It may have to get worse before it gets better – all over again

The people of Northern Ireland, he suggested, are not as divided as the politicians. On this one, I feel like the guy at the back of the crowd whose shout isn’t heard. I’ve been saying this for years and hoping it’s true. The sentence comes from Liam Clarke’s reflective piece in the Newsletter, where he quotes the businessman/blogger,/ and now new SDLP politician Conall. The trouble with the quote is (a) it’s desperately hard to prove and (b) such evidence as there is, as in the Life and Times Surveys year by year, is discounted or ignored, because folk wisdom decrees that people like to give “respectable” replies in public but vote for the political poles in secret as an insurance policy, or out of fear of the opposite pole and suspicion of their own side’s moderates. It’s the paradoxical question that has never been satisfactorily answered – why vote for Sinn Fein and the DUP if f you really want “peace?” More effort is needed from the social scientists to try to answer it. In a rational world, the case for scaling down confrontation is unanswerable. Yet the suggestion of a “ manufactured crisis “ is not the whole story either. The causes of the deadlock are symptoms; the disease itself is chronic mutual distrust and a terror of losing ground. It may be a minority crisis but how to invoke the silent majority and prevent the plunge to the defaults? Appeals to common interest like Duncan Morrow’s of the Community Relations Council are so obvious that they have a hollow ring. The irony is that the specific sticking points are not between the parties but the totemic issues inside them – parades for unionists, cultural recognition for republicans. I fear the only thing that may impress the political hardcores is an even higher level of violence, when they come to recognise belatedly that the biggest threat to “ community confidence” comes not from the supposed grievances on either side but from the deadlock itself. The sad fact is that the warnings of Massareene and Craigavon may not have been enough after all.

  • The Spectator

    Brian

    The trouble with the quote is … (b) such evidence as there is, as in the Life and Times Surveys year by year, is discounted or ignored, because folk wisdom decrees that people like to give “respectable” replies in public but vote for the political poles in secret as an insurance policy, or out of fear of the opposite pole and suspicion of their own side’s moderates.

    Brian, it’s not just ‘folk wisdom’

    2001 Election according to life and times survey

    According to NIL&T, ~43% of the ‘tribal’ vote went Nationalist, which ~55% of the tribal vote went Unionist, and only 1 in 3 nationalist votes, and only 13% of votes cast was for SF.

    2001 Election according to actual numbers of votes counted.

    According to actual votes case however, a slightly smaller % of the same tribal vote went nationalist (about 40%), but SF took well over half of that, for a total of 21% of the votes cast.

    13%. 1 in 3.

    21%. more than 1 in 2.

    That’s an astounidngly inaccurate poll.

    Either L&T has somehow picked an horrendously unrepresentative sample, or people are lying to it. In either case, it kind of dismantles L&T as a useful tool, no?

    p.s. Sorry, but the uselessness of L&T is a particular hobbyhorse of mine.

  • Only Asking

    It would appear that Clark sets up Conall’s quote without quite knowing what to do with it. The evidence over whelmingly disproves it, but Clark doesn’t want to disprove it, he wants to prove it right, and can’t.

    Perhaps he should study voting behaviour. It’s pretty hard to change people’s behaviour at the polls, long time loyalties still remain. To tell us that people ‘think’ about an insurance policy is laughable in the extreme, has he any evidence to prove this. No, because it isn’t there.

    Conall’s quote is wrong, and the article that relies on it is also wrong. They start with the hypothesis that people are more united than their politicians, without proof such a hypothesis exsists and then go on to try and prove it correct, when it clearly isn’t. Ignore the facts, that more walls went up since the GFA, that issues of parades still mean a lot to the unionist community, that policing and justice is a sinn fein goal for which they claim support from their base among the nationalist community, ignore all that and go with Conall’s assertion that people are more united than the politicians. This claim was made by Conall on the politics show, I laughed at it then, and laugh at it now. If they are more united, show us the evidence. Tell people that the gates in the peace wall only close at night for convenience sake, that bon fires are a sign of culture and not tribalism, that orange marches are not resented on Garvaghy road or the Whiterock, then go on to prove it.

    The facts show Conall up to be the blow in he is. If this is a sign by the sdlp that their politicians are now to follow the rest and ignore reality then it augers bad for that party. Until now I thought they were one of the most clear sighted and realistic parties in the north, hardly anymore with comments like this. That Clark is following the political spin says a lot about journalists who spent their journalistic lives following the outrages instead of the politics.

