Mind the gap : Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey and Reality

The Northern Ireland Life and Time surveys are often quoted in debates on Northern Ireland, so it might be an instructive exercise to compare how the survey on political attitudes stacks up against the harsh reality of the results of a ballot – last weeks European elections in Northern Ireland.Reality Gap 1

NILT says 40% of people in Northern Ireland do not regard themselves as Unionist or Nationalist

European Elections say 8.8% of voters vote for parties that are not Unionist or Nationalist.

With a Single Transferrable Vote, voters could have voted for their non-tribal party of choice, before transferring to their least worst tribal candidate.

Reality Gap 2

NILT says There are 50% more Unionists than Nationalists in Northern Ireland (12 is 50% of 24)

European Elections say There are 16% more Unionist voters than Nationalist voters in Northern Ireland. (6.8 is 16.11% of 42.2)

Reality Gap 3

NILT says their margin of error is +/- 2.85%!


Despite the low turn out there were 486,914 more participants in the European elections than in the NILT survey.

Adds: The inspiration for this entry was a conversion with Andrew Gallagher here

  • Reader

    Mack: With a Single Transferrable Vote, voters could have voted for their non-tribal party of choice, before transferring to their least worst tribal candidate.
    That’s the liberals and greens sorted out, but what about conservatives, socialists, euro-sceptics and social-democrats?
    Mack: NILT says their margin of error is +/- 2.85%!
    Ask a different question, get a different answer.

  • fin

    Can someone explain what makes the Alliance Party non-sectarian, wikipedia describes them

    “The Party’s founding principles were expressly in favour of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, although in contrast to the Unionist parties, this was expressed in socio-economic rather than ethnic terms. It also placed great emphasis on the consent principle and therefore only supported the Northern Ireland’s position within the UK as long as the people of NI wished it.”

    Has this change, because otherwish they are exactly the same as any unionist pro-agreement party.

    ‘NILT says There are 50% more Unionists than Nationalists in Northern Ireland (12 is 50% of 24)’

    The most amazing stat is that across the age groups the % of people claiming to be nationalist remains consistant, however for unionists the younger the age the more those claiming to be unionist drops dramatically and the more claiming to be neither rises sharply, it appears that young people don’t want to be unionist. Good news for a united Ireland

  • For the benefit of those who haven’t read the discussion between Mack and me in Another Place, I’ll repeat what I said there:

    I find it quite easy to believe that many people who consider themselves as “neither Unionist nor Nationalist” may vote for a Unionist or Nationalist candidate come polling day. I also find it easy to believe that a greater proportion of the self-describing “neither” category are which-primary-school “Nationalists” as opposed to which-primary-school “Unionists”.

    Just because someone votes for a Unionist party does not mean that they consider themselses a Unionist – it just means that they would rather the Unionist candidate win the election than some other candidate. In the current era of political domination by the extremes (and obsession with getting more first-preference votes regardless of their utility) it is not surprising that “neither” voters may be tempted to vote for soft Unionist or Nationalist candidates to prevent the extremes from gaining political ground.

    In short, I don’t agree that Mack’s “reality gap” really exists…

  • voter

    Taking a mild position on the constitutional question makes you sectarian? Are you demented?

  • Sorry, I meant to say “people who consider themselves neither” rather than “neither voters” in the penultimate sentence above. Where’s the edit button when you need it?

    And “fin” – how does Alliance’s statement of its constitutional position differ from that of /any/ pro-Agreement party?

  • Mark McGregor

    The main reason I continually treat the NILT survey as a piece of rubbish is the only verifiable aspect is always miles away from the only figure that is tested in a much wider demographic.

    Have a look at their which party do you identify with section over the years, compare it with election results and witness polling that has demonstrably major sampling issues.

    When the only one you can check is so far out the rest of their findings become immediately questionable.

    If you believe their data we have lived in a stable society governed by the SDLP, UUP and Alliance for over a decade. A nonsense poll.

  • Mark McGregor

    Sorry, should add – the ‘leaked’ secret polling of the NIO before elections that used to take place or the Belfast Tel polls pre-election (now discontinued) that showed equalling stupid results when tested run the NILT a close 2nd.

  • Mack

    Andrew, Reader –

    I don’t think non-tribal parties have ever come close to achieving that proportion of the vote. If that consitutuency does exist, why hasn’t it produced more parties, candidates and votes?

