Irish Republican News · November 10, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Election race `neck and neck'

The latest election poll shows that the four largest parties are virtually neck and neck.

According to the poll results, which exclude undecideds or confirmed non-voters, David Trimble's UUP leads the field with 26% support. The nationalist SDLP follows with 22%, while Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's DUP are both at 20%.

But when adjusted for the traditionally low ratings for the DUP and Sinn Fein in polls, they show that the parties are even closer, and that the race for the positions of Firwt and Deputy First Ministers in the new assembly is a virtual dead heat.

While the two unionist parties are likely to edge out the two nationalist parties -- due to the built-in unionist majority in the North -- the difference is now within the margin of error for such polls.

The survey results leave the possibility that the Belfast Assembly will be split into four, with incredibly tight voting for the First and Deputy First Ministers' Office.

Today's poll findings show Sinn Fein and the DUP slightly behind their respective rivals for the nationalist and unionist votes, but both parties traditionally tend to register lower support in the polls than they actually receive in the ballot box.

Sinn Fein and DUP voters are thought to be more committed, and therefore more likely to turn out on a cold November day to support their parties.

Detailed analysis of the figures shows that turnout could, as expected, be an important factor in settling the differences between the parties.

A poll question dealing with firm voting intentions shows the nationalist parties in a dead heat and the unionist parties neck-and-neck.


Sinn Fein traditionally suffers from relatively few lower-order preferences -- but that pattern could change in this election.

Under the proportional representation system, transfers will be crucial in deciding the fifth and sixth seats. And with the four main parties running close to each other, those final seats will determine the overall shape of the Assembly.

Respondents to the poll were asked to which party they would give their second preference.

The SDLP received the most secondary support at 14%, with the DUP and UUP at 7% of voters and Sinn Fein at 6%.

But less than 4% of voters will transfer votes across community lines, the poll revealed.


Just over 80% of those questioned said they were certain (53%) or very likely (29%) to vote - with only 7% saying they were certain not to vote.

But the main reason those who will not come out gave was that they do not trust or like the candidates or the parties - and regard politicians as useless, incompetent or no good.

Tony Blair is given a ``very good'' rating for his performance over the last two years by just 6% - but 22% of Protestants and 7% of Catholics rate him ``very poor''.

Secretary of State Paul Murphy fares even worse. Only 1% give him a ``very good'' rating - but 37% said they did not know.

When poll respondents were asked to consider individuals who might occupy the First Minister's Office after the election, UUP leader David Trimble - who held the post before last year's Assembly collapse - came out on top with 22% support.

A sample of 1,058 adults were interviewed at 50 locations across the Six Counties.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News