    Embarrassing for both.

  • DC

    It’s more than the Life and Times Survey.

    It rests with popular culture and the fact that weekend in and weekend out the youth and younger generation and NI socialites of all ages are actually mingling in the cities together. They are living off a shared lifestyle. Thus the repercussions of that could be tapped into, a political culture is needed where it is reflective of a more modern popular and shared culture.

    In order for Conall to unleash this he will need to push the SDLP beyond conservative catholicism and designating nationalist at the assembly.

    Failing that the contradictions of not doing so will mean people wont be swayed to vote for the SDLP because it wont be a vote for proper change.

    So don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work a la Alliance style as they have opted out of designating altogether and people don’t just give up their identities like that, but a more balanced pulling together of the two via cross-designating might work better.

    My hope is that a new Labour party here bears this in mind and cross-designates; if Conall or the SDLP were to do so, I would have no second thoughts myself in supporting them, a vote for actual visible change as proof per cross-designating by the SDLP would be very significant. It would be a good start towards overhauling the system and local relations.

  • One big problem with Brian’s type of analysis is that it presupposes that the “tribal” (for want of a better word) section of the electorate see the problem of violence in the same way as the “liberal” section.

    In other words that the “tribals” see violence as a symptom of lack of agreement between both sides. All the evidence is against this one, in my opinion.

    It is more likely that the “tribals” see their own side’s violence as a response to extreme provocation (the provocation being that the other side does not adopt their political preferences). Similarly the other side’s violence is evidence of how bigoted/bitter/addicted to killing they are.

    In this context more killing is more likely to snowball than to lead to a new push for peace.

  • DC:

    Cross-designation is the only way out of the current political impasse; I’ve argued this point before. Most people in NI feel strongly one or the other, and voting for “other” feels like a betrayal. Pro-agreement politicians need to recognise that people do come from a particular community background, but that this doesn’t preclude them voting for a common political programme.

  • Hm, worded that last one badly. Should have been “most people in NI feel either Unionist or Nationalist, and voting Other feels like a betrayal”

  • Brian Walker

    Only asking, so much furious pessimism! Of course you’ve a case to answer. But I suggest (1) we know far too little about public opinion which is more complex than voting patterns. (2) If the default positions are the only choices how come we’ve got a sort of peace? Why have all parties taken such risks to get there? I’d be interested to know why you once thought “they (the SDLP) were one of the most clear sighted and realistic parties in the north.” Why were they and where did they go wrong, in your opinion?

    Spectator, a straight lift from Life and Times tribal allegiances to voting patterns raises the question but doesn’t answer it for me. The clear discrepancy needs to be explained, but to get the methodology wrong every single year? Unlikely, especially when the 2008 polls has credible answers about respect for the Assembly and other less hot poltical topics. I agree we badly need answers. I see you haven’t got any either.

  • DC

    I know what you mean Andrew.

    I know that when IJP or Ian Parsley was in Alliance it was a point that he made strongly re cross-designation.

    Conall is good communicator and a cool one. It may be possible that a cultured catholic, if you like, may be able to draw this one together. Layering identities and working for a common political programme.

    I fear that Alliance wasn’t prepared to upset its natives who are and were those peace-loving 1970s types who may be not so sure on such change (probably conservative at heart too) and it would also need very strong leadership in Alliance and long dialogue selling the ideas.

    Same problem goes for the SDLP, totally conservative, no to abortions, very much catholic. If Conall is at heart a progressive socialist he will need to prove it and open up the SDLP to change of this nature, or it will keep losing to SF on conservative-nationalist grounds.

    Or, as I said, alternatively a fresh-start Labour party here might be able to operate more freely and be able to gain such votes quicker because of little historical baggage and lacking in old personalities. I.e. people around still on scene who are too long in the tooth with too much history and old stances and images needing overcome so as to be genuinely believed in.

  • Only Asking

    Becoming fruiouser and fruiouser Brian 😉

    Re: no.1) What is there to suggest that public opinion morphs into ‘x’s at the polling booth? I simply don’t know. We are consistently told that the conservatives are ahead in the polls, that people are fed up with Labour and McBroon’s pathetic performance, the internal wrangling over the PBR… blah blah, but cometh the day and cometh the hour will Britain really vote for the conservatives, whom we are told will fill the hole (or try to) in the deficit by slashing the state sector and welfare benefits. Will people go into the booth in safe labour seats and put their ‘x’ where it counts for the good of the country? Doubtful. And yet Thatcher could not have gotten into power without the working class, which is inherently conservative.

