Today The Irish News carries the second (and for me the more interesting) part of their survey conducted by the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool. The results are not unambiguous in the sense that the Don’t Know and Yes figures are very close.
The most useful thing about the surveys we get through the University of Liverpool is how they delve beneath the surface of politics. So, as well as these headline figures, it also asks about the salience of the Windsor Framework against other issues.
So, the most important priority for respondents was the economy and the cost of living crisis (48.4%). Second (27.2%) was fixing the NHS. 6.1% regard the Protocol/Windsor Framework as the most important priority.
This includes just 13.9% of unionists compared to 2.1% of nationalists and 3% of “neithers”. The brutal reality, this suggests, is that we have been navel gazing over what a very small minority of the Northern Irish population regard as a key issue.
69.4% of unionists as opposed to 74.1% of nationalists chose the economy, cost of living and the NHS as their main priorities. This is not to diminish the fact that the protocol and the Windsor Framework are attempts to tackle serious economic issues.
The fact, often denigrated by the DUP’s critics, remains that the North Channel is a consumer trade route, so the protocol had the potential to impose adverse cost of living effects vis those Northern Irish retail outlets dependent upon GB supply chains.
Regarding ‘I oppose the Windsor Framework’ 16.9% of voters agreed, around a third neither agreed nor disagreed and 45% disagreed. Interestingly nationalists were slightly more opposed to the WF (19.1%) than unionists (15.7%).
Concerning ‘the political parties that demanded the Protocol be implemented in full underestimated the need for re-negotiation of the Protocol’ was agreed to by two thirds of DUP (65.4%), UUP (65.7%) and TUV (68.1%) voters.
Interestingly 42% of SF and over half of SDLP (52.9%) voters agreed with that statement. But there was agreement just 36.6% of Alliance voters and amongst Greens even lower at 24%.
But the killer for sceptics inside and outside the party is that whilst 46.1% of DUP voters agreed only 13.8% disagreed. This leaves about 40% undecided providing huge scope to fill the vacuum with leadership and a clear direction.
UUP voters were more positive (71.3%) with 50.1% of TUV (the staunchest critics of the Windsor Protocol) supporters disagreeing. Their overall proportion of voter sentiment has dropped to 4.8 per cent. If a split comes it is likely to be marginal.
This runs strongly against what other polling has been suggesting, but it accords strongly with what some DUP activists have been picking up anecdotally on the ground. That, as I warned on Monday, should not be taken as an indication of approval.
Sam McBride argued on Monday’s Channel Four News there are no real further concessions to be wrung from Brussels. But the UK government is likely to be a different proposition. It might suit both Sunak and Donaldson to style out a decent closure.
On this figures it is unlikely that the DUP fear another election, but nor is it likely to yield any change in outcome between them and Sinn Féin in the race to become the next First Minister. Nationalists continue to consolidate behind Sinn Féin
Unionists still constitute the slightly larger block but are far more split at 41.6% to 36.4% (or 38.5% depending on whether you count People Before Profit as Nationalists or Neither).
The paper quotes the Institute Director, Professor Peter Shirlow:
Professor Peter Shirlow, director of the Institute of Irish Studies, said TUV voters were the only group demonstrating majority opposition to the Windsor Framework.
“DUP voters compared to TUV supporters are three times more likely to support the Windsor Framework, while Sinn Fein voters are near as likely to oppose it,” he said.
“What is also important to note is the share of survey respondents who neither agree or disagree – this could be due to many factors from disinterest through lacking knowledge of the framework to simply knowing there is improvement and wondering if it meets unionist concerns.”
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