Newswise – According to a new report Voters in Northern Ireland are split into three camps over whether the restored assembly will last until the end of its current term in 2027, according to a study by Queen’s University Belfast.

A third (33%) of voters believe the convention will stand; 31% believe it won’t last and 36% say they are unsure/don’t know. Strong nationalists (39%) and strong unionists (37%) are those who have the most confidence in it lasting, while moderates have the least confidence (only 23% of “neutral” voters think it will last).

This latest poll (using a weighted sample of 1,202 respondents from across Northern Ireland) was conducted by LucidTalk for Queen’s University on February 2 and 5, 2024, just days after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed to secure the “deal”. The British government has agreed to the Union with the Union, addressing its concerns about the protocol and allowing the devolved institutions to be restored.

The poll found that almost three quarters of respondents (73%) believed the DUP’s return to Stormont was the right thing to do. This includes a clear majority of Alliance, SDLP, Sinn Féin and UUP supporters almost half (47%) of DUP voters.

However, only 24% of respondents believe the agreement reached by the DUP was worth delaying the establishment of the Assembly/Executive for almost two years, despite 75% of DUP voters believing this.

The caution over the stability of the Assembly may be linked to the fact that more than 6 in 10 voters (62%) want political debate in Northern Ireland to “deviate from” Brexit/protocol matters. Almost, though a quarter of voters (24%) want to continue to focus on Brexit/protocol issues in the political debate; This includes more than half of respondents (52%) who describe themselves as “strongly unionized.”

Similarly, 65% of respondents ranked the protocol overall in the bottom four of a list of ten concerns, while 20% ranked it as one of their top three priorities; In contrast, 47% of those who identify as strongly union-minded rank it as one of their top three concerns.

However, for the majority of voters (55%), a party’s position on the Protocol/Windsor Framework will be “determining” whether they vote for that party in the next UK general election. This is especially true for “strongly pro-union” voters (75%), let alone voters who identify as “neutral” (32%).

This is the tenth in a series of Testing the Temperature reports on Northern Ireland voters’ views on Brexit and the protocol, produced as part of a four-year project run by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Other important findings include:

  • 6 out of 10 respondents (60%) see the Protocol/Windsor framework as an appropriate means of addressing the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and more than half (56%) believe the Protocol/Windsor framework has a positive impact on Northern Ireland’s economy (29% disagree).

  • As in previous polls, more than half of voters (55%) think the Protocol/Windsor framework overall is “a good thing for Northern Ireland”; 29% of respondents disagree (down from 35% in October 2023).

  • Just over two thirds (68%) of voters believe the Protocol/Windsor framework offers unique post-Brexit economic opportunities compared to the rest of the UK.

  • Despite his Protection of the Union Despite the UK government failing to deliver on its commitments, people are still far more likely to distrust it (81%) than to trust it (4%). Managing Northern Ireland’s interests in relation to the Protocol/Windsor framework.

  • The majority of voters (84%), including a majority of all political perspectives, agree that it is important that business and civil society groups in Northern Ireland have their voice heard in the implementation of the Protocol/Windsor Framework.

  • Almost a third of voters (32%) agree MLAs should try to use the Stormont brake to block updates to EU legislation “regardless of the consequences”. The majority of voters (53%) disagree.

  • More than half of respondents (56%) want their MLAs to support continued use of the Protocol/Windsor framework in the Assembly’s democratic consent vote later this year; Less than a third (30%) want MPs to vote against it (the lowest proportion ever).

Commenting on the latest findings, lead researcher Professor David Phinnemore, from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s, said:

“For most voters in Northern Ireland, there are far more important issues that need to be addressed than any ongoing concerns about the Protocol/Windsor framework. Most voters want the political debate to continue and for MLAs to vote to continue the Protocol/Windsor framework later this year. Clearly, these regulations continue to be a cause for concern for a minority. With the British government Protection of the Union Some are confident that their concerns will be addressed after they have “dealed” with the DUP and therefore we are generally seeing a further decline in negative attitudes towards the Protocol/Windsor framework.”

Co-investigator, Professor Katy Hayward from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s, commented:

“The DUP’s agreement on the protocol has clearly not eliminated opposition from strong trade unionists. Now the political dispute over this has shifted to the assembly level. We can assume that this will have an impact in practice. For example, three quarters of strong unionists (78%) want the Stormont Brake to be held by MLAs, compared to 4% of nationalists and others. The test of the stability of the Assembly will be how such mechanisms are used and responded to.”

The full report and findings can be found at: https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/post-brexit-governance-ni/ProjectPublications/OpinionPolling/ and follow on X: @PostBrexitGovNI.

ENDS…

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