THE Ulster Unionist Party has less influence on the Stormont Executive than any of the four other parties which make up the administration, according to a new poll.
The survey, which was conducted for Queen’s University, Belfast by Market Research Northern Ireland, reveals that more than 28 per cent of people believe that the UUP had “not much influence” on the last Executive, with 6.7 per cent saying that it had “no influence at all”.
Just 3.3 per cent of people — less than for any other party — said that they were “very satisfied” with the party’s performance in the last Executive while 14.8 per cent — a higher figure than for any other party — were “not at all satisfied”.
The DUP had the highest satisfaction levels, with almost 10 per cent of people saying they were “very satisfied” with its work in the last Executive.
The poll, which is an attempt by academics to understand why people vote the way that they do in Northern Ireland’s complex political system, was carried out in the wake of last May’s Assembly election but is only now being publicly released.
Writing in today’s News Letter, Dr John Garry, who organised the research, says that it shows that despite the complexities of the Stormont system, voters are evaluating the Executive’s performance and attributing praise or blame by party.
The poll found that 64 per cent of people believed that the economy got worse between 2007 and 2011 but a similar number of people attributed the blame for this to factors outside the control of Stormont.
By contrast, the survey found deep dissatisfaction with the situation in education and health. More than 55 per cent believed that education had got worse and 58.5 per cent put the blame at the door of the Stormont Executive.
In health, 31.8 per cent of people believe that the health service got “a lot worse” during Michael McGimpsey’s time as Health Minister, with 23.7 per cent believing that it had got a little worse. Just 2.3 per cent believed that the health service had got a lot better during the period.
But, unlike education, the public were more split on who was responsible for problems in health — 45 per cent said Stormont, while 44 per cent said it was “other factors”.
The survey also found an overwhelming majority in support of Northern Ireland remaining within the UK, backing up the findings of a series of surveys which found very little support for removing the border.
The poll found that 29.3 per cent of people wanted to “remain in the UK with a direct and strong link to Britain” while 53.3 per cent wanted to “remain in the UK and have a strong Assembly and government in Northern Ireland”.
Just 17.4 per cent wanted a united Ireland.
The poll also recorded an interesting response to the question: “Do you think that gays and homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else, such as the right to get married and to adopt children?”
The survey found than 44 per cent of people responded “definitely yes”, with 18 per cent saying “probably yes”.
Just 20.6 per cent said “definitely no”.
The survey was conducted as part of Dr Garry’s 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly Election Study project and the fieldwork took place between May 18 and June 17, 2011.
The survey comprised a representative sample of 1,200 respondents.