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].
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