The alienation of under-40s pro-union Protestants challenges unionist parties as well as Alliance

Friday morning’s Guardian reports on the top line results from University of Liverpool research which shows that “younger pro-union Protestant voters in Northern Ireland are increasingly turned off unionist politicians due to their parties’ social conservatism on issues such as gay rights and abortion”.

The results are challenging, not just for unionist parties, but potentially also for Alliance. Henry McDonald’s report on the survey says:

“While support among Protestants aged under 40 for staying in the UK remains solid at 82%, a majority of them no longer vote in elections for the Northern Ireland assembly or Westminster …

“The research concludes there is a much broader divide between generations, with the most liberal sections of Northern Irish society not voting in local elections.”

1,155 voters across Northern Ireland were interviewed directly after June’s General Election.

63% of under-40s pro-unionist Protestants who voted were in favour of same-sex marriage equality. Support rose to 72% amongst non-voting under-40s pro-unionist Protestants.

52% of under-40s pro-unionist Protestants who did not vote are were in favour of lifting the ban on terminations.

Survey author Prof Peter Shirlow said that the findings pointed out a “massive inter-generational gap” between younger voters’ social attitudes and those of the political parties. In particular, this alienation of younger unionists should be a “wake-up call to the DUP” in terms of alienating younger unionists.

The article includes a sidebar with an interview with Davy Rea who self-describes as a unionist who believes in equality.

… over the last few years in a plethora of elections to the Stormont assembly, local councils and even Westminster, Rae has been at times reluctant to visit his local polling station.

Why? Because he is pro-union but also gay.

Rea, who works for a technology company, says he has no one to vote for among the mainstream unionist political parties – especially those who constantly torpedo attempts to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland.

I don’t feel I have any real choice when it comes to voting in elections,” he says. “I am a unionist, I am socially liberal, I believe in equality but who can I vote for? [emphasis added]

Rea goes on to outline his opinion that “by opposing equality the DUP are discarding and ignoring people like myself who want to remain in the UK, inside a multicultural, tolerant society”.

“My sister is 17 and will soon be of voting age. She asks me all the time who can she vote for if she is pro-union but believes in treating people equally. What do I tell her?”

Conclusions cannot be drawn from one case study. The article says that a “majority” of surveyed under-40s pro-unionist Protestants did not vote in June’s General Election (though doesn’t give a specific figure).

While there’s a direct challenge to parties with a ‘U’ in their acronym, there’s also an implicit challenge to Alliance (and also the Greens) who are neutral on the union, but are not successfully wooing all the pro-union voters who reject their tradition parties’ social conservatism.

, ,

  • The worm!

    There was widespread support among the Catholic community for the republican terror campaign. The level of that support may have varied across individuals but it was always there to some degree, they couldn’t have done what they done otherwise.

    The level of support which Sinn Fein now command at the ballot box is a manifestation of that, and it’s not going to go away you know!

    They will continue to be a major power in the history of Northern Ireland, whatever that may be, for the foreseeable future.

    To suggest otherwise is either naive or an attempt to be deliberately misleading.

  • jimbob622

    Thinking for yourself eh? Any chance you are parroting a lot of these alt-right mouth pieces that are all over youtube these days?

  • NotNowJohnny

    You are trolling? You keep asking the same questions.

  • Zeno

    Yeah equality is the trojan horse to break the ba$tards doesn’t divide people at all. Lauding the sectarian murder gangs isn’t divisive at all.

  • Zeno

    Nationalism is also in decline.

  • Maybe Rea values his economic interests. A vote for green may bring marriage equality, but they also believe in negative economic growth, citizen income etc. We might all find ourselves equally unemployed and poor. I dont even know what the economic policy of alliance is.

  • NotNowJohnny

    This is what Rae said. “I am a unionist, I am socially liberal, I believe in equality but who can I vote for?”” Quite a few things there but no mention of economic policy. If his economic interests were critical in relation to which party he votes for, one would have assumed he would have mentioned it there. But he didn’t.

    Do you know that a key part of Alliance’s economic policy is Northern Ireland staying the single market and remaining in the customs union?

  • The interview was about attitudes on social issues. But given the lack of engagement, there must he factors putting this person off voting for other parties that dont have to do with the “rights agenda”.

    As for the economic policy of alliance; staying in single maket is a policy that transcends the left/right spectrum across europe. I dont know if alliance supports wealth creation and individuals getting to keep more of their money. Or do they support more tax and spend.

  • Zeno

    We are getting therapy.

