Northern Ireland

DUP closes gap on Sinn Féin as majority of unionists back Stormont boycott

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA

Sinn Féin remains the north's most popular party among voters but the DUP has narrowed the gap on its republican rival, according to new polling.

Sinn Féin stands on a 31 per cent vote share, two points up from last year's assembly election result when the party's vote outstripped the DUP's by more than seven percentage points.

But the latest Lucid Talk polling for the Belfast Telegraph has the DUP on a 28 per cent vote share, a notable increase on its 21.3 per cent showing in last year's Stormont election and its highest poll rating for more than three years.

Support for Alliance is 2.5 points to 16 per cent compared to last year's election, while the UUP is on 8 per cent – down more than three points – and the SDLP on 6 per cent, down more than three points compared to 18 months ago. The TUV is down one point to 4 per cent — its lowest rating in 18 months.

The Greens and People Before Profit are unchanged on 2 and 1 per cent respectively while Aontú is down one point to 1 per cent.

The same survey shows 62 per cent of unionists support the DUP's boycott of the devolved institutions in protest against the Irish Sea border – two points down from a corresponding poll carried out over the summer. The polling is expected to bolster the DUP leadership in the face of pressure to restore the institutions.

Unionist support for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson keeping his party out of Stormont while the protocol remains in place is varied, with 72 per cent of DUP supporters backing his current stance, compared to 94 per cent of TUV voters and just 21 per cent of their UUP counterparts.

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Five per cent of unionists think Sir Jeffrey’s party should re-enter Stormont even if it means accepting the Windsor deal. While 12 per cent of UUP supporters hold that view, it is shared by zero DUP and TUV voters.

Some 32 per cent believe Stormont is a priority and that the DUP should return and operate the institutions while trying to renegotiate the Windsor Framework, even if it is unsuccessful. That view is held by 66 per cent of UUP voters, but only 24 per cent of DUP and 4 per cent of TUV supporters.

Irish News columnist David McCann said the polling represented a "bit of a Jekyll and Hyde result for the DUP". 

David McCann
David McCann David McCann

"On the positive side, Jeffrey Donaldson has brought the DUP back to their 2017 support levels – he has repaired all of the damage of recent years and once again knocked the UUP/TUV out of the game for now," he said. 

"On the other side, his supporters are still happy staying out of the executive which will make selling a deal all the harder when the inevitable compromise comes."

A total of 3,046 people took part in the Lucid Talk online poll conducted between October 27 -30. The margin of error is +/-2.3 per cent.