Assembly election survey: Young people give us hope for the future

14 February 2017 - by Quintin Oliver

A new poll conducted by the Daily Mirror predicts higher turnout.

The survey gives huge encouragement to those who still have faith in politics, confidence in our young people and a vision for a better future.

First, on turnout, the disillusionment and cynicism reflected in the public discussion of the elections is not shared by potential voters.

If the figures in the survey are accurate – and remember strength of voting intention is often overstated by respondents to surveys – then for the first time in two decades we may see an increase in Assembly election turnout.

Back in 1998, after the Belfast Agreement, when 82 per cent came out to endorse it, we lost 200,000 voters the following month for the first Stormont elections. But it still saw seven out of 10 citizens come to the ballot box.

Last year, a solid 55 per cent came out to vote for the Foster-McGuinness coalition, but in today’s survey 61 per cent promise to cast ballots – almost the same as voted in the June Brexit referendum.

That is a remarkable upturn given the predicted apathy. And encouragingly it comes from younger voters.

Half of young people are eager to vote again so soon, more than double the numbers (23.8 per cent) of older voters who are more jaded by 20 years of on-off peace process politics.

Of course confidence in the institutions is rock bottom at 9.9 per cent after the scandals and delivery issues highlighted so powerfully by the media.

But that passion about policy, especially health, is surely a positive driver and we can be proud our future decision-makers and leaders are taking their responsibilities seriously.

Let’s encourage that positivity and sweep aside the naysayers.

Politics can work.


This article was first published in the Daily Mirror. It is available, along with full slides, here.