  • mac tire

    “They will continue to be a major power in the history of Northern Ireland, whatever that may be, for the foreseeable future.”

    I have no argument about that sentence – it’s the nature of the place we live in. However, my answer was predicated on Neil’s “any process towards a UI” – i.e. I assumed he was talking about a border poll being set in motion and would thus involve parties not from the north.

    The Worm, we may come from different parts of the political spectrum but I certainly have no intention of deliberately misleading you. Naive? Possibly but I am basing my view on what I know.

  • mac tire

    “There is no point in even engaging in discussions on Slugger O’Toole.”

    And yet, here you are. We are just waiting on Contemptible Ulsterman to turn up so we have a trio.

  • Michael Dowds

    I’m mortified…

  • Zeno

    Actually that is technically wrong by a tiny fraction.
    Over the last 20 years the Unionist vote as a percentage of the Electorate declined by -0.017873867%
    Nationalist declined by -0.000431066%

    That’s known locally as a Nationalist Surge.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Yes, there are other factors influencing his decision. I suspect they may relate to his perception that voting alliance is somehow damaging to the union, a false perception possibly based on what he has been led to believe by other unionist parties acting in their own self interest rather than the interest of wider society. BTW the alliance party’s 2017 GE Manifesto had a detailed section on its economic policies.

  • Jeff

    It’s called democracy George, the majority of the community don’t want a UK. If Sinn Fein got their act together and helped get stomont up and running we would have local accountability.

  • Jeff

    Bit like the Tories then George

  • NotNowJohnny

    Sinn Fein operated the institutions successfully for ten years until 2017 without instigating instability. Before that they were in government between 1999 and 2002. During these periods unionists collapsed the institutions twice while the unionist first minister introduced a bizarre in-out policy during which DUP ministers kept resigning, taking up post again and then immediately resigning again. Why do you single out Sinn Fein for delivering instability in NI?

  • Mark Petticrew

    It ultimately depends upon what election you’re looking at really. Taking 399,453 votes in the 1997 Westminster election (50.5%), unionism reclined to a total of 398,921 in the 2017 election (48.9%). As for elections to the Assembly, unionism polled 411,369 in 1998 (52.3%), before falling to 358,818 in 2017 (44.7%). Anyhow, whichever election it is, unionism as a political force has experienced an evident decline over the last 20 years.

    As for the nationalist surge of 2017, I guess the phrase can be somewhat misleading. Not so much an overall surge, but an internal resurgence of the green bloc; it having more to do with nationalism – when combined with the WP and PBP – in March (41.3%) and June (41.8%) reacquainting itself with its 2007 high watermark (42.4%) as opposed to an actual expansion of the green tent.

    Nonetheless, unlike unionism, nationalism as of 2017 – again combining the WP and PBP – can state itself to be ahead of its electoral takings from two decades ago:

    Westminster elections: 1997; 40.5% – 2017; 41.8%.
    Assembly elections: 1998; 39.3% – 2017; 41.3%.

  • Zeno

    Demographics.
    The demographics argument is based on the idea that as the Catholic Population increases then support for UI will increase proportionately.
    Every year that passes more and more young Catholics will enter the electorate and it’s only a matter of time until the majority is Nationalist. The facts are different.
    In the last 19 years between the 1998 Election and the 2017 Election the electorate increased by 76,163.
    The Nationalist vote (counting PBP) increased by 17,033.
    What happened? Only 22.3% of the new young voters voted for nationalist parties. There has been no long steady increase in support for UI either.
    In the absence of any logical explanation. The demographics argument is dead.

    Nationalist Vote in decline.
    Over the last 20 years the Unionist vote as a percentage of the Electorate declined by -0.017873867%
    Nationalist declined by -0.000431066%

    The important phrase is percentage of the Electorate. That is everyone entitled to vote. If Nationalism was increasing it would show in that figure since that is the whole basis of the demographics argument.
    The population has increased and the electorate has increased but the Nationalist and Unionist voted have both shrunk in relation to that.

  • Georgie Best

    Westminster elections are not a great guide, and of less interest for nationalists. The Assembly elections are more granular and representative.
    In 20 years unionism has gone from 52.3% to 44.7%, while nationalism has gone from 39.3% to 41.3%. Clearly there is also an increase in the “middle” block. The latter group were happy enough the with the status quo, but not so happy with the present attempts by the British and unionists to end the consensus approach that has existed for two decades. It is improbable that the unionists will ever get a majority in the assembly again, which is one reason why they are refusing to restart the executive.

  • Zeno

    “Westminster elections are not a great guide, and of less interest for nationalists.”

    I thought they got their highest vote they ever had in that last one? Maybe I’m wrong?

  • james

    A political opportunist who leeched himself onto the times for personal gain. Much like Adams. Much like McGuinness. All three are and were parasites which would have eventually killed the host. Only Adams, probably the most poisonous of the three, remains – for the present.

  • Granni Trixie

    I thought it was phonetic spelling…which is ok…we know what he means..

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    A confused individual

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    Yes, we in the West do need action; locally, Northern Ireland politicians don’t need as much change. We actually have a real conservatism in Northern Ireland. The rest of the West needs to catch up, and the tides are turning in that direction but needs to go further a purge of the treacherous and careless “liberal” anarchy that still prevails, but much stronger action to clean up the mess the anarchy has have left behind.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    You have a point that people who have been so brainwashed to think that a made up insult ending in “ism” or “phobia” is an argument are actually worth listening to.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    I would like to make my points but have just discovered the moderators make it impossible. Promoting terrorism is fine here. Criticising degeneracy, and speaking the unpleasant facts of those leading sordid lifestyles which are now being promoted by the establishment are not.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    No, “liberals” are destroying the entire West. They are the most dangerous enemy we have. We need zero of modern so-called “liberalism”.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    You are forgetting environmental factors such as a mother’s influence etc. I have heard stories from numerous people who simply came across that lifestyle due to life experiences or being brought up in a certain way to hate masculinity etc. Rates in prisons also skyrocket due to the environment, and there are attempts within this political movement to “recruit” more into their abnormal destructive lifestyles. I also very much doubt those sissies as children would have grown up to engage in sadistic unhygenic faecal play if it were not for corrupting lifestyle influences, and had some better role models.

    Promoting such non-sexual behaviour as if it were sexual also has subtle corrupting influences on otherwise heteronormal (sexual) people, promoting promiscuity, destroying love, destroying normal masculine-feminine attraction through culture by making men feminine and women masculine, and forgetting all sexual morality which has its purpose in ensuring responsibility for any consequences of actual (ie “heteronormal”) sexual intercourse.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    A good article that I strongly recommend you read: https://www.savethemales.ca/000165.html

  • Zeno

    You are obviously unaware of the sexual practices of hetrosexuals to make those comments.

  • tmitch57

    In the late 1990s I was doing research on Alliance at the Linen Hall Library. I found an article in a copy of their newsletter from 1993 or 1994 in which a young APNI canvasser reported that a young woman told her that she wished that their parties would have Alliance’s policies. When asked why she didn’t vote Alliance, she simply said that she could only vote for unionist parties. In deeply-divided tribal societies tribal loyalty is more important than content–a label is more important than substance. Its also the same with countries with plurality voting systems like Britain, Canada, the U.S. etc. where voters get used to voting for a particular party and don’t really do research or thinking at election time but automatically pull the familiar lever or check the familiar box. Only when an outside authority that is more important like religious clergy tells them not to vote for a particular party or candidate will they seriously consider not doing so.

  • tmitch57

    “There was widespread support among the Catholic community for the republican terror campaign.”

    But it was only majority support in republican ghettoes such as West Belfast, parts of North Belfast, South Armagh, Derry, etc. The SDLP won the majority of the nationalist vote by about a two to one margin through 1998 and a majority until 2001. It was only after the IRA gave up its terror campaign and was seen as not likely to return that it was able to surpass the SDLP at the polls, which is pretty good proof that the nationalist population as a whole did not support the republican terror campaign of the INLA/IRA.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Pretty sure I never said tha

  • Zorin001

    Funny i’ve heard this kind of talk about purging degenerates before, seem to remember it didn’t end well.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I’m pretty sure calling people ‘low testosterone’ because they’ve refuted your groundless point is insulting and there’s not an “ism” or “phobia” in sight.

  • The worm!

    I’m quite happy to accept that.

    I said it as a possibility, certainly not an accusation. 🙂

  • The worm!

    I did say that the level of support varied, but it was widespread.

    As an example, I don’t know whether or not you are familiar with Waterfoot beach, it’s where the body of Peter Wilson was buried in 1973 and lay undiscovered until 2010.

    It’s a very long beach and in a truly lovely place as it spans pretty much the entire length of the floor of Glenariffe Glen with Waterfoot village itself at one end of it. The body had been buried at the village end of the beach literally a stones throw from the heart of the village. This in a place where until pretty recently you couldn’t have thrown a Beachcaster in to the sea without someone making a point of finding out who you were and where you were from. Plainly there was support there or that “secret” could not have been kept.