  • otto jaffe

    Maybe the Tory thing and Alban’s socialism and desire to serve all ‘the people of Northern Ireland’ are an indication that the 42% of people that don’t vote DUP,TUV or SF do demand at least the pretence of cross-community feeling.

  • fin

    And “fin” – how does Alliance’s statement of its constitutional position differ from that of /any/ pro-Agreement party?

    Hold on Andrew, that was the question I asked!!

    But Otto, I see you’re here, we crossed briefly on Micks elction day feed. I’m not trying to bait you but you seem quite adamant that the Allaince is not a unionist party and I don’t understand that position, especially after reading their wiki posting, is it incorrect?

  • Claire Mitchell

    I don’t think you can compare a survey with election results.

    The NILTS survey samples a cross-section of everybody in NI, not just the half of the population that vote. Research shows that people with a ‘neither’ identity feel politically alienated, and therefore may tend not to vote. This helps explain why unionists and nationalists always outpoll moderates at elections.

    But there is a more important reason for the difference, and that we always like to see ourselves as nice people, so moderate views are always always over-represented in surveys (‘are you a racist?’ – of course not…). Even though surveys are anonymous, people don’t like to admit to extreme views. It’s not necessarily that they’re lying, they’re just trying to give a good account of themselves – and this can coexist with or be overridden by more extreme gut reactions in the polling booth.

    Added to that a bit of tactical voting….

    Neither the NILTS or elections give the ‘real’ picture – they just measure different things.

  • “If that consitutuency does exist, why hasn’t it produced more parties, candidates and votes?”

    Mack, it’s the timeless hollowing-out of the centre effect. Nobody will vote for a party that they don’t think anyone else will vote for. STV doesn’t get rid of the “wasted vote” argument – the political establishment still obsesses over who tops the poll. Also, most “neither” people still have a gut preference for one side or the other, and are reluctant to venture out of the trench for fear the “other” lot don’t. This has all been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere.

    The real question should be “what can we do about it?”

    “Hold on Andrew, that was the question I asked!!”

    Er, not exactly. 🙂

  • Junior Apparatchik

    FIN

    Alliance changed its position mid-90s – and its support fell dramatically, interestingly!

    ANDREW

    All good points – tho I still think the survey is nonsense, as showed by the political party question.

  • Arty Renny

    Or quite simply, people lie through their teeth to people carrying out these survies

  • fin

    Thanks Junior, your obviously not an Alliance member as from recent experience Alliance supporters could actually teach the Provos (historically off course) a thing or two about not giving anything away.

    I know I may be pushing my luck here but what is the Alliances position on the union at the moment?

  • 0b101010

    This is daft. Apples and oranges. A survey and an election are clearly not the same.

    The original post bases everything on the assumption that a vote for a Unionist or Nationalist party makes the voter a Unionist or Nationalist; that the electorate can only be made up of single-issue automatons.

    Do you really think those that place more truck in socialism/capitalism/libertarianism/conservatism than nationalism would only vote Alliance or Green? That if you care more about the quality and flavour of governance than the name of the country that will take your taxes, then your politics must be neutered?

  • Mack

    42 / meaning of life? / 0b101010 –

    If such a large constituency existed, surely members of that constituency would organise or vote for non-tribal parties that did inspire them when they came along?

    Now witness the abject failure of the non-tribal socialist Workers Party, The Socialist Workers Party, the capitalist Conservative Party, the fall off in the SDLP vote in it’s ‘post-nationalist phase’.

  • Mack

    Claire –

    Of course you can – it is absolutely disingenuous to suggest that votes cast by almost 500,000 people are less indicative of the will of the people (and broad society) than a survey of almost 2,000 (some of whom also didn’t fill in their forms). Do you really place more faith in the competence of the surveyors than the ballot box?

    Surveys are notoriously prone to bias errors.

    On higher turn outs voting patterns have been the same. Non-sectarian parties – and many more have stood in the past than just the two today – and have completely and utterly failed to garner that level of support.

    Incidentally, the survey also suggest 50% more Unionists. That also doesn’t ring true.

    —-

    Never mind, these nasty voters keep electing the wrong people. Still we have the survey, it is correct. We can derive the mandate from that – great stuff! Now I’m off to an appointment in Pyongyang…

  • IJP

    fin

    To answer your question as an Alliance member (obviously!), as I said during the election campaign:

    The Alliance Party was the first party to advocate power-sharing devolution within the UK with cross-border bodies – and it continues to advocate it. The party’s focus is on making devolution and the cross-border bodies work more effectively

    I’ll leave you know to answer Andrew‘s question about how that differs from any other party in the Assembly.

