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There is a tendency for pollsters and pundits to see N.I. politics simply through a Nationalist/Unionist prism. In reality there is a huge variation in views in both these camps and many are reluctant to identify with either. The Alliance, Green, Women's coalition and various left wing groups tend not to frame their politics in this way, and collectively gain c. 10-20% of the vote and there are many people disaffected from politics altogether who don't bother to vote because they feel in a minority and have little chance of having their views reflected in Parliament or the Assembly.

Naomi Long (Alliance) got a record 18.5% of the vote in the last European election because she was seen as actually having a chance to win a seat. Even then, turnout was only 45% and turnout in assembly elections is often 55-65% despite the fact that politics in NI is so fanatical, bitter, polarised and intense - or perhaps partly because of it.

It is of course hard to predict who would become politically active/engaged/energised if NI politics were to be framed in other ways - e.g. traditional right left - or if the status quo became a United Ireland rather than UK. But past violence and current passions make many people reluctant to engage at all.

Allied to that the really big decisions - Brexit, composition of UK government - are often outside the control of N. I in any case, so people are left to argue about flags and emblems...

I think the Ashcroft poll could represent something of a sea change if confirmed by other polls, but I am reluctant to read too much into it - it is one poll, conducted in a particular context, and not a real vote effecting the constitutional future of N.I.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 13th, 2019 at 12:07:23 PM EST
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