repaired – hat tip Nevin and Pete.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Both polls claim to have a representative sample of the population. The Belfast Telegraph Poll was conducted in November and December 2006. The Hearts and Mind poll focused upon party preference of respondents while the Ipsos/Mori poll focused upon religious background. The two surveys asked similar but different questions so this could account for variations.
PS I am looking feedback on my blogging here.