Return of Stormont has zero impact on party fortunes – new poll confirms…

We have now had two opinion polls conducted since Stormont opened its doors for business again and both tell the same story. So far at least it has not moved the dial on party support by a jot.

Today’s Liverpool University poll in the Irish News is within a whisker the same as the LucidTalk poll published three weeks ago and you can see from the graphs below how steady party support has remained for the last year.

It is worth noting that the LucidTalk poll asked voters how they would vote in an Assembly Election, whilst Liverpool’s question related to the forthcoming Westminster election. In theory this should have produced different results given the high level of tactical voting in First Past the Post Westminster elections, not to mention the pacts, understandings, or tactical withdrawals which could see some parties unrepresented in certain constituencies. However, voters don’t seem to second guess these possibilities and almost certainly treat both questions as a simple query about who they support. For this reason great caution should be exercised in drawing conclusions about individual constituency contests.

Please note that on this occasion the Liverpool figures have been reported to one decimal place. Normally they are rounded to the nearest whole percentage. For consistency I have shown the results rounded to the nearest percentage.

Sinn Féin

It is clear that SF enter the pre-election run up in a significantly better position than in 2019. In that year’s Council elections they only took 23% of the vote, and then 22% in the Euros. Indeed, their votes in real elections that year were less than their opinion poll ratings, which had varied between 24% and 27%. It seems likely that they suffered from their withdrawal from the Executive. With a more favourable context this time, recent memories of the DUP collapsing the Executive, a Sinn Féin First Minister, a higher base vote and boundary changes which favour them in both Fermanagh South Tyrone and North Belfast they should be expected to hold their two marginal Westminster seats. It also puts them in a better position to challenge Colum Eastwood in Foyle – although that could prove more difficult than these figures appear to suggest due to high levels of tactical voting for the SDLP.


It appears that DUP support has settled back near to their Council vote level. They are still 3 points above their poor Assembly showing. Comparison with their Westminster vote is not straightforward. Although they did not stand in Fermanagh they benefited hugely in other constituencies from the absence from the ballot papers of the TUV, the PUP and any strong independent unionists.

A better indicator of their Westminster prospects is to look at the combined DUP and TUV shares. This could point to a similar average performance overall as in 2019, although individual constituencies might vary. In particular the boundary changes in East Belfast have been unhelpful to the DUP which only had a small majority of 1,819 last time.

Of course, the TUV are adamant that they will stand candidates against the DUP this year. I have my doubts, they could be humiliated if their supporters don’t want to risk splitting the unionist vote, but we shall see.

Although they do seem to be holding on to a chunk of the votes they took from the DUP at the Assembly election, the TUV poll figures give them little hope of winning anywhere. But they could seal the deal for Alliance in East Belfast and undermine the DUP vote in Lagan Valley, Strangford, and South Antrim making an upset in one or two of those constituencies that bit more likely.


The party continues to poll a little ahead of its previous Council and Assembly results.

They will be feeling more confident of retaining their North Down seat now that the prospect of a united unionist candidate looks more remote with the UUP having already announced a candidate for the seat. Possibly the UUP will hope that by getting their nomination in before any other unionist that the DUP might stand back to permit the UUP to be the only unionist candidate. But one is bound to ask what would be in that for the DUP? Medium-term the DUP must be looking to regain the Assembly seat they lost to Alex Easton, either from Easton himself or from the UUP. How would ceding their Westminster votes to the UUP fit into that objective?

As mentioned above Alliance have a real chance in East Belfast.

They are also talking up their chances in Lagan Valley and South Belfast Mid Down, either of which would be a major upset, but not totally unrealistic. In Lagan Valley they will be hoping that the antagonism towards the DUP remains sufficiently strong to drive a major tactical anti-DUP vote. This could weaken under the charm offensive that the DUP have launched since returning to the Assembly. It is still early days, possibly too soon to know, but so far the polls seem to indicate that sentiment has not yet changed. In South Belfast Mid Down they will be hoping that the SDLP/Green/SF/anti-DUP voter coalition falls apart in the event that Sinn Féin (and the Greens?) run candidates. That, of course, is not in their hands. It could be that their strategic objective is to put themselves in clear contention for the 2028/29 Westminster election.


The UUP appears to have neither profited, nor lost, from the position that they took on the Protocol and the DUP collapse of the Executive. Whether that is evidence of strategic adroitness or of a failure to grasp an opportunity depends on your point of view.

They will be anticipating that they will once again be given a free run on the unionist side in Fermanagh South Tyrone and, as mentioned above, have cleverly got their North Down candidate nominated early in order to challenge the DUP to stand against them. Although, as also noted above, the boundary changes have moved against them in FST and they are dependent on the dubious self-sacrifice of the DUP in North Down.

Also cleverly, they have got their nomination for South Antrim in early, giving time for constituents to get used to the idea that Robin Swann is changing constituency for this election, and gathering a vital early start in their campaign to win the anti-DUP tactical vote. They could be in with a good chance.


The SDLP poll results are the least informative about their Westminster prospects.

In the case of Foyle I have written before of the astonishing level of non-SDLP votes the party receives on a tactical basis. It is not reasonable to expect that they will be represented to any significant extent in these figures, not least because in the case of LucidTalk the question is about Assembly voting intentions. Even at Sinn Féin’s current elevated level of support their chances of taking Foyle are probably no better than about 50/50.

In the case of South Belfast in 2019 only about a quarter to a third of Claire Hanna’s support came from SDLP voters. Nevertheless she had a majority of 15, 401 at the last election, and that is not easily overturned. The boundary changes could shave up to 2,000 off that. The real risk to the SDLP would only come if Sinn Féin stand. They took 21% of the vote at the Council elections last year, well ahead of the SDLP’s 17%. It is in that context that Alliance hope that the 26% who voted for them would swing fully behind their candidate if they lost faith in Hanna’s capacity to win. Hanna’s great advantage is incumbency. In the battle for credibility that is the high ground that a successful challenger has to surmount.

Other Parties

There remains 6% of voters who are distributed between Green, People Before Profit, Alliance, Aontú, Conservatives and Independents.

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