Apathy about politics is the new politics of Northern Ireland, it seems.

Liam Clarke has been raiding the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Government recent survey for insight on Northern Ireland, and he’s come up with what on the face of it are some surprising figures:

The latest figures to show the decline in our political dynamic is a survey from the University of Edinburgh. It showed that, in Scotland, 76% intend to vote in May. It is 63% in England, 64% in Wales and 55% here. That is a huge change; we used to be the highest-polling region.

Clarke’s explanation is an interesting one:

The missing ingredient is fear and uncertainty. For much of Northern Ireland’s history, elections were conducted as sectarian headcounts. If nationalists, who were almost exclusively Catholic, got a majority at Stormont, they could bring about Irish unity.

That doesn’t apply any more; only a referendum can decide on the border. With falling numbers of people voting, pacts are a way of maximising your share of the 55% who do turn out.

By age group 25-44 that drops to 42%. Now it is important to remember that these are intentions to vote at Westminster, not the Assembly. But it seems to fit with a long term drift away from politics.

In Scotland there appears to be a far greater determination amongst unionists to vote than nationalist minded voters. That exists too (although to much less of an extent) in Northern Ireland.

Apathy about politics is the new politics it seems. [Although it is also worth noting that women seem more inclined to get involved in actual political actions].

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  • Martyn

    From my experiences of canvassing and my discussions with friends, it has now become cool to be apolitical. This is not unique to NI. it is a trend that it common across Western democracies. Martin Platt wrote in the New Statesman recently that joining a political party is now “a big taboo”. He argues that this is wrong and that “engagement and energy are the prices one pays for living in a vibrant democracy”

    A more academic study of the trend can be seen in this link https://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/mind-the-gap/

  • Ernekid

    Its hard to care about politics when it’s just the same old faces having the same old endless sectarian arguments. It’s just so boring.

  • sk

    Meh.

  • mickfealty

    Thanks for the link Martyn…

    I thought that detail about the greater activism was worth including since all political parties seem to be struggling to get them into their parties.

    There has to be some kind of relationship there, no?

  • Tacapall

    And there isn’t the slightest possibility that Irish people have had enough of British politics ? Thankfully the next generation are not as daft as the last.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Electoral pacts will hardly re-energise those who are alienated from the poltical process.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    So why do you come here every day to post innumerable volumes of content on the political landscape in NI?

  • Martyn

    The comments to this post so far are representative of the wider attitudes in NI – Stormont isn’t working – it is always like that – so there is no point in voting at all.

    But not voting at all, by those who might change who they vote for, guarantees that the status quo continues – because there are always those at the extremes of the spectrum who will always vote the same way, regardless of the real issues or the quality of the candidate.

    So, not voting will never bring about change for the better. Clearly, if everybody votes at the next election exactly as they voted at the last, then our failing status quo is returned once again.

    The only logical thing to do is vote again, but vote differently – vote closer to the middle ground. Sadly the SDLP and UUP have both forsaken this zone, both having headed off to the edges, chasing the votes that SF and DUP have taken from them over the last fifteen years. That leaves Alliance, the Green Party and some independents as the only progressive people to vote for. No matter how imperfect these parties and people are, they are the only hope to improve our children’s future.

  • Ernekid

    Because I’m a sad sad lonely man Joe.

  • Martyn

    You could always join a political party and make new friends?

  • Korhomme

    Alliance, Greens and some independents are the nearest thing we have here to ‘real’ politicians.

  • Martyn

    Have a listen to the four speeches by the new Alliance councillors, Nuala, Patrick, Amanda and Emmet.
    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/03/14/david-ford-we-are-more-committed-to-transforming-northern-ireland-than-you-mr-robinson-ap2015/
    These four are new faces and refreshingly different from the “same old faces”. Change is not only possible, it’s on its way.

  • Tacapall

    But if your honest your just selling more of the same, just rearranging the deckchairs in a different manner but the status quo will nonetheless remain the same, career politicians paid for by the British purse. Irish people refusing to have anything to do with British politics will send a bigger message than the almost thousand years of being fooled and manipulated by British politics attempting to bring about political change in Ireland.

  • Dan

    What’s progressive about parties with nonsense policies…ever read the Alliance guff on the environment?

  • chrisjones2

    …and 100 years of being fooled by irish poltics

  • chrisjones2

    I thought NI politicians only had varying degrees of enemies

  • Tacapall

    You’ve a long time to catch up then.

  • chrisjones2

    Come back in 20 years and say that. It will be flegs, marches and caravans at Ardoyne

  • aor26

    ”If nationalists, who were almost exclusively Catholic, got a majority at Stormont, they could bring about Irish unity.”