  • IJP

    By the way, at least one person actually wrote “The answer is 42” on the ballot paper last Thursday – a Sluggerette, perchance? 🙂

  • Mack

    Andrew –

    The real question should be “what can we do about it?”

    Well, I thought in your original blog you were very insightful in suggesting we needed a few broad churches inverted from the typical NI experience, of broad left / right and focused on the border – to broad nationalist / unionist and focused on economic & social issues (left / right).

    I think that’s more useful, more based in reality, than pretending there are large numbers of non-Unionists and non-Nationalists in NI.

    I certainly would not base any commercial decisions (such as investing money in a new political party), based on a survey that seems very divorced from political reality.

  • Mack

    Claire –

    Apologies, I responded primarily to the first part of your comment.

    I don’t think that the survey is completely without value, I agree (at least I think you are saying this in the second part), that it’s not accurate. In particular it doesn’t match up with voting intentions or votes cast. My issue with it, is primarily that it’s used by people in debates on NI to give primacy to certain views over and above views actually expressed by the electorate.

  • Claire Mitchell

    Mack – of course surveys aren’t perfect, and some can be really flawed, and response rates affect the results, and people interpret the questions differently, and all of that. But it doesn’t make them useless either. They do give us a picture of how people in NI like to see themselves – in this case maybe as more moderate than they are – and they do include people who don’t vote – in this last election more than half (and 48% in 2007 said that they are not very/not at all interested in politics). Very few of my friends voted, for example, but their views still matter in terms of how it feels to live here.

    Of course voting ultimately matters more, as it determines who actually runs the show. But if you’re interested in society in general, then surveys are really useful – as long as you can interpret them, rather than taking them as fact.

    I’m not sure where this 50% of unionists come from. In 2007, 36% said they were unionists (24% nationalists and 40% either). This seems a bit low for u/n, but not crazy either, given the tendency to over-egg moderate views.

    I’m just going on about it of course because a survey popped through my own door this year ; )

  • Claire Mitchell

    40% either – LOL – 40% Neither!

  • Claire Mitchell

    Mack – we sent those at the same time.

    Agreed!

  • kensei

    They do give us a picture of how people in NI like to see themselves

    Actually, no. It tells us how people here like to tell others when asked, or what they think other people want to hear. As Turgon has pointed out with the TUV, people will simply lie.

    If the results fo a survey cannot be trusted, it is of completely limited worth. Rather than defend it, time would be better spent working out better polling techniques.

    Very few of my friends voted, for example, but their views still matter in terms of how it feels to live here.

    Actually, no, if they don’t vote their views are worthless. You can, if…. and but… if you wish, but in the final analysis that is the truth. Perhaps if more people got this into their heads, we’d have more than a 40% turnout.

  • Mack

    Claire –

    The 50% stat refers the relative difference in size. 36% say they are Unionist which is 50% bigger than the 24% who say they are Nationalist – which is a much bigger gap than the differential in elections.

  • Claire Mitchell

    thanks Mack – read that stat too fast.

    kensei – the fact that people lie in surveys though still tells you a lot about society. no data should be ‘trusted’ as such, but instead analysed on its own terms. that’s too flaky if you want concrete facts, but i’m a sociologist so i think it’s interesting why people say the things they do (and then behave in a different way). normally, i much prefer interviews and ethnography to surveys, but these bring their own problems. all ‘facts’ are generated by humans and all have a degree of bias, no matter how amazing your polling technique.

    as for my friends who didn’t vote – i agree – numpties – i told them so! but they are still part of the society we live in, if it’s society and not just politics you want to understand.

  • kensei

    Claire

    kensei – the fact that people lie in surveys though still tells you a lot about society. no data should be ‘trusted’ as such, but instead analysed on its own terms.

    No. When political surveys are run in England or the Republic, peole will debate the minuate but will have a reasonable level of confidence that the answers given are in the right ballpark. Outliers are exposed through repeated application.

    It might be interesting to know that people lie throught heir teeth, but its not actually much use in answering the actual questions asked.

    all ‘facts’ are generated by humans and all have a degree of bias, no matter how amazing your polling technique.