    My point is tell the people what they want to hear and they’ll vote for you. Tradition, that is the key. The British working class is more likely to vote conservative this time round not due to cuts but immigration. They see their areas change, life style change, culture change and in comes the inherent conservativism. Same here. People may well want to live together in harmony, but side by side is NI’s together, not a melting pot. People want their areas kept as they are, and don’t want change, they may mix together on holiday outside the box, but once back inside they go their seperate ways. It’s what we’re used to, and we like it.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Spectator

    I agree with you entirely, however I have been interviewed by them and I must say that their questions were fair.

  • Only Asking

    RE the SDLP. I think the party has changed beyond recognition. I won’t vote for Conall, because I don’t know him. Where did they go wrong imv. Anyone reading DC’s comments re Conall would be forgiven for thinking that Conall was Obama. That he is the one. It is he who will bring change. Nonsense. He’s one unelected MLA among too many, and he’s talking about change….. hmmm… changing the mandatory coalition is right up top of peoples agenda, if only they didn’t have to look for work, or weren’t struggling to pay mortgage payments. The SDLP were the only party imv that looked to those issues, now they’re simply joining the fold. Band wagon politics. Change the electoral system, give us parliamentary opposition, fiddling in a time of crisis while the province burns…

    Grr… furiouser and furiouser 😉

  • Dublin Exile

    Anyone describint Conall McDevitt as a ‘cultured catholic’ obviously doesn’t know the man. Cultured – most definitely, catholic – most definitely not.

  • Greenflag

    There are three main reasons why a people/government /society/section of society go to war . The three are Fear -Interest -Honour . The three reasons are added to in real life wars by factors such as economics – religion -ethnicity- history- scarce resources which is why every war is the same but also every war is also different .

    For NI ‘fear’ is no longer what it was several decades ago although it’s not entirely absent and could be ‘restored’ Both sovereign Governments in London and Dublin have agreed to pursue a political solution by peaceful means . The UK Government has stated publicly it has no ‘selfish’ interest in maintaining NI as part of the UK and if a majority of residents ever opt for a UI then HMG will not stand in their way .

    And likewise no NI resident ‘fears’ that the Republic will ever ‘forcibly’ incorporate NI as part of the republic .

    So we are left with ‘honour’ and frankly that appears to be mostly what both sides and their leaders are about . For every DUP or UUP or TUV who ‘spits’ venom at the Irish language or tricolour there is an equal but opposite reaction from the other side in an OO hall burning or a union jack incineration or a green painted po box .

    No side wants to be dishonoured , humiliated , dissed and particularly not in public or in front of their supporters . The retort or fight back however irrational or non productive is a requirement for self esteem. We’ve seen it here on slugger in abundance 😉 And yes guilty as charged most of us can admit in the court of slugger opinion .

    For all kinds of historical and political and cultural reasons the internal ‘stand off ‘ between the tribes in NI has more in common with the ‘appalachian ‘ feuds ‘ of the Hatfields and McCoys and the clan warfare of Albania and parts of the Balkans and the Corsican vendettas than with any other political ‘struggle’ in the rest of Britain or Ireland .

    The important question is will it ever end ? Can it fade away in time to be just like the opposing sides in the Irish Civil War many of whom would have preferred to shoot at each other in 1932 but for whom the decade of previous ‘peace’ made a return to civil war unthinkable ? Even then it took until the late 60’s and some would say the late 70’s before the jibe of Free Stater or Blue Shirt became politically irrelevant ?

    The problem for NI in all this is unlike the republic the NI State as it was formed had the ‘dishonour ‘ not only built in but accentuated to a degree that later became the spark for what is left today .

    Whether it’s Allister condemning ‘mandatory’ coalition or McGuinness/Robinson rolling their eyes at each other in public the ‘dishonouring ‘ continues . Can it ever be replaced by genuine political differences which can be fully divorced from the ‘background’ music ??

    I don’t believe so . It has become so internalised into the system that those who are imbued with it don’t even notice it . The problem is of course that the other side does and so the ball rolls again downhill for ever and ever etc .

    Now if this sounds a little pessimistic it’s not meant to be . It would be the same anywhere else in the world if one had the same parameters at work as in NI .

    And if you don’t believe me try going into a Greek Bar and telling the locals that the Turks are a much more honourable people than the Greeks . As you gaze up through blackened eyes (assuming they are not shut permanently) at the ceiling you may grasp that the same would be the result if as an orangeman or republican you made a similar barb at ‘themuns’ while enjoying a pint in a hostelry frequented by a majority of the other side .

