So what do SDLP supporters really think?

Okay, I’m coming in late with this, but since its inspired so many off topic comments on other threads, it might be useful to focus on LucidTalk’s short form conference survey at the SDLP conference in a single thread.

I’ll let pass the question of how wise it is to let a newspaper do polling that might be better done yourself. Or the fact that a field survey is probably more useful since a properly ‘clubbed’ political party ought to have other means to acquire to figure what its members are thinking.

That 48% approval level for the leader looks poor, until you flip it and look at the other way. A 20% dissatisfaction level, with 30% neutral is actually not a bad result for a man it was predicted could split the party and turn it against itself.

When it comes to policy, there are some surprises. The idea that councils which currently don’t should adopt a designated days policy draws a 62% approval. 58% would wear a poppy if attending a Remembrance Day event and only 2% would refuse, with the rest undecided.

The figures on the abortion issue are also interesting:

The vast majority (84%) would allow it where the mother’s life was in danger and a smaller majority of 66% felt it should be available to rape and incest victims. Just under half (46%) would allow it if the foetus was unlikely to survive birth.

These figures aren’t entirely out of line of where the consensus is headed in the Republic. Irish Catholic society is probably still registering on the social conservative in comparison with Britain, but relatively speaking it is liberalising a fairly fast rate.

On the trusted figures, I think the party may have a bit of a long term problem. In effect the people it members place highest trust are not as yet at least viable partners in government:

Basil McCrea of NI21 came out top with 76%, something which will encourage NI21 to seek SDLP transfers in next year’s elections. Matt Baggott, the Chief Constable, was trusted by 64% and David Ford, of Alliance, by exactly half (50%).

There was evident suspicion of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness who scored dismal trust levels of 10% and 8% respectively. This was far lower than Jim Allister, the hardline unionist TUV leader (38%) or Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State, (34%).

Basil McCrea (76%) is a nationalist’s idea of the perfect unionist. And as Liam Clarke notes, it’s probably better news for NI21 than the SDLP. Basil is a long long way off being in any position of brokering power.

As Alex Attwood noted in his speech, the longer term aim has to be for a deep partnership with unionism. It’s notable that the figures for the UUP leader does not appear in Clarke’s reckoning.

By contrast, their party leader Mike Nesbitt got a much higher aggregate rating from his party, but that internal satisfaction may be coming at the expense of the leadership’s inability to broker a deal with anyone outside its own communal boundaries.

As Tom Kelly noted at the time of the UUP conference:

Nesbitt seems to miss the central point that for any chance of UUP recovery, he needs to foster a positive working and shared future strategy with a nationalist partner and not a rag tag bunch of loyalist political misfits, street agitators and rabble-rousers.

If the party is going to be able to kick up a bit of trouble for their rivals (thereby learning to sail their own boat, rather than taking a tow behind someone else’s), then the party needs to feel a little uncomfortable.

Now, perhaps, they need to start systematically asking what their voters (rather than just activists) think?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty