Newswise — According to a new report from Queen’s University Belfast, voters in Northern Ireland are split into three camps as to whether the restored Assembly will last until the end of its current mandate in 2027. 

One third (33%) of voters think the Assembly will last; 31% think it will not last, and 36% say that they are unsure/don’t know. Strong nationalists (39%) and strong unionists (37%) are those who have most confidence in its endurance, with moderates having the least (only 23% of 'neutral’ voters think it will last).  

This latest poll (using a weighted sample of 1,202 respondents from across Northern Ireland) was conducted by LucidTalk for Queen’s University on 2-5 February 2024, just days after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed the Safeguarding the Union ‘deal’ with the UK Government, addressing its concerns about the Protocol and enabling a restoration of the devolved institutions.  

The poll found almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) agreeing that the DUP was right to return to Stormont. This includes a clear majority of Alliance, SDLP, Sinn Féin and UUP supporters, and almost half (47%) of DUP voters.  

However, only 24% of respondents believe that the deal secured by the DUP was worth deferring the establishment of the Assembly/Executive for almost two years, although 75% of DUP voters believe that it was.  

The sense of caution regarding the Assembly’s stability is perhaps related to the fact that more than 6 in 10 voters (62%) want political debate in Northern Ireland to ‘move on from’ Brexit/Protocol matters. However, almost a quarter of voters (24%) want to keep a focus in political debate on Brexit/Protocol matters; this includes more than half of respondents (52%) who identify as ‘strongly unionist’.  

Similarly, 65% of respondents overall place the Protocol in the bottom four out of a list of ten concerns with 20% placing it as one of their top three priorities; in contrast, 47% of those identifying as strongly unionist place it as a top three concern.  

Nevertheless, for a majority of voters (55%) a party’s position on the Protocol/Windsor Framework will be ‘key’ to whether they vote for that party in the next UK General Election. This is particularly so for ‘strongly unionist’ voters (75%), much less so for voters identifying as ‘neutral’ (32%). 

This is the tenth in a series of ‘Testing the Temperature’ reports on NI voters views on Brexit and the Protocol produced as part of a four-year project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 

Other key findings include:  

  • 6 in 10 respondents (60%) see the Protocol/Windsor Framework as an appropriate means for managing the effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland and over half (56%) think the Protocol/Windsor Framework is having a positive impact on the Northern Ireland economy (29% disagree).  

  • As in previous polls, more than half of voters (55%) regard the Protocol/Windsor Framework as overall ‘a good thing for Northern Ireland’; 29% of respondents disagree that is so (a drop from 35% disagreeing in October 2023). 

  • Just over two thirds (68%) of voters think the Protocol/Windsor Framework offers unique set of post-Brexit economic opportunities compared to the rest of the UK. 

  • Despite its Safeguarding the Union commitments, the UK Government remains far more distrusted (81%) than trusted (4%) to manage Northern Ireland’s interests with respect to the Protocol/Windsor Framework. 

  • The majority of voters (84%), including majorities of all political perspectives, agree it is important that business and civil society groups in NI have their voices heard on the implementation of the Protocol/Windsor Framework. 

  • Almost a third of voters (32%) agree that MLAs should attempt to use the Stormont Brake to block updates to EU legislation ‘irrespective of consequences’. The majority of voters (53%) disagree.  

  • More than half of respondents (56%) want their MLAs to support the continued application of the Protocol/Windsor Framework in the Assembly’s Democratic Consent vote later this year; less than one third (30%) want MLAs to vote against (the lowest proportion to date). 

Speaking about the latest findings, Principal Investigator, Professor David Phinnemore from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s said:

“For most voters in Northern Ireland, there are far more important issues to be addressed than any lingering concerns they might have about the Protocol/Windsor Framework. Most voters want political debate to move on and for MLAs to vote for the continuation of the Protocol/Windsor Framework later this year. For a minority, these arrangements clearly remain a matter of concern. With the UK Government’s Safeguarding the Union ‘deal’ with the DUP, some have been persuaded that their concerns are being addressed, and hence we are generally seeing a further decline in negative attitudes towards the Protocol/Windsor Framework.” 

Co-Investigator, Professor Katy Hayward from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s commented:

“The DUP deal on the Protocol has clearly not removed opposition to it from among strong unionists. Now political contention over it has moved to being within the Assembly. We can expect to see the ramifications of that in practice. For example, three quarters of strong unionists (78%) want to see the Stormont Brake exercised by MLAs, compared to 4% of nationalists and others. The test for the stability of the Assembly will be on how such mechanisms are used and responded to.” 

For the full report and findings, please visit: and follow on X: @PostBrexitGovNI. 


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