  • DC

    No I don’t know him, but I know of him 😉

  • The Spectator

    Brian

    Spectator, a straight lift from Life and Times tribal allegiances to voting patterns raises the question but doesn’t answer it for me.

    Brian. Learn to Read.

    It’s not a ‘lift’ from ‘tribal allegiance’. It’s a direct historical question as to the person’s previous vote. An entirely different, and in the circumstances, more relevant question.

    So lets go into more detail of the uselessness of L&T.

    1998 Assembly Election

    People were asked not what they were tribally, not how they intended to vote, but how they actually voted in the 1998 Assembly election.

    Analysing the 61% of respondees who fully answered the question gives the following vote patterns:

    20% of that 61% said they voted SDLP, equating to a poll result of 33%.
    7% of that 61% said the voted SF, equating to a poll result of 11%.
    19% said they voted for UUP, equating to a poll result of 31%.
    9& of that 61% said they voted DUP, equating to a poll result of 15%.

    So, according to L&T, this is how people actually voted.

    SDLP 33%, UUP 31%, DUP 15%, SF 11%.

    Now, here’s how they actually voted, according to, you know, counted votes.

    SDLP 22%, UUP 21%, DUP 18%, SF 17.5%

    There is no way to spin that except as a horribly useless result from L&T. There margin of error for the SDLP is nearly 50%. It’s actually over 50% for SF.

    Oh my, lets try again

    2003 Assembly election

    People were asked not what they were tribally, not how they intended to vote, but how they actually voted in the 2003 Assembly election.

    Analysing the 62% of respondees who fully answered the question gives the following vote patterns:

    11% of that 62% said they voted SDLP, equating to a poll result of 18%.
    10% of that 62% said the voted SF, equating to a poll result of 16%.
    18% said they voted for UUP, equating to a poll result of 29%.
    17& of that 62% said they voted DUP, equating to a poll result of 27%.

    So, according to L&T, this is how people actually voted.

    SDLP 18%, UUP 29%, DUP 27%, SF 16%.

    Now, here’s how they actually voted, according to, you know, votes.

    SDLP 17%, UUP 23%, DUP 26%, SF 23.5%

    There is no way to spin that except as another horribly useless result from L&T. The margin of error for the SF is nearly 50% AGAIN for god’s sake.

    Do you notice a pattern, Brian?

    Now if the survey is so useless just on a question of historical fact – how much worse is it bound to be on matters of opinion and intent, where people arguably have more reason to hedge?

    Can’t you just admit, Brian, that the L&T survey is so clearly unrepresentative of, you know, historical fact, as to be useless as a tool upon which to build an argument?

    Or are we back where we were with the Bill of Rights nonsense where you are too invested in your hopes to admit to logic and realities?

  • Úlfr

    I doubt some of your analysis Greenflag and your own prejudice is evident in your comments about Northern Ireland’s birth predetermining the course it has taken. That’s just shorthand for the republicans’ ‘failed orange statelet’ argument.

    IMHO Northern Ireland is where it is because its two tribes were at times indulged and at other times ignored by the two larger entities (the Republic and the UK). This has lead to a political dependence culture in which both tribes feel that they just need to highlight their individual positions, by violence, political blocks or sheer bloody-mindedness, and their ‘champions’ on the sidelines will rush to reinforce them or make things ‘better’ for them.

    A reality check is both long overdue and , sadly, not even on the horizon.

    What’s to be done? Personally I don’t think there is much that can be done other than the stumbling on we have at present.

    There is no magical line-in-the-sand: should that be agreement; full integration in the UK; a united Ireland or a repartition. Any such ‘solution’ will leave enough outside to continue agitation for their own preferred outcome.

    Too many people are, in their own minds/lives/outlook, defined by what makes them different from others (witness Slugger interactions) and no space is provided for any growth of common cause.

  • Spectator,

    Yes the survey got it wrong, but a more interesting question is how? Do SF voters (for example) lie and say they voted SDLP, or do they disproportionately not take part in such surveys? Are there reliable figures for “won’t say”?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Sorry, but the uselessness of L&T is a particular hobbyhorse of mine. ‘

    Useless? Hardly. Spectator, if you wish to purchase a ‘suite’ of questions on NILT, it will set you back something easily in the mid five figure bracket.

    with respect to response bias in NILT and other polls, it is a widespread and a historic phenomena. see link below on the ‘Bradley effect’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_effect

  • The Spectator

    Wild Turkey

    Spectator, if you wish to purchase a ‘suite’ of questions on NILT, it will set you back something easily in the mid five figure bracket.

    It could set me back in the mid ten figures and it would still be useless. the only sensible point of a social science survey is to reveal the truth. L&T patently doesn’t do that. Hence, useless. If it costs 5 figures for a ‘suite’ then its simply expensive and useless.

    As for Bradley effect, it’s a theory (although this would seem a reverse bradley to me – actually voting MORE radically than you admit) but without firm evidence, its supposition at best.

    Doesn’t take away from the basic fact. L&T as evidence for anything is a piece of useless crap. Therefore there is no merit in any argument, either by Clarke or Walker, that relies upon its findings. Particularly an argument that seems to fit Brian’s own political feelings (on the wet side of happy clappy – see Bill of Rights debate), but flies in the face of the actual, verifiable and factual reality.

  • “No I don’t know him, but I know of him ;)”

    IPjr must be ruing the day he said that, DC 🙂

  • Er, the NILT didn’t ‘get it wrong’. The question is supposed to do what it says on the tin: it’s a measure of recollection, not fact. This produces interesting data for correlating with respondents’ other answers on their attitudes. It’s a standard political attitudes question that was asked, for instance, in the British Election Study.

    Spectator, before you go off about how Brian Walker or anyone else ought to learn how to read, why on earth do you think pollsters would spend their money on asking things that they could look up on Wikipedia? Did it not occur to you that the question might have some more sensible intent?

  • The Spectator

    Andrew Gallagher

    Yes the survey got it wrong.

    Not just wrong, Andrew. Repeatedly and spectacularly wrong. “So-badly-wrong-that-any-GB-or ROI-based-polling-unit-that-coughed-it-up-would-be-run-out-of-town” wrong.

    To put it bluntly, NIL&T gives social science a bad name. And it’s name wasn’t great to begin with.

    but a more interesting question is how?

    Only interesting if you care more about sociology as a discipline than people as a reality.

    I’m not interested in digging into L&T errors for the sake of saving L&T, or the reputation of the social sciences (an oxymoran in my view – there’s damn all scientific about many of them). I’m happy simply to flush it like any other turd. Not fit for purpose. Gone. Good Rid. Next.

    As for Brian’s major point, I’ve said it time out of number to friends and foes alike. The greatest lie ever told about Northern Ireland was the classic John Major quote

    “the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want peace”

    Bollix. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want their own way. Always have.

    As long as its not them and theirs doing the bleeding, they’re mostly pretty happy. Hence the Acceptable Level of Violence. Whatever was happening behind the sceneces, it was the mad escalation of tit for tats in 1993 that clearly led to ceasefires in 1994. Not long standing desire for peace, but new found panic for personal safety as things ratched up.

    Ties in pretty neatly actually with my view of Mick’s famed “Prisoner’s Dilemna”.

    The problem here is that for most people, political progress here will only ever lead to broad and vague improvements, and rarely for them personally.

    Very, very few people have ever got a post ceasefire job, left the dole queue and thought – isn’t peace class, I got a job because of peace!!

    People don’t wake up and go “still Alive! Great. Peace has saved my ass tonight from the petrol bombing I might otherwise have got”

    But poke a stick in themuns eye. and plenty of us (term used loosely!) get a real visceral personal satisfaction (see PSNI renaming, retention of academic selection). Suffer a totemistic tribal setback, and plenty of us get personally riled out of all proportion (see lack of Irish Language Act, Parades commission).

  • Greenflag

    ulfr,

    ‘I doubt some of your analysis Greenflag and your own prejudice is evident in your comments about Northern Ireland’s birth predetermining the course it has taken.’

    That’s not prejudice -read your history of events 1880 through 1923 .

    ‘That’s just shorthand for the republicans’ ‘failed orange statelet’ argument.’

    No it’s not . Republicans don’t see a permanent solution outside a 32 county republic. I see a fair repartition implemented by a neutral international agency such as the UN/EU as the only way to break the endless circle of us uns v themuns .

    ‘There is no magical line-in-the-sand: should that be agreement; full integration in the UK; a united Ireland or a repartition. Any such ‘solution’ will leave enough outside to continue agitation for their own preferred outcome.’

    The UK Government does not want full integration -They made that clear in 1920 and have maintained that stance . A UI carved out by a narrow victory in a referendum is a recipe for a political and socio economic disaster which would affect the whole island .