    What in heavens name is Clarke talking about ?? Northern Ireland was established on a sectarian headcount – the whole point of it being established was to ensure a vast protestant majority and therefore it was always impossible that Nationalists could be the majority in Stormont. That was the entire point of Northern Ireland being established. Absolute unadulterated nonsense !!

  • PaulT

    “In Scotland there appears to be a far greater determination amongst unionists to vote than nationalist minded voters. That exists too (although to much less of an extent) in Northern Ireland.”

    Just to point out the obvious fact that unionists in Scotland have a choice of at least 3 parties to vote for, and I can only think of one nationalist.

    But than again unionism is very soft in Scotland as shown by the Indie Ref, latest poll had 52% in favour of independence (bit late but heyho)

    And if your 2nd sentence is true, given that NI is looking at another 55% turnout it suggests NI unionists ain’t happy with the er Union.

    NI or Scotland they’re fickle people

  • Guest

    As a 22 year old voter, I have found myself disillusioned with NI politics; it is difficult to vote for a party when the major distinction hinges on their views regarding a united Ireland. If any major Westminster party ran in Northern Ireland they would be likely to get my vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    Guest

    You can’t afford to wait for ‘normality’! In 1972 when I lived in WB I joined APNI though I knew I was a natural Labour supporter. I could not have known that over 40 years later Labour would still nit be organising here. In the meantime I’m happy with Alliance.

  • I believe that people do not see changes taking place whether they vote or not. It was patently clear from a recent Assembly debate, raised by Sinn Féin, on new ways to raise revenue that there is very little imagination or perhaps will on behalf of the Executive parties to explore new policies.
    Additionally many people doubt the influence of MPs from this country in Westminster. This adds another problem as people see Westminster making decisions effectively over their heads.
    To top it off, with d’Hondt on Executive departments, voting for the DUP because of their policy on education means next to nothing if the minister is from Sinn Féin.
    In short there is a great disconnect between voting for a candidate, seeing that candidate elected and as a result their and your policies being implemented.

  • Thomas Girvan

    It makes me wonder how the majority of people who vote in some constituencies actually vote for having no representative at all sooner than someone who will actually represent them at parliament.
    How does that work?
    It’s a funny old game!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Apathy is not political… Does anyone think Sexual Apathy is Sexual?

  • Zeno

    55% Lets send them a message and get that below 50%.
    #noneoftheabove

  • Croiteir

    Or vote again further from the middle ground and that too will get a change

  • Croiteir

    I have found myself disillusioned voting for Westminster parties too, which is why I don’t

  • Croiteir

    It seems the Guest cannot deal with the depth of abnormality that is the Alliance party

  • Granni Trixie

    Agreed. Isn’t it sad that Apni is the only cross community party here? Would that this were the norm.

  • Croiteir

    Really? is everyone else sectarian? Must be wonderful to be so superior

  • Martyn

    Croiteir, what you are recommending is exactly what has been happening for the last 15 years and it has not worked. The only change that your recommendation is likely to bring is further dis-satisfaction with the political structure, probably leading to unrest and violence again. I assume that is not what you want.

  • Martyn

    Most people in NI live their daily lives in a non-sectarian way. it is only in the voting booth that they revert to voting for the party that is most against what they are against.

  • Croiteir

    Not true – another wide brushstroke

  • Croiteir

    No it has not happened – how many dissidents have been elected? How are the political wings of the UDA and UVF doing?

  • barnshee

    2Really? is everyone else sectarian? Must be wonderful to be so superior”

    yes

  • barnshee

    I see all those prods voting SF /SDLP all those micks voting DUP/OUP– I must have missed that

  • Tacapall

    You catch on easily dont ya Chris, who does all those who will be swinging flegs, coat trailing and squatting in caravans represent – More of the same.

  • Practically_Family

    The voters probably realise that in Westminster terms they’re effectively disenfranchised anyway. So it really just comes doen to the old ussuns or themmmuns thing. Where it’s a safe bet the MP will be an ussun… Might as well watch it on telly.

  • Granni Trixie

    I did not mean to say other than that I chose to be in a party which has a culture which tries to nurture diversity and that there is evidence that this has worked. This is not the same as stating that I think my choice is superior. It is you who assumes a cross community party is,

  • Gingray

    Tsk Mick, you are in danger of falling into the trap of insinuating that nationalist apathy is greater than unionist because of politics, while ignoring the simplest factor of all – age.