    Spoken like a true sociology student. But it is nonsense. Yes, surveys are prone to biases. But small biases aere not the same as big biases. And people spend an awful lot of time refining their sampling techniques and their data set, and continually referencing them to verifiable reality to improve them. At least, they do elsewhere. But apparently not here.

    Less waffle, more rigour is required.

  • Claire Mitchell

    erm, i’m a senior lecturer in sociology – not that that is much to boast about. I know though that a lot of my colleagues agree that surveys in NI are not unique – there are similar issues everywhere (racist views in Britain, church attendance in Ireland etc.)

    I think in this town, less polemics and more nuance is required.

  • Driftwood

    all ‘facts’ are generated by humans and all have a degree of bias

    So Newton’s 2nd law of Thermodynamics, for instance, has a degree of bias?

    Explain how please.

  • kensei

    erm, i’m a senior lecturer in sociology

    In which case I would have hoped for better.

    I think in this town, less polemics and more nuance is required.

    To get anywhere, you need solid data and a solid base. That is not the NILT. If you want to cite something deeply flawed like the NILT survey, you have to first establish where it is going wrong, what it’s biases are and what you can and cannot trust from it. That is the only type of nuance I rate. Otherwise you are simply as polemical and conjecture driven as the rest of us.

  • ta da!

    Actually you’re all wrong and this works just fine. In the NI electorate there is a population of 40% which behaves exactly as the general GB electorate.

    In the UK 14% of the electorate vote liberal, 9% Green, 28% Tory, 17% UKIP, 16% Labour, 16% Other.

    Pro-rating by 40% you get

    Liberal 5.6% (Alliance took 5.5%)
    Green 3.6% (Greens took 3.3%)

    The Non-aligned Tories and Labour are forced to vote for other parties or not at all but the Liberal and Green votes are pretty much spot on.

  • Claire Mitchell

    driftwood – i meant social facts – things to do with attitudes and opinions that are a touch on the subjective side.

    kensei – in all seriousness if you have concrete suggestions that would improve the survey you should get in touch with the people that run it – they’re always trying to make it better.

  • kensei

    Claire

    kensei – in all seriousness if you have concrete suggestions that would improve the survey you should get in touch with the people that run it – they’re always trying to make it better.

    It’s not my job. If I heard a piano out of tue, I could nto tell you how to fix it. But I woudl knwo you should.

    If a poll was produced for an English election that was this out of whack, the polling company would be bust because no paper would pay for a second. It mystifies me why they get away with ti here.

  • tada

    It wasn’t an election poll Kensei. It was an inquiry into people’s sense of identity.

    40% of people just want to live in a functioning, northern european, english speaking, pluralist democracy and don’t really mind whether that’s under the jurisdiction of Dublin within the European Union, or London.

    That doesn’t mean they have to vote Alliance or Green at elections. They’re allowed to be a bit more Conservative or a bit more Egalitarian. That the available parties may not exactly suit them is not their fault and doesn’t make them liars.

  • Mack

    tada –

    I had actually thought your original point was a reasonably funny joke, I’m slightly taken aback that you are serious!!

    Surveys are always attempts to discern what people think, as such they aren’t definitive. (They can get things significantly wrong. When a small survey departs significantly from real life data – trust the real life data.

  • Erasmus

    I see the deomographic stuff has made a predictable appearance here. Here’s my tuppenceworth:
    I think the crunch will come about 2030. There are two probable scenarios:
    1. The nationalist vote keeps rising leading to a pro-UI majority. I can’t see the unionists being any more likely, in this context, to respect to a majority in N.I. then their ancestors were an all-Ireland majority in 1912. They would demand, and in all likelihood get, repartition.
    2. The vote plateaus out and fall short of delivering a pro-UI majority. Nationalists in NI then realise the waiting game is over, cash in their chips when they are at maximum value, and push for repartition. When you think about it those who have propagandised for ages about the logic behind the original partition could not very well resist the same logic being thrown back in their faces in this event. Repartition would then probably come to pass.
    That why I think a lot of the blog wars on the demographic issue are just futile dog-chasing-tail stuff when both of the relevant Robert Frosts roads arrive at the same destination.
    This being the case why not save time, energy, blogosphere space, and general angst and just go straight for it.
    Take a bow, Greenflag (I’m not his sock, BTW).