    As far as ‘repartition’ is concerned the numbers left behind on both sides of any new border would still be free to pursue their political objectives but would have little political weight and would have little alternative except to accept the new ‘status quo’

    ‘no space is provided for any growth of common cause.’

    I would not say ‘no’ space but because of the very architecture of the state such space is going to be small by definition just look at the Alliance party’s record ?

    ‘Personally I don’t think there is much that can be done other than the stumbling on we have at present.’

    I agree . At some point however far or near down the road the ‘stumble ‘ will turn into a falling face forward and then history will march in like the north wind and upend the status quo . What any outcome might be I would’nt care to guess save that there would be one .

  • The Spectator

    Ciaran

    it’s a measure of recollection

    1 What’s the point of that?
    2. I’m sorry, but few people realistically forget who they voted for in the most recent election. They just lie. Do we need a f***ing university degree to work out that people lie?

    why on earth do you think pollsters would spend their money on asking things that they could look up on Wikipedia?

    They don’t. They spend gullible political parties money. And Asking why political parties are gullible is like asking why dogs bark. It’s inherent in the nature of the animal.

    And if there is a correspondingly inaccurate British Survey, then that’s just two flushes instead of one.

  • Brian Walker

    Obviously my arguments don’t depend on the LT survey.Attitudes are bound to be broader than voting intentions on their own. But surveys that suggest attitudes are softer than the parties’ default positions are bound to be invoked. Spectator’s frustrations need an answer before he does himself a mischief. As I raised the topic myself, I’ll try to get one.

  • Úlfr

    Greenflag, do you really think that a “fair” repartition resulting in, for argument sake a British Dál Riada, would be successful?

    Given even a few hundred people left behind on the ‘wrong’ side that would be enough to forment trouble.

    Sure they would not be a large enough group to make a political party but as with the current impact of ‘micro-groups’ in other ways there would be enough pain to ensure a pollution of repartition on boths sides of the new borders.

    Back to square one.

  • Greenflag

    Ulfr,

    Whether a ‘rump’ Unionist or as you put it a British Dal Riada is successful or not would be a matter for the ‘unionist’ government of that state . Obviously if it were successful it would be better all round for everybody including it’s small nationalist minority.

    I’d be more concerned with the rest of the island and ensuring that the transferred areas are integrated quickly into the economy and become part of the euro zone etc etc .

    As for continued ‘pain’ from recalcitrants be they republican irregulars or loyalist revanchists I don’t doubt that they would be put down asap if they tried to pursue their political objectives by violent means . They would have virtually zero support anyway .

    There is no perfect solution and sometimes eggs may have to be cracked to make even a passable omelette.

    Forward to square 2 i.e The Second Republic the first having been proclaimed in 1949.

  • Greenflag

    ps ,

    I’ve been reading some of Horseman’s blog on ‘ulster doomed ‘ and I just want to add that if horseman’s numbers are to be believed it seems that the ‘window’ of opportunity for a smaller ‘unionist ‘ state may be declining on account of demographic changes . So by the time ‘unionists’ gird themselves up to demand ‘repartition’ the horse may have already bolted ? We should have a clearer view after the next local NI election and if the power sharing continues and actually becomes effective then ‘repartition’ would of course become less likely .

  • History repeating itself..

    An evident IRA campaign on the rise by the looks of things & eventually, the smashing of stormont. fair well..

  • All I can say guys is that I asked 400 SDLP members for a mandate on the basis that a new politics was possible.

    I belive we are less divided then current election results suggest. I believe this is what the vast majority of us feel too.

  • Greenflag

    Conall ,

    ‘All I can say guys is that I asked 400 SDLP members for a mandate on the basis that a new politics was possible.’

    The UCUNFERS seemed to think the same but so far have failed to shake off old man history .

    Good luck with your ‘optimistic’ credo . I trust it’ll work out better for you than it did for Gerry Fitt , John Hume , Austin Currie , Seamus Mallon etc . Anyway if it doesn’t don’t worry -the blame will be led fairly and squarley as always at the bowler hatted gentleman in the opposite corner as always;)

  • Reader

    Andrew Gallagher: Do SF voters (for example) lie and say they voted SDLP, or do they disproportionately not take part in such surveys? Are there reliable figures for “won’t say”?
    …do they vote on average 1.5 times each…does the survey overestimate turnout consistently, overestimating the softer, less reliable, voters.

