Who cares about Voting and Identity? Nicholas Whyte explains the stats … #ImagineBelfast15 (updated with charts)

nwbrux voting identity 52Nicholas Whyte spoke at a lunchtime event being run under the umbrella of Imagine!2015 The Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics in the Ulster University’s Belfast campus: Who cares about Voting and Identity.

You can listen back to his half hour presentation and follow along with the slides below.

He broke down census results for national identity and looked at the most British / Irish / Northern Irish / Other wards and constituencies. He asks which parties are engaging with the growing ‘Other’ in some constituencies like Fermanagh & South Tyrone (5%+ ‘Other European’) and South Belfast (9%+ ‘Other’)?

He went on to look at how predictably Protestants vote Unionist and Catholics vote Nationalist, as well as highlight constituencies where Protestants must be voting Nationalist (eg, South Down) and Catholics must be voting Unionist (South Antrim and North Antrim).

He identified voters in South Belfast and North Down as ‘volatile’.

Nicholas offered no prediction on the marginal East Belfast seat at the May Westminster election other than to suggest that more unionist candidates favour Alliance’s chances. North Belfast is finely balanced and it’s obvious how an election pact could push a candidate over the line.

Perhaps the biggest shock was the drop in Northern Ireland voter turnout. At the 2001 Westminster elections, the top four turnouts in the UK were Northern Irish. By 2010, Fermanagh & South Tyrone was ahead of the rest in 179th position … and no other NI constituency was in the top 400 (out of 650).

Nicholas states that he was against compulsory voting, open to adding ‘none of the above’/’reopen nominations’ to ballot papers, and against e-voting.

Update! Click here for the presentation slides…

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  • Guest

    Thanks for putting this up. The slides for the second half of the talk are not displaying.

  • Intersting to look at those stating Northern Irish as an identity. Looks to be equally popular in the most Catholic areas and the most Protestant areas. Maybe we are moving on in some sort of a shared fashion. However, either most of them aren’t voting or tribal alliances die hard regardless of what you put on the census.

  • Practically_Family

    Or we lie like cheap rugs in opinion polls.

  • Brian O’Neill

    It was census data. Why would they lie on a private census form?

  • Paddy Reilly

    In Westminster elections, South Down Unionists vote SDLP to keep SF out; South Antrim Nationalists vote UUP in the hope of kicking the DUP out. That’s about the long and short of it.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Excellent analysis of ye olde info by Nick. As someone who has grown up with Ps and Cs as my mates from school years, I would confirm that pretty much all of us describe ourselves as Northern Irish. Most hold a British passport but some have an ROI one. This is simply the world wide norm of how you describe where you are from, state, country, region, whatever. You stick an ish on the end. The people who deliberately avoid the term are abnormal and seeking to portray something false because of their own upbringing in NI nonsense. Thankfully only the older generation get on like this these days.

  • aor26

    Hi I just want to clarify your meaning. Are you saying that people who deliberately avoid describing themselves as ‘Northern Irish’ are abnormal ?

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I was thinking of the people who say ‘a Northern Ireland person’ or ‘a person from the north of Ireland ‘ . they avoid using the correct ‘Northern Irish’ term to try and pretend to be less or more Irish. You know that sort of sillyness ?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not an exact science to be fair, a census sample and a (58%) voting sample will not be a matched up group.

    Any chance we could have statistical hypothesis testing on these results?

  • Robin Keogh

    Nick… i am coming to the end of a four year international BA in politics… would it be ok for me to reference you and some of the above in my final thesis?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    It’s a free internet! Now that it’s all online, I have little option but to stand behind what I said!

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Sorry you felt I didn’t answer your question – though if it’s the one I think it was, you more or less answered it yourself, and I also had an obligation to try and bring in other participants!

  • Brian O’Neill
  • mjh

    A lot to chew on here. Many thanks to Alan for putting up the slides.

    Nick is right to highlight that the centrality and usefulness of the PUL/CNR categories to the understanding and analysis of NI politics could lead us to ignore or deny indications of contradictory developments. He urges us to be open in looking at the evidence.

    However we would have to modify our current way of presenting the voter totals which are standing in the way of this objective.

    Currently we are comparing the performance of three groups – Unionist, Nationalist and Other which are not up to the task of clearly revealing changes because the way
    we compile them does not accurately reflect the way that voters actually behave.

    The figures for Unionists currently consists only of votes for unionist parties.
    The votes of independent candidates whose voters interact predominantly with
    the unionist parties are not included. So the votes of, say, an independent candidate
    whose voters know him or her to have similar views to the DUP, are attributed to the Others group, along with Alliance and Green voters. They should instead be designated Unionist.

    The same logic should be applied to candidates from outside of SF and the SDLP who share their transfers primarily with the candidates of these Nationalist parties.

    The third group should not be called Other – which fails to recognise the distinctive
    behaviour of its voters. (We might try Cross Community or even Non-Designated) It
    should be reserved for Alliance and Greens and any other party and independent
    whose voters are drawn from both CNR and PUL community backgrounds and who interact by transfers more with other cross-community candidates than with either unionist or nationalist.

    There are practical difficulties in doing this– but attempting to address them could help to illuminate some of the greater complexities which Nick argues are already developing beneath the surface of NI politics.