  • 0b101010

    42 / meaning of life? / 0b101010

    😉

    If such a large constituency existed, surely members of that constituency would organise or vote for non-tribal parties that did inspire them when they came along?

    I fully intended an even more long-winded response but, instead, I’ll mostly defer to tada‘s comments.

    That nationality is not the sole motivator amongst potential voters is precisely the reason, along with general inaction, why the electorate aren’t clammoring to form their own parties. If you don’t consider nationality a major issue, you’re not necessarily going to avoid a party that happens to harp on about it.

    The reason I argue so strongly on the difference between identity and vote is that I’ve put an X or number against all but one of the parties over the years for a variety of reasons — personal politics, the constituency, the candidates, the less evil, etc. My political and nationalistic views scarcely align with any party on the ballots — binary pigeon-holing based on my votes, rather than my comments ;), would be seriously off the mark.

    Now witness the abject failure of the non-tribal socialist Workers Party, The Socialist Workers Party, the capitalist Conservative Party, the fall off in the SDLP vote in it’s ‘post-nationalist phase’.

    That’s why I mentioned the importance quality of governance. Being non-tribal alone doesn’t cut it. Each of those parties you mention have very compelling reasons for their lack of support in the world of Northern Irish politics.

    By the way, at least one person actually wrote “The answer is 42” on the ballot paper last Thursday – a Sluggerette, perchance? 🙂

    If only.

  • frustrated democrat

    If you ask the wrong questions you get the wrong answers.

    The terms unionist and nationalist are tainted with sectarian overtones the questions should have been something like:-

    Are you capitalist/conservative or socialist/labour in outlook?

    Do you prefer remaining in the UK or having a UI.

    Probably a professional polling company could come up with the right questions that would not elicit an answer where 40% of people are not unionist or nationalist – what are they or do they have absolutely no interest in politics?

  • IJP

    There is something very wrong with polling in general in NI.

    I remember being told at a conference by one polling company “Our poll showed 67% of people voted” – when the turnout for that election had been 62%!! Sorry, but that’s just shabby work, as Kensei says.

    Another example, the Belfast Telegraph pre-Assembly Election poll in 2003 gave Alliance support at 6% (actual: 3.6%); and in 2007 at 9% (actual: 5.2%). If it reports 12% next time, it really shouldn’t take a genius to work out that’s really about 7% – and state that as the outcome. Similar can be done with the overstatement of UUP and SDLP support, and understatement of SF support (I’ll wish them luck with DUP and TUV!).

    NILT, while interesting up to a point for general trends, also needs to consider how its data can be used to portray the real views of the populace accurately – again, as Kensei says, that’s what is done elsewhere.

  • Mack

    0b101010

    I don’t disagree with your reasoning as to why a number of individuals may feel or react the way you suggest. There have been large numbers of parties attempting to provide a non-tribal alternative (Women’s Coalition, Natural Law, NI Labour to name some more) none – with the exception of Alliance and the Greens – have been remotely successful. It’s important to highlight that what people say in a survey is much less important than what they declare at the ballot box. One set of results has primacy over the other – and it’s not the set you are promoting.

    I am very sceptical of the NILT survey’s results on this issue. Given the massive divergence, I would suggest the burden of proof, that their findings are a more accurate reflection of socities’ political identity than that indicated at the ballot box, lies with NILT survey and it’s supporters.

    You give yourself an exceptionally numerate handle, surely you can see the folly in trying to retrofit a narrative gleaned from the result of a small-scale survey, onto large scale results of real-world import, simply because it suits your world view?

  • tada

    “I had actually thought your original point was a reasonably funny joke, I’m slightly taken aback that you are serious!!”

    Well it was sort of a joke (and I like it when the numbers bend easily to my own prejudice) but then I saw Kenzei was still whaling into poor old Claire like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory so I sort of lost my sense of humour,

    “Surveys are always attempts to discern what people think, as such they aren’t definitive.”

    I’d gamble that people change their minds between elections more often that they change their sense of self so if anything’s not definitive it’s an election! That’s why we repeat them from time to time. It’s quite possible for someone to switch from Labour to Conservative between elections without ever changing their view of themself. as a thoroughly decent common sense liberal just trying to pick the least worst government.

    Here’s my tuppence.