  • aquifer

    Before the Parades commission the police routinely gave way to the gang threatening most violence. Now parading provides ‘no surprises’ to quote the PSNI, because the commission rules on how lawful demonstrations should proceed, and the police facilitate this.

    This system is working, why break it unless you are addicted to male violence and missing it?

    Accept that you are a valuable person in your own right, you do not need to be told what to do by a larger stronger male, to move in numbers, or be pushed back or struck by a dutiful servant of civil society on good overtime.

  • “a new politics was possible”

    Conall, when I invited you to identify what you meant by ‘region’ it turned out to be the old failed pre-1998 Agreement analysis of John Hume 😉

  • Spectator (and Brian)

    1 What’s the point of that?

    Recollection, even if it’s not accurate, is one perfectly valid method for matching other social values with party allegiances. There are no flushes here: it’s used as a standard proxy everywhere.

    Importantly as well, the question asked before the ‘how did you vote?’ question was ‘how do you intend to vote next time?’ Again, this is standard. They’re measuring attitudes to parties not the facts of voting. Having some picture of these attitudes is useful in giving us some information about links between party allegiances and social attitudes. This is all that polls do. They’re not in your ‘reality’ business but are most likely a damn sight better (and certainly more interesting) than guesses.

    They just lie.

    Recollection in inaccurate everywhere. You may think that “few people realistically forget who they voted for in the most recent election” but how do you know? Fact is, 15-20% of respondents to this question worldwide must answer incorrectly. How many are lying? Well my guess is as good as yours, but they’re both guesses. The important thing is, for the purposes of matching social attitudes to party allegiances, it doesn’t matter so much how people voted. It matters how they say they voted (and will vote) when you’re asking them all the social attitudes questions.

  • “The sad fact is that the warnings of Massareene and Craigavon may not have been enough after all.”

    Brian, why don’t you credit the dissidents for doing what militant republicans do best? What the folks on the hill do or don’t do is of little consequence to them; for them it’s a UI or bust.

  • The Spectator

    Ciaran

    They’re measuring attitudes to parties not the facts of voting.

    But if they measure the actual vote so hopelessly wrong, which is incontravertable, how on earth can we trust their attitudinal measurement either. If people will lie about the parties they voted for, they’ll lie about their attitudes to the same parties now. Flush.

    They’re not in your ‘reality’ business

    Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings…

    but how do you know?

    Because the errors are not random. They clearly always lean in a particular way. Random failures of recollection lead logically to random errors. But the error isn’t random, its systematic. Statistics 101. (That’s a real science).

    Fact is, 15-20% of respondents to this question worldwide must answer incorrectly. How many are lying?

    If the systematic bias in NIL&T and some of the british surveys is replicated, most of them.

    The errors, if they are merely failures of recollection, should be essentially random. but they rarely, if ever, are; they almost always fit a significant pattern of post hoc ‘justification’ – Poll recollection taken months after the 1997 general election gave Labour far, far higher results than actually occured. People want to be seen to be on the right side of history. People are sheep.

    In an NI context that means expressing ‘centrist’ views to strangers with clipboards. The awful UUP “decent People” debacle was built almost entirely to take advantage of that prejudice. And since the base of L&T is hopelessly compromised, all the other associated bases are rendered untrustworthy.

    God, sociologists and psephologists. The Bastard love children of Tarot card readers and crystal ball gazers. And about as accurate.

  • Spectator:

    Because the errors are not random. They clearly always lean in a particular way.

    Exactly. And systematic errors are correctable, if one understands where they come from. The survey is obviously measuring something – even if the analysis has been a little naive.

  • Brian Walker

    the spectator, The ongoing discussion on L&T, your key points included, is getting interesting.

    You say:
    “The errors, if they are merely failures of recollection, should be essentially random. but they rarely, if ever, are; they almost always fit a significant pattern of post hoc ‘justification’ – Poll recollection taken months after the 1997 general election gave Labour far, far higher results than actually occured. People want to be seen to be on the right side of history. People are sheep.

    In an NI context that means expressing ‘centrist’ views to strangers with clipboards”

    I agree – and I think it’s clear enough in my original post – that L&T and the acaedmic world should address the disparities.

    But yours is the cynical way of putting it. It may well be partly true but you seem to revel in it. Look at it another way,as others here have been saying. The phenemenon may be more complex than lying. Let me also suggest that people are better than “sheep.” They may be looking for leadership out of their tiny fold to bigger meadows. Go through the whole atttitudes survey and you’ll find plenty of evidence of that. Even if half true, this means you’re half wrong.

