FOLLOWING weeks of internal turmoil, this poll will hardly come as much of a tonic to Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott.
There is little professional polling on behalf of newspapers or broadcasters in Northern Ireland, almost exclusively because the cost of a single poll equals some reporters’ annual salaries and media organisations have shrinking budgets.
Therefore, in an absence of facts, much political debate is based on supposition.
This poll — at a cost of more than £15,000 and on behalf of an organisation, Queen’s University, which most would regard as politically neutral — appears to confirm the view of those who say that the UUP gets nothing out of being in the Stormont Executive.
And, in the UUP’s long-running debate about whether to go into opposition, it is difficult to see an alternative, given how poorly, according to this survey, the party is faring as a bit-part player in the current system.
Voters perceive — rightly — that the big two parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, are the main influences on the Executive.
But the fact that the UUP is ranked fifth out of five parties — even behind the smaller Alliance Party — in terms of its influence on the Executive is a devastating critique of the party.
Even when it comes to the UUP’s main department in the last Executive — health — voters say that the DUP had more influence on health than the UUP. That said, a majority believe that the health service worsened during Michael McGimpsey’s tenure as minister so the fact the UUP does not get all the responsibility for that may be strangely positive.
Although the survey was carried out close to a year ago, that will be little consolation for the party because if there has been any change in voters’ attitudes since then, they are likely to see the UUP as even less relevant.
Since then, the party leadership has come under pressure, its relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives has been ended — by the Conservatives — and the party has lost veteran MLA David McNarry in a bitter debate over whether it should strike a deal with the DUP.
By contrast, the survey makes heartening reading for the DUP and Sinn Fein. Each is seen by Catholics or Protestants as the champion for their community, each receives considerable credit for peace and security, and they are seen as the parties who control the Executive.
However, the fact that they are seen as responsible for the Executive is a double-edged sword.
On the economy, which those polled believed had got worse, both the DUP and Sinn Fein get the bulk of the blame, in so far as any local party is deemed responsible.
And on education, which 55.5 per cent of voters believe has got worse under Stormont rule, Sinn Fein is held overwhelmingly responsible, with 57.8 per cent of voters laying the blame at that party’s feet.
But the DUP also receives a rebuke on education, with 11.7 per cent holding it responsible, perhaps because it is seen as not having effectively challenged Sinn Fein’s anti-academic selection policies.
The SDLP’s poor performance is only masked by the fact that the UUP is ranked slightly lower by voters. But it is also seen as having little influence on Stormont.
While the figures for Alliance are similar, they are the best of the Executive’s three smaller parties and, given that Alliance is the smallest of those parties, it is punching above its weight.