Distrust of MLAs and rejection of the parties dominate annual survey

A browse in the NI Life and Times Survey for 2008-09 published recently reveals the usual benign political attitudes without being able to explain how these fail to have a decisive impact  on voting patterns or the attitudes of elected representatives. Cynics say this shows the persistent unviability of political polling even now.  But this time, the main results may make even them sit up and take notice.

A whopping 85% trust politicians not very much or not at all. 63% are either fairly or very dissatisfied, though to be fair, as politics professor Rick Wilford has pointed out in a slightly different form, 54% believe the Assembly has achieved at least a little. More positively the survey suggests that the public hasn’t lost faith in the Assembly but longs for a better performance.

However the big winners are the None of the Above Party, with 19%, level with the SDLP’s 19, ahead of the DUP’s 17%, UUPs 16% and Sinn Fein’s 15% . The Nones have a commanding lead in the designations race also with 43%, compared to the unionists 32% and nationalists 24%.

As is usual in these surveys, the nones are strongest in the 18-24 age group at 27% compared to 22% for SF and 21% for the DUP; with the trialing UUs and the SDLP , despite their strong-ish showing overall, displaying the profiles of ageing parties. So it’s in the youth category then that we get some indication of comparative SF strength, although not wholly so, as the voting turnout of the young is poorest.

All round none-ness is strongest among the 18+ young, 36% of those declaring no religious affiliation also supporting no political party. On none-ness Catholics and Protestants are fairly evenly divided at 15% to 19%. Party agnosticism may therefore hit unionism harder than nationalism, as the geographer Peter Shirlow has recently discussed, if it is assumed that there are more Prod agnostics than Cath agnostics, if you see what I mean.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Surely the survey would have more value if we knew how other professions were rated.

  • The Raven

    And yet, we don’t actually have a coordinated “none-of-the-above party” campaign here, do we?

    Surely this is a great opportunity to get one up and running in time for the next round of council elections?

    What does it take to get one’s name on the ballot paper here?

  • Alias

    Those who gave their opinion in the survey are the same folks who voted for the current incumbents, time and time again – and will do so again when the next time comes around. I’d take their declarations with a pinch of salt.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im not sure why people rely on opinion polls as a comfort food when the Reality is indeed the 2010 General Election.
    As to my earlier point about how other professions rate.
    I found an australian poll (feel free to find a more relative one) where nurses, pharmacists and doctors score highest ….in the 80s.
    Politicians, state and local score 19% and 18%. A long way behind.
    No surprise that used car salesmen are the lowest scorers of 23 professions on just 3%.
    Second least trusted ……journalists.
    Of course I emphasise thats an Australian poll.

  • Neil

    Interesting in parts:

    If the majority of people in Northern Ireland ever voted to become part of a United Ireland do you think you …

    – would find this almost impossible to accept 13%
    – Would not like it, but could live with it if you had to 43%
    – or, would happily accept the wishes of the majority? 43%
    – Don’t know 2%

    Though I’d also query the quality of any survey where the party support is basically the polar opposite of what the polls tell us, what with the SDLP 1st, UUP 2nd, DUP 3rd and SF in 4th.

  • hoboroad

    Horseman was right bookmakers odds are more accurate when it comes to predicting election results. People are far more likely to tell the truth when their own money is involved. Well apart from in East Belfast where the bookies took a tanking.

  • Seamus_Og

    A little off-topic here, but since we’re talking demographics any word on the Ulsters Doomed (2) website that folks were discussing after Horsemans Death?

  • billy

    A stranger comes into your house and aks you, ‘Are you a Shiiner?’

    Yeah, right.

    This survey has been way off for years.

    The SDLP always gets a good response because it’s the ‘safe’ answer. Meanwhile, down at the polling booth the party’s stagnating.

  • Johnny Boy

    Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle merite – Joseph de Maistre

  • The Raven

    I don’t doubt it.

    I just wonder if the 32,000 odd people in my own constituency who didn’t vote could be persuaded to show up and put an X in such a box…

  • hoboroad

    How is this survey conducted is it by telephone or by somebody going door to door?

  • hoboroad

    And if it is by telephone is it landline or mobile phone?

  • Brian Walker

    I suggest anyone questioning the methodology first reads it at the back of the survey itself

  • Garza

    to remain part of the United Kingdom with direct rule 18
    to remain part of the United Kingdom with devolved government 51
    or, to reunify with the rest of Ireland? 21
    Independent state 4
    Other answer 3
    Don’t know 3

    Yet again support for a United Ireland hovering around 25%.

  • SDLP Man


    You’re obviously not a betting man if you think the bookies lost money on the East Belfast result. Bookies “take a tanking” when the favourite wins. In East Belfast, Robbo was everybody’s choice to hold the seat as the Slugger contest shows. Don’t think many called it for Naomi-well, maybe in fairness Gerry Lynch. Hope he had a good few quid on.

  • Jon

    I got 7/1 odds on Naomi from PaddyPower!

  • billy

    It’s a random sample of 1200 adults interviewed face-to-face in their homes.

    People moderate their answers regarding party affiliation when a govt rep turns up at their doorstep. That’s why this survey has repeatedly exaggerated supprt for the SDLP.

  • hoboroad

    Thank you for that Billy.

  • hoboroad

    A spokesman for Paddy Power told Eamonn Mallie they lost more money on East Belfast than any other result in the General Election.

  • joeCanuck

    without being able to explain how these fail to have a decisive impact on voting patterns

    The explanation is very simple as a few have pointed out, above: people lie to pollsters. It really is the best thing to do if you want to maximize the vote for the party you support.

  • Jean Meslier


    How do you think SDLP Man would indicate on the survey, now that Mags has gone off to sit in Old Blighty?