    For 40% of the population the old definistions are redundant and they really really just don’t care. If I give Sylvia Hermon my vote at the next election, it really isn’t (and you’ll just have to believe me) because she stood under a nominally unionist ticket, it’s because she’s not DUP, she’s lovely and I like her. If I lived in Downpatrick, not Bangor it would be the same with the gorgeous Margaret Ritchie.

    What this survey tells us is that if, in a fit of optimistic abandonment, the UUP and SDLP threw off their red white and blue/green white and orange knickers and both jumped in with the United Community swingers, then provided that they stuck to government for everyone (and let people make up their own minds about the border at a referendum) principles and maintained civilised and constructive relations north-south as well as east-west (Green Party style), then there might be a bit of redistribution of votes between them but the total United Community vote would be exactly as their combined votes are today – c.40%.

    That leaves the hard and fast identity politics crowd and your other complaint that “unionism” appears to have 50% more following that “nationalism”. DUP + PUP seats = 37. Sinn Fein seats = 28. That’s a premium of 32%. Not quite the 50% but of similar order.

    Maybe the survey’s right, people don’t lie, some parties are attempting to be genuinely cross-community and the only problem is the simplicity of your political taxonomy.

  • Mack

    tada –

    That’s extremely poor maths & logic you engage in, in your last paragraph. It just plainly doesn’t make sense – the direct comparison is between individuals (how they feel / how they vote), not how many bananas nationalist and Unionist MLAs eat each week in the Stormont canteen.


    There is no doubt that some people vote along lines you suggest. But there is simply no evidence this happens on a large scale. I can give you a null hypothesis for testing your theory. If what you say is correct, such voters should vote for both Unionist and Nationalist candidates on occasion. There should then be regular large scale swings between Nationalists and Unionist parties, and large scale transfers between Nationalist and Unionist parties. I think Alban Magennis can testify, this simply does not occur.

    In Science, you are either right or wrong – the survey in the nature of it’s attributions is simply wrong. It does correctly identify some people are Unionists, some are Nationalist and some aren’t. That is it.

    Kensei was a little hard on Claire (who actually agrees the survey is inaccurate), it doesn’t make the survey right.

  • Mack

    Erasmus – I think you may well be correct (I also worry about the potentially disastrous implications of that conclusion for those caught on the wrong side, if we don’t become more enlightened en masse first!), but –

    Did you mean to post that comment on this thread?

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/it-is-hardly-the-moment-to-press-claims-to-the-north-which-we-have-renounce/P25/

  • back to otto jaffe now (bored with ta da!)

    “In Science, you are either right or wrong”

    There’s a long and distinguished series of articles by Professor Sumantra Ghoshal and friends in the Institute of Advanced Management Studies Journals that deals with the damaging normative effects of an unfounded faith in the over simplistic pseudo-mathematical models of two dimensional economists and two variable zero sum models.

    Ghoshal reckons an Augustine view of motivation (an outward looking self-love rather than grubby self-interest)is more often true except where people are corrupted by opportunism of others and even (important bit) structures designed to prevent opportunism which imply by their existence that such opportunism is taking place.

    So people start voting DUP in fear when others start voting SF. Identity politics are exaggerated by anticpiation of other people’s intentions. It’s a hard habit to break and the so-called dispassionate mathematical observers (including you Mack!) are a key part of the whole normative system.

    “There should then be regular large scale swings between Nationalists and Unionist parties”

    Why? The 60% have picked their champions. If you mean there should be swings within the 40% between the UUP and the SDLP then you’re right. There should be some and would be if both were already non-aligned United Community. The problem is that we’re not there yet and both, becuase of their legacy of community representation are still trying to be two things at the same time – be community reps on the one hand and specialists appealing to one part of the socio-economic spectrum on the other. You can though, see quite clearly their migration from the first to the second as the UUP go for the Anne Widdecombe Catholic and Alban declares himself a socialist and trade unionist.

    I didn’t say we were already there, just that the 40% does fit this scenario.

    I got “serious” for a submit word there. Is the Slugger AI telling me I’m boring?

  • Mack

    Otto Jaffe –

    Why? The 60% have picked their champions.

    Because the marginal 40% would have a critical effect – they would in effect call the shots. Even if they didn’t realise this (and surely they would swing votes towards less ‘extreme’ community candidates, if as a constituency they actually existed in such numbers) – they would still be highly visible in the transfers.

