Category: Archive

GFA losing support, poll finds

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

According to the survey published in the Belfast Telegraph, 36 percent of Protestants would vote in favor of the agreement in a referendum today, as opposed to the 53 percent of Protestants who endorsed it at the polls in 1998.
The poll also shows that trust in the political parties and the governments has plummeted, and that majorities in both communities want stability.
The results of the Queen’s University/Rowntree Trust poll show active Protestant support for the agreement has hit record depths, with just over one-third of Protestants saying they would vote yes in a new referendum.
While a majority of Protestants – 60 percent – would still be happy to see the agreement work, that figure has also fallen to the lowest level since the 1998 referendum. Catholic support for the Agreement remains high – 90 percent would vote yes.
The poll suggests the elections due on May 1 to a new Assembly are wide open. The four main parties sit within five points of each other, with each in range of one-fifth of the total vote.
Crucially, 17 percent of the respondents – as many as indicated they would vote for the DUP and Sinn Fein – refused to register support for any political party. This is the highest refusal rate in nine years of similar polls.
While this figure undoubtedly contains some Sinn Fein and DUP supporters, who traditionally do not identify themselves to pollsters, it must also indicate that a significant section of the electorate are floating voters.
Protestant and Catholic respondents share many of the same concerns about the agreement. Decommissioning tops the list of unfulfilled concerns for both communities, followed by the instability of the institutions.
Both sides blame each other: a significant majority of Catholics, 82 percent, fault unionists for the current collapse, while 73 percent of Protestants blame republicans.
The British government will be encouraged by a significant drop in Catholic concerns about police reform. That issue used to top Catholic dissatisfaction with the peace process, but it has now fallen to eighth place.
Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, said while the results showed “understandable” dissatisfaction with the way the accord has been implemented, a majority still want it to work.
Sinn Fein’s Pat Doherty said that the low figure of Protestants supporting the agreement was hardly surprising given “the complete failure of the UUP to sell the agreement to the unionist community.”
“David Trimble and the UUP have never in the five years since it was signed went out and actually sold it,” Doherty said. “Last October, Trimble went further and actually positioned the UUP in the anti-Agreement camp. It is this sort of negative leadership that has resulted in the poll findings.”

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