Northern Ireland news

Theresa May scores higher among northern voters than Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill's satisfaction rating is less than half that of Theresa May. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

THESESA May's satisfaction rating with voters in the north is more than double that of Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the Irish Times.

The survey found Ms O'Neill's satisfaction rating to be 13 per cent, while that for her DUP counterpart Arlene Foster was marginally higher at 16 per cent.

The British prime minister received a satisfaction rating of 28 per cent from Northern Ireland voters – 16 percentage points greater than that of her government.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood scored a rating of 18 per cent – the highest of the three Stormont leaders surveyed.

Arguably more positive for Sinn Féin is a parallel poll in the Republic that found almost half of all voters favour a referendum on Irish unity and a clear majority would vote in favour of reunification.

Elsewhere, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll revealed voters in the north overwhelmingly reject a hard Brexit, would vote to remain in the European Union in a second referendum, and would prefer checks on goods travelling between Britain and the north rather than checks on the border.

Conducted earlier this week over three days through face-to-face interviews with 536 people across the north, the poll found voters are deeply dissatisfied with the management of Brexit by the British government and, most significantly, with the DUP. The accuracy level is estimated to be about plus or minus 4.29 per cent.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the British government's Brexit strategy, while two-thirds – 67 per cent – said the DUP is doing a bad job of representing the north at Westminster.

Notably, 69 per cent of people – including 57 per cent of those from a Protestant background – are dissatisfied with Mrs Foster.

While voters are clearly unhappy with the DUP's approach to Brexit, they are also critical of Sinn Féin. Just 13 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill is doing her job, with 61 per cent dissatisfied. A large majority – 60 per cent – of voters believe that Sinn Féin MPs should take their seats at Westminster. Among voters from a Catholic background, the figure rises to 64 per cent.

Just over a third of northern voters want a referendum on Irish unity. If one was held, just 32 per cent would vote in favour of unity, while 45 per cent would vote against. The number in favour of unity rises to 58 per cent among voters from a Catholic background, with 18 per cent against and 24 per cent who say they don't know.

In the Republic, the picture is very different with almost half of voters – 49 per cent – saying there should be a referendum on Irish unity, and if such a referendum was held, 62 per cent say they would vote in favour.

The poll in the Republic was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Over half of southern voters – 54 per cent – say they are satisfied with the way the Fine Gael government has handled Brexit.

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