Jeffrey Donaldson’s decision not to allow his party to form a new executive branch despite the cost of living and health crises drew scathing criticism from his political opponents.
But like it or not, it’s a move popular with the union base, and it’s helping his party win back some of the support it lost in the general election.
At 24 percent in LucidTalk’s poll, the DUP is up three points from its performance in May. It’s not spectacular and there is still a long way to go to return to some of the results it has achieved under Arlene Foster’s leadership.
Still, Jeffrey will be delighted that the party is going in the right direction.
Exactly one year ago, the DUP was only 13 percent in the polls, ahead of its two union rivals – the UUP at 16 percent and the TÜV at 14 percent.
The jump was all Beattie’s back then, and Jim Allister was confident of having company on the blue benches at Stormont. Both men were ultimately disappointed.
Donaldson has put his party back at the forefront of the union movement. There is no denying that the change of fortunes is due to the DUP’s tougher stance on protocol.
In fact, some in her ranks believe she would have fared much better had she taken a tougher stance in the National Assembly campaign.
The decision to move to the right and chase after the TÜV vote is currently paying off.
There is no sign that union opinion on the protocol is waning – quite the opposite. About 82 percent of union voters believe the DUP should not return to Stormont until protocol is either abolished or significantly amended – up six points from May.
A conciliator by nature, Donaldson currently occupies territory in which he’s probably not comfortable.
But the refusal to appoint an assembly speaker and a deputy first minister is winning back previously disaffected supporters who have defected to