    I think if you want to change any complex system, you need to start with an accurate understanding of what it is. But I think you’ve probably nailed the motivation behind the NILT, controlled propaganda to move the discourse towards where the authors would like it to be rather than where it is. Unfortunately, as witnessed by my conversion with Andrew G. on Normal politics, I think it prevents movement towards normalacy as he used it (and it isn’t the first time I’ve seen this effect) to argue that any Normal political party must be a ‘unionist’ party in character (he didn’t use those words, and probably didn’t even realise that was what he was suggesting but the policies he suggested were explicitly unionist). Or, put in psuedo-management speak in the language of Thomas Harris it leads to discourse where nayce Unionists say to nationalists “I’m ok, your f**ked – now let’s have a nice normal society”. With that tone, it ain’t going to work. Ever.

  • otto jaffe

    “the direct comparison is between individuals (how they feel / how they vote)”

    If you like just skip the previous. This is the failure of your logic. You equate “how they feel” with “how they vote” and then you decide how the attributes of the parties match their declared “feelings” – attributes which you yourself assign to the parties without asking the survey respondents how they themselves see the candidates available to them.

    You’re the error in your own logic Mack.

    “not how many bananas nationalist and Unionist MLAs eat each week in the Stormont canteen”

    If you asked “how many bananas are you going to eat and then counted how many bananas were eaten you might be able to say that some people were “lying”. But then again they might have been picturing a lovely fair trade tasty banana and when you provided nasty old ones that had been in the Compass Canteen fridge too long (never keep bananas in a fridge btw) they had an apple instead.

    Again, doesn’t make them liars.

  • otto jaffe

    Oh you didn’t skip it. You replied to it. How kind!

    “I’m ok, your f**ked – now let’s have a nice normal society”. With that tone, it ain’t going to work. Ever.”

    Yep.

    FWIW I’ll declare my position. I want to grow the 40% so that eventually there is an overwhelming majority of UC/Nationalist support for Irish Unity and we don’t ever have Erasmus’s No2 scenario. I think we can and I could only really justify that by taking you on a walk around massively prod North Down and showing you all the points of latent West Brit all-Ireland feeling (but not quite nationalism) I observe daily.

    My support for Irish Unity is entirely technocratic, liberal and dissapointing to proper nationalists. Most bits of my life, from the currency my business trades in, to the colleges I’d like my kids to go to, to the potential for shutting down Stormont and extending the Golf Course would be better facilitated by a single adminsitration on the Island I live on.

    I’d like better football teams too.

    But that DOESN’T MAKE ME A NATIONALIST!

  • Mack

    Otto Jaffe –

    I get the impression you regard the survey as definitive, and unfalsifiable? It’s a questionairre, answered by a small subset of society – and wouldn’t be the first time a survey got it wrong.

    I’m not arguing that there aren’t large numbers of people like you. Just that they aren’t anywhere near as large as the survey suggests. There is plenty of evidence against what the survey says, much less in favour.

    I want to grow the 40%…

    Realistically, it’s a much smaller number you’re starting from. That’s also a perfectly valid position to take & I wouldn’t oppose you in your task 😉

  • Driftwood

    Otto Jaffe
    So North Down (and South Dublin) are CLASS defined areas rather than ‘tribal’?

  • otto jaffe

    “I get the impression you regard the survey as definitive, and unfalsifiable? It’s a questionairre, answered by a small subset of society – and wouldn’t be the first time a survey got it wrong.”

    I don’t regard it as either. I just take issue with, or even exception to (grumpy old me), the argument that the survey’s wrong because people vote for nationalist/unionist deisgnated parties and not Alliance/Green.

    Someone saying they’re not really bothered about the border’s location is not the same as saying they refuse to vote for any party that includes any member that is. In a way you’re demanding a constitutional obsession (even if it’s “neither”) from people who’ve already told you they don’t have one.

    I suspect there’s at least as much wishful thinking in the need to corral wayward people back into their community pens as there might be in my claim that the UUP/SDLP as fully pro-agreement parties could be (for the time being) being used as an acceptable repository for all those non-aligned voters’ votes – and that if thos parties declared as cross-community there would be no net movement of votes to the extremes (that’s the only test I can seeing establishing the point).

    What’s your agenda Mack? Is it entirely neutral and academic or is there a little subjectivity making you think those devious statisticians are trying to tell nationalist people they’re something they’re not?

  • otto jaffe

    “So North Down (and South Dublin) are CLASS defined areas rather than ‘tribal’?”