    Both nationalist here and Scotland are younger, and tend to be less likely to vote. That age thing is fairly universal by the way – here is the UK data from 2010:

    https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2613/How-Britain-Voted-in

  • Gingray

    Oh and taking it the step further, we can just look at the data and do the maths. Data from the 2010 census and Westminster elections, along with gb turnout data by age shows that contrary to the opinion illustrated in Micks article, nationalists are actually no more apathetic than unionists.

    I wonder who it suits tho if that narrative keeps getting promulgated?

    So ipsos has gb turnout broken into 6 age bands: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65+. Turnout % for each was 44/55/66/69/73/76.

    In the 2010 census northern Ireland over 18 had the following numbers in thousands by age band:

    Catholics-86/123/117/110/79/91
    Protestants-75/101/122/129/109/165
    Other-15/20/15/10/6/5

    Total of 1378k with 44% of this Catholic, 51% protestant, 5% other. In that general election nationalist got 42%, unionist 50%, other 8%. This fits the view that nationalists are more apathetic.

    But consider turnout by age and it changes. Using the Gb figures for age turnout, compared to actual turnout, and we see that in ni all parties underperformed with unionists doing slightly worse than nationalists.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fw10.htm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/election2010/results/constituency/717.stm

    From the 2010 census – DC2117NI Religion or Religion Brought Up In by age

  • Kevin Breslin

    What message is actually working Zeno, there is the delusion that all non-voters want the same thing, but by NOT voting the only message being sent is these people on the electoral register want NOTHING.

    Plenty of alternatives standing forward are being denied the chance to send a message simply because of the sense of entitlement cynical non-voters get from believing that 45% of the population share the entirety of the political views as themselves.

    If that’s true, you could build political activist groups with this significant group that could make a change without a representative. The reality though is many are just nitpickers and nihilists.

  • Croiteir

    So all those people vote based on their religion and not on their view of the constitutional question amongst other issues?

  • Zeno

    “Plenty of alternatives standing forward are being denied the chance to send a message simply because of the sense of entitlement cynical non-voters…………”

    The political system we have is corrupt. We don’t have democracy. We have leadership by people who have appointed themselves as leaders. You can’t change anything except the suits. Lab/Con same thing…. SF/DUP same thing.
    If you want to keep propping it up, keep voting.

  • Zeno

    From what I can gather ,most of them vote to keep themmuns out.

  • Zeno

    “Both nationalist here and Scotland are younger, and tend to be less likely to vote”

    I’m assuming you mean people from a Nationalist background? If that is the case it assumes they are Nationalist without any other evidence?

  • Gingray

    Yawn Zeno, you willfully ignore the evidence as it doesn’t suit your blinkered mindset.

    Regardless of turnout over the last 20 years, nationalist parties have got a % which is within a couple of percent of the Catholic population. It’s not a coincidence 🙂

    Here is a slugger thread with plenty of evidence. I note it’s one of the few you didn’t comment on lol

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/03/09/who-cares-about-voting-and-identity-nicholas-whyte-explains-the-stats-imaginebelfast15/

  • Zeno

    Yawn
    Nationalist parties are supported by just under 23% of the electorate.
    The Catholic and ex Catholic community are over 40% of the electorate.

    Yeah that’s not exactly a couple of %. Maybe it is you who is blinkered.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Rubbish … Like it or not both parties have strong mandates by individuals with the same right to vote as you or I. You waste the vote, I vote for a different party and make a statement. Turnout has just fallen year by year and the DUP and SF are only stronger because of it. At least their voters might change something, the non-voter does not.

  • Zeno

    As I said If you want to keep propping it up, keep voting.
    I’ve made no difference to who is in power and neither have you, but at least I am showing my contempt for them. You might as well be voting for different species of monkeys. That might be an idea actually. The monkeys definitely wouldn’t make so many stupid decisions as your glorious leaders.

  • Gingray

    Lol silly little boy! Democracy doesn’t work based on electorate numbers, it’s based on number who vote 🙂

    No matter how often you polish your turd like theory, it doesn’t work. But you know this.

  • Kevin Breslin

    We’ve have plenty of alternatives to democracy here, war for instance, protests and segregation another … We’ve tried killing and seperating ourselves from one another during direct rule and it achieved a big fat minus, never mind a zero.

    Democracy is still the least worst alternative to fascism.

    I would not have the access to education and employment if not for the Civil Rights Movement and their demand for one man one vote … Even when the establishment were thinking these civil rights were a stupid decision.

  • Zeno

    Attack me all you like. Call me names, but you can’t deny the facts,
    All Catholics are not Nationalists

  • Zeno

    “I would not have the access to education and employment if not for the Civil Rights Movement and their demand for one man one vote ..”