  • Stifler’s Mom

    Far leftist Guardian trying to push compliance with leftist pro homosexuality, pro death, anti family agenda. It’s so obvious in much of their articles. The idea here is that pro union parties should abandon their conservative, pro normal family, pro life values because leftists are trying to scare them into thinking they will loose support. Do not listen to them. Conservative values offer a hopeful future for people, leftist ideology only offers self hatred and mental disorders.

  • Skibo

    The referendum would suggest there are over 50% support for Alliance’s position in regard to the single market.

  • Skibo

    What have SF done in the last ten years to hinder a United Ireland?

  • Toye native

    I was talking in terms of unionist votes, there is tens of thousands out there who don’t vote, liberal unionists and catholics who need a voice the union in NI would be even stronger.
    Then you can have a truly conservative party D.U.P,
    As a evangelical Christian you will not find someone who hates laberalism more than me.
    The new south Belfast DUP mp, is to liberal for the party

  • Tochais Siorai

    Profile pic of an American Pie character. Then you go on about conservative values.

    ????

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    You remember do you? Long overdue.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    No, I’m not. There has been a massive spike in people claiming to be “bisexual” in past 5 years due to its promotion. We live in an eradicated where a a sick culture has been allowed to manifest to completely annhialate the family, destroy male-female relations and love itself.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    Indeed, truth hurts buddy. I hear zinc supplements are supposed to help with your problem.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well, neither you nor any one else has ever accused me of having low testosterone but I can see that my accusation that you don’t constructively engage with people still stands without refute.

    The irony is that I think (buried under your bile) you are correct regarding the importance of the family unit and that it is being undermined by shallow projections of modern living and the selfish and unfulfilling nature thereof.

    But why you’re unable to articulate your opinions in a civilised and mannerly fashion (the point of manners) is as baffling as it is demeaning to your position.

  • Zeno

    No one had better orgies than the Romans. It’s not new.

  • Zorin001

    Maybe you would like to spell out for us exactly what it is you are proposing? For clarity of course.

    Spare no detail!

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    Indeed, caused the fall of Rome.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    I shall articulate my positions in any way I see fit. The very reason the cultural decline has been allowed to happen is because those standing up for decent conservative values have been far too polite and the result is hence that they have been trampled over. Meanwhile, the anarchists have been allowed to go on the rampage and get their way. The only way this rot will be undone is through aggressive attack on those destroying our civilization and nations. The clock is ticking for the very survival of the West, and we simply do not have time to tolerate this naive, destructive, fantasy ideological nonsense that is being thrusted upon us any more.

  • Zorin001

    You would be aware of course than when (Western Rome) fell if had been under Christian rule for nearly 200 years and that most of the “degeneracy” had been severely curtailed though probably not eradicated entirely (we all know how hypocritical those in power can be).

  • Kevin Breslin

    These Protestants should join these parties get involved in politics themselves, being the change that they want to see.
    We’d love to hear from them in the SDLP.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They lost three of their four female MLAs … Overend, Palmer and Dobson should be fighting their way back into the fold again. They would be an asset in building the party starting from the council elections, which ultimately is the next battle they face.

  • Granni Trixie

    Be that as it may (re returners) but in this day and age they ought not to be reliant on that – the party’s culture should be user friendly to women generally. I don’t think the leaders even recognise a problem staring them in the face.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    So THAT’S why you called Shane ‘low testosterone’ when he said he had no feelings on the union either way?
    Your manner is more likely to push non-plussed nominal ‘nationalists’ into the bona fide nationalist camp rather than brow beat them into compliance.
    As it is harmful to the union and good for nationalism it’s a nonsensical approach.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They’ve got plenty of female members but it’s a matter for them to carve out leadership roles within the party.

    As far as I’m concerned roles within the party structure are equally as important as representation … representation relies on the former for starters.

  • Granni Trixie

    Leaders have a key role influencing the culture and power resides in less obvious places too.

  • Abominable Ulsterman

    I would say any male who goes along with the “progressive liberal” anarchy has something wrong with him.

    When you are in the right, such as most “Unionists”, you will be respected more if you have confidence in your position, rather than bending over backwards and constantly apologising for doing nothing wrong while defending yourself against a ruthless enemy who wants nothing other than you to have no place to call home.

  • GnomerJSimpson

    Nothing has happened to destroy or threathen the relationship between my wife and I. It would only be a threat if the sudden option of a same sex relationship was particularly appealing to one of us.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Who is apologising?