    Moreso than the average I’d guess. What do you think? You’re the economic historian. Aren’t the bourgeoisie supposed to be the first to throw off anachronistic attachments in favour of whatever most advances their material position? North Down’s nothing if not bourgeois.

  • Driftwood

    I think there are a number of people for whom the Irish border is irrelevant, but who regard the RoI as just another region of the British Isles. Most couldn’t be bothered to vote. Partly because it makes no material difference to their lives. Marxist terms like bourgeois are generalisations. Though NI could be seen as an old Soviet satellite economy. A bit like GB used to be before it was saved:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2009/06/12/margaret_thatcher_saved_britain

  • Mack

    Otto Jaffe –

    My agenda is relatively simple, the NILT survey doesn’t accurately reflect the will of the people as expressed in repeated elections. Not only in terms of votes cast, but also in terms of transfers (in particular inter-communal transfers). I’d like to NI continue to evolve towards a normal healthy society, and while my personal preference would be for some form of UI, I would be very happy to see the constitutional issue (which was left open by the agreements) settled by mutually agreed compromise. As such, I think that is best achieved by actually accepting the election results as they are, and Northern Ireland as is and not arguing on the basis of a false view. As is repeatedly done on the back of the NILT survey. (Read the conversation with Andrew Gallagher to see where this came from .e.g. No change to the current constitutional arrangements – ever, was a policy for a ‘normal’ non-tribal party! Andrew was worried diluting this would scare away unionist voters (!) but nationalist voters aren’t really nationalist because the NILT says so! If we can’t get past that level, where those who would argue for a middle route implicitly reject the aspirations of the others we won’t get anywhere. You may note that, you a – as a small ‘n’ nationalist, UI supporter and Unionist voter, don’t exist!).

    By the way, I had thought Dianne Dodds would not recieve large numbers of transfers from Jim Allister, and that Alban Magennis might win the seat, while following the count. I thought that was pretty conculsive evidence for tribal voting in NI. Despite the essence of the TUV being opposition to the DUP – they still transferred to the DUP before the less-tribal SDLP!

    I should point out that I am not a voter in NI, although I could, if I were so motivated register as an overseas voter and partake. But I’m not particularly motivated to do so.

  • Mack

    Another case in point here –

    http://unionistlite.blogspot.com/2009/06/window-of-opportunity-just-waiting-to.html

    Unionism can cross the ethno-religous divide, but not nationalism. Your survey is wrong because the NILT (the only correct survey ever) says so. (Now in fairness, I’d work on the assumption that both surveys are wrong until people start actually crossing that divide en masse).

    Back to Harris. O’Neill’s blog entry in 5 words. “We’re ok, you’re not ok”.

  • Erasmus

    Mack,
    You are right. Incorrect thread. I reposted.

  • Mack,

    You will recall I already conceded the “ever” point. What I was trying to articulate (and failing, obviously!) was that there are other ways of meeting nationalist aspirations that don’t involve a border poll, such as beefing up cross-border institutions. As a border poll won’t be won by nationalists for quite some time (by all accounts), this is a far more productive angle of attack for nationalists who are impatient for practical results.

    Technically, the entire apparatus of state could be handled through the North-South ministerial council, and this wouldn’t amount to constitutional change. Not that I’d recommend this as a solution, but it shows that there are more subtle options out there.

  • Mack

    Andrew –

    Yep – I know you conceded the ‘ever’ point and the conversation evolved. I wasn’t trying to restart that debate with you (from 3 steps back) – but show Otto Jaffe the motivation behind creating this thread. The NILT survey pops up all over the place to justify any number of beliefs not explicitly supported by concrete electoral evidence (Fin has been quoting it on another thread as showing waning popularity for Unionism among the younger generations – and it may even have been the source for the nationalist claims in the article O’Neill debunks above, using the NILT himself ).

    Although I admit, I didn’t quite see it the way you explain in your comment above, which does seem reasonably interesting.

  • Mack,

    Sorry, I just wanted to clear up any potential confusion for the benefit of the lurkers.

    Believe it or not, I didn’t even mean to bring up the NILT in the original discussion. I went looking for the multiple-choice survey that went along the lines of “what do you see as the long-term constitutional future of NI? a) United Ireland b) Devolution within the UK c) direct rule” with separate results for each community – sadly my Google-fu was lacking and the NILT was all I could find.

    If anyone watching has that reference, it would be greatly appreciated.