DUP battle: Kyle Paisley says liberal does not equal popular – but what do polls say?

The cleric son of Rev Ian Paisley has stressed that the party does not need to abandon its staunch Christian positions in order to perform at the polls.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 9:00 am
15/12/99: Rev Dr Ian Paisley with his son, Kyle

Kyle Paisley was speaking amid a debate about the future direction of the DUP, with liberal and conservative factions closely eyeing the developments.

He was reluctant to speak about backing any one candidate in particular, but the News Letter asked him about the party’s historic stances on homosexuality and abortion.

“Just looking back to my dad’s example, there was nobody more outspoken issues of that nature than he was, and he was able to steer the party to the height of its success,” he said.

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“So it’s possible to be strong on issues like that and still be successful. Only time will tell, but I still think it can be done. It’s been done before in very difficult circumstances too, because my father held a very strong line on moral issues all through his career.”

He said it would be fair to summarise his stance as this: “You don’t have to be liberal to be popular.”

“But I’ve no idea how it’s going to pan out,” he added.

“I just hope unionism gets strong again. I think it can get strong again, and I look forward to the day when it is strong.”


Since 1998, the Province’s two universities have researched the social attitudes of the Northern Irish public via the NI Life and Times Survey, which asks a random sample of about 1,200 citizens a series of questions.

Here the News Letter summarises some of the key polling results, which are likely to be in many DUP minds as the party considers its future (don’t-knows and undecided results are not included)

In 1998 the survey asked what people thought of sex between gay adults.

When it came to the Protestant respondents:

~ 73%– said it is “always or almost always wrong”,

~ 10% – “not wrong at all”

By 2018 it had become:

~ 39% – “always or almost always wrong”,

~ 37% – “not wrong at all”

On gay marriage in 2012 Protestants said:

~ 44% – it should be valid,

~ 45% – it should not.

By 2018 it had become:

~ 53% – it should be valid,

l~35% – it should not.

On the subject of abortion, when asked in 1999 if it should be legal, Protestant respondents said:

~ 44% – yes

~ 43% – no

In 2018, asked if it was a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, Protestant respondents said:

~ Agree/strongly agree – 66%

~ Disagree/strongly disagree – 18%


According to the Ulster University / Queen’s University Belfast-run ARK website, this is a snapshot of electoral performance in general elections.

It shows Kyle Paisley is right to say his father led the party to greater and greater popularity, but when it comes to general elections (as opposed to Assembly or council ones) the best result yet for the party in terms of overall vote share was achieved under Mrs Foster.

1974 - DUP at 8.5% of vote

1987 - 11.7%

1997 13.6%

2001 22.5%

2005 33.7% (The last general election with Paisley at the helm)

2010 25.0% (Peter Robinson)

2015 25.7% (Peter Robinson)

2017 36.0% (Arlene Foster)

2019 30.6% (Arlene Foster)

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