  • The Spectator

    Brian

    But yours is the cynical way of putting it.

    Mine is the truthful way of putting it. I’m not interested in optimism, pessimism, cynicism, naivete or propaganda. I’m interested in truth. Whether that appears cynical or not is of no interest to me. It’s frankly the equivalent of saying “You are right, but do you have to be so mean about it?” – well, I’m not going to tolerate or perpetuate falsehoods to avoid appearing mean.

    but you seem to revel in it.

    I deny that charge, but actually, even if I did ‘revel’ in it. So what? Either it’s true or it’s not.

    They may be looking for leadership out of their tiny fold to bigger meadows.

    But what we need is reliable evidence. Neither L&T nor your hopeful conjecture provides that. Indeed, the only ‘real’ evidence has been the post settlement flight to the the extremes. And that suggests a rather different story. Baaaaa.

    Go through the whole atttitudes survey and you’ll find plenty of evidence of that. Even if half true, this means you’re half wrong.

    I have gone through the whole survey many times. As I say, it’s a personal hobbyhorse. What is there evidence of? Well, there’s the clearest evidence possible of false reporting of recollection, with a severe bias towards ‘the centre’ in terms of voting pattern that statistically negates the possiblity of random error, and reinforces the likelihood of, essentially, dishonest reporting. People saying the vote ‘centre’ when they know perfectly well that they don’t.

    Is it not therefore rather more likely than not that there is at least an equivalent bias towards the centre in terms of ‘thinking’ pattern, i.e. attitudes. People saying they ‘think’ ‘centre’ when they don’t?

    After all, what’s the point in falsifying your voting record to Mr Clipboard, if you give your ‘indecent’ thoughts away two minutes later to another question.

    People generally know what the ‘nayce’ answer to give is, whether on who they voted for, or what their views are. The evidence strongly suggests that many people give that ‘nayce’ answer, rather than what they really feel. Then wet do-gooders (like yourself and Conail) attempt to use it for evidence of ‘nayceness’ that actual real evidence doesn’t support.

    Hence L&T is a turd. Flush it.

    Submit word : process – Apt.

  • danielmoran

    Brian.
    This may appear to some as overly simplistic, but for me it’s straightforward enough.
    Robinson clearly didn’t make the parades issue a dealbreaker at st andrew’s so bringing it up at this late juncture is nothing short of reneging on the SA agreement just to waste everybody’s time until election is over..
    But do we hear this stubborn fact pointed out to DUP figures on BBC or UTV political programmes? Even Noel Thompson hasn’t called them on it yet, [unless i’ve missed it].
    [by the way, do you know if he[NT] is related to the late Harry Thompson who i used to see on the BBC NI news and election forums back in the seventies?.

  • Brian Walker

    deniel, I don’t think Noel was related to the late Harry, one of the last of the distinguished amateurs whio came into the BBC as a part-tiem Saturday sports reporter and went on to chair early political debates.

  • danielmoran

    Brian. msg 17 Thanks for clarifying that on HT. Am I to take it that you’re not disputing my claim about Robinson, or have you decided to let it pass?.

  • if they measure the actual vote so hopelessly wrong, which is incontravertable, how on earth can we trust their attitudinal measurement either.

    Well, let’s try this for the third and last time. Since they’re not trying to measure the actual vote it’s wrong to say that they’re trying to “measure the actual vote.” Can you see how that would be the case?

    As I said before, and before that, the question is a proxy for attitudes towards parties. Also, people misreport on their votes in a systematic and patterned manner every time this question is answered worldwide. I’m sure you’re an authority on the mental state of every respondent but for us mere mortals, social attitudes surveying is better than guessing.

  • The Spectator

    Ciaran

    As I said before, and before that, the question is a proxy for attitudes towards parties.

    But, Ciaran, for the god know’s how many-th time, they are LYING about who they are voting for. So their answers are not a a proxy for their attitude to parties; it’s a proxy for the attitude they want to publically adopt in relation to the parties when confronted by a stranger with a clipboard – and that is a completely different fucking thing. And you seem to arrogant to admit it.

    social attitudes surveying is better than guessing.

    So you assert. Where’s your proof? Typical fucking soiologist. “I wrote it for my dissertation, it must be true!”.

  • Spectator:

    they are LYING about who they are voting for

    Where’s your proof for that? Can you show that there is no self-selection bias in the survey respondents?