Poll puts Sinn Fein on track to become Stormont’s largest party
Sinn Fein are set to become Stormont’s largest party after Assembly elections on May 5, according to a new opinion poll.
The Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool/The Irish News survey puts Sinn Fein with 23.2% of first preference votes among decided voters, well ahead of the DUP with 19.4%.
The poll shows the Alliance Party emerging as the third force in the Assembly with 15.6%, ahead of Ulster Unionists with 14%, SDLP with 9.9%, TUV with 6.4% and the Green Party with 6.3%.
If the results were replicated in the Stormont election in 11 weeks, it would put Michelle O’Neill on course to become Prime Minister, although none of the main Unionist parties have yet indicated whether they will put forward a candidacy for the post. of Deputy Prime Minister. in case Sinn Fein becomes the biggest party.
The poll also shows that just over one in 10 trade unionists see the Northern Ireland protocol as the most important issue in the election.
Just 6.7% of all respondents said post-Brexit trade deals were their biggest concern, with trade unionists (11.7%) around four times more likely to see it as the most important issue compared to trade deals. nationalists (3%).
The DUP removed Paul Givan as Prime Minister in protest at the protocol and demanded that the UK government remove the Irish Sea border.
But the opinion poll indicates health is a bigger priority among trade unionists with 29.6% saying it was their biggest concern, while 22.9% said the economy and 17% cited Covid recovery as the highest priority.
The nationalists polled also consider health (41.5%), the economy (22.5%) and the recovery of Covid (11.9%) as the most important issues.
The poll also shows that one in five voters do not know who they will vote for in the Assembly elections and 11.9% of those polled said they would not vote.
Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, Professor Peter Shirlow, told the Irish News: “The majority of those who are still undecided are either trade unionists or intermediaries, which suggests they have been influenced by recent events.
“The investigation began amid the fallout from the Twitter controversy of (Ulster Unionist leader) Doug Beattie and continued until the resignation of Paul Givan – it is very possible that these two factors had a impact on people’s hesitation.”
Professor Shirlow said the proportion of nationalists who had yet to make a decision was relatively small.
“We know that this group of undecided tends to be pro-union and socially liberal, so it would appear to be a battle between the middle ground and elements of political unionism for this vote.”
The study by the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool in conjunction with The Irish News was conducted by Social Market Research Belfast using a sample of 1,002 people between January 25 and February 7. Margin of error: 3.1% +/-.