    I don’t see the link?
    In fact I’m completely baffled by that. Catholics were passing the 11 plus, going to grammar schools and going to Queens and other Universities in the 1960’s.

  • Gingray

    Zeno – the martyr for his turd! I’d forgotten that you had elected yourself spokesperson for non voters.

    The fact is, in elections in Northern Ireland, year after year after year, the numbers voting nationalist or unionist are broadly congruent with the numbers for Catholic and Protestant. Turnout at its highest and lowest bears this out.

    I’ve pointed out research you chose to ignore, instead you assume that non voters are unionist.

  • Zeno

    “Zeno – the martyr for his turd!”

    Is that all you got?
    I don’t know what point you are trying to make. Maybe if you explained yourself a bit better. Is that possible, or is turd the height of your intellect?

  • Gingray

    Zeno it’s already been established, across this and the many other posts you pollute with your lack of knowledge, that even when facts and research are shown proving you wrong, that you won’t budge from your position as speaker for all non voters in northern Ireland.

    Keep on polishing.

  • Zeno

    “Zeno it’s already been established, across this and the many other posts you pollute with your lack of knowledge,”

    Established by whom? You? I don’t think that counts.
    From my position, it appears you are unable to debate your case. You can do personal insults, but any kid can do that. You are stuck in a position and you have to keep trying to justify it to yourself. On the other hand, I’m not indoctrinated with Nationalist or Unionist ideologies. I feel sorry for people who are,
    So make your point or go away.
    W-h-a-t….. i-s….. y-o-u-r-‘e ……p-o-i-n-t?

  • Gingray

    🙂
    Zeno my point was made before you came along, and you will see plenty of links to research and data that supports it.

    You on the otherhand, don’t appear to have a point other than pretending to speak for all non voters and claim they are unionist, stupidly failing to recognise that in a democracy only the votes on a ballot paper count.

    And not those imagined by a confused little boy who thinks he speaks for all non voters

  • Kevin Breslin

    One person One vote ensured I had access to a public sector job and prevented discrimination of my community and those in lower classes within the Protestant community have a say in politics here. You’ve gone from revolutionary anarchist to defender of the king in just two posts, that’s an amazing turn around. That baffles me. You are complaing about elites you think we should all feel safe with.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m curious to know whether the NI Green Party is either Unionist or nationalist in your estimation, Granni!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I don’t vote myself (Emma Goldman “told” me not to long, long years ago in my PD days…) I do know of a few Protestants around Larne who certainly voted for Oliver McMullan last round of voting.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    It’s less apathy and more disgust at our local politicians. If you don’t vote for the political wing of the IRA or the bigotry and hate personified by the DUP, then who are you left with? I’m conservative in my views but will not vote for a “Protestant” party, so what does that leave me? Provide me a real choice and I’ll vote. I don’t call that apathetic. It’s like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

  • Granni Trixie

    My mistake – I overlooked the Greens as a cross community alternative party.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    All too easily done! And apologies for the mild sarcasm, I just can’t help myself.

  • Zeno

    “And not those imagined by a confused little boy who thinks he speaks for all non voters”

    There is a rule that says play the ball. If you are unable to do that I suggest you go somewhere else before you are told to.

  • Gingray

    And here come the threats! Unless you are actually a confused little boy, then you have not been played. I just assumed that making things up was OK, as your only point is predicated on mistruth

  • Zeno

    I’ll let it go this time. Don’t call people names.It demeans you, not them.

  • barnshee

    don`y you mean the 50`s?

  • barnshee

    “clear from a recent Assembly debate, raised by Sinn Féin, on new ways to raise revenue that there is very little imagination or perhaps will on behalf of the Executive parties to explore new policies.

    The way to stun a shinner is to ask
    What new taxes would theY implement?
    Which taxes would they increase?
    Which taxes would decrease?

    They used to spout a line about “waiting to see the books” but that died when they realised the extent of the subvention would be advertised regularly. Even the brain dead might sit up and take notice.

  • Sharpie

    It may never have been reality but that never stopped the perception being sold as fact by those who would quiver at the thought. if you don’t vote for us – they might get in and the next day you’ll be getting paid in punts!

  • Gingray

    Thank you. Your threat scared me, coupled with your self appointed role as speaker for all non voters, so I will try very very very hard not to mock you in future when you spout ill informed nonsense

  • aor26

    So you are saying I misunderstood and what Clarke was actually saying that the Unionist population were fed this propaganda and that motivated them to vote unionist. Despite it being unadulterated nonsense to anybody with a modicum of political awareness at the time.

    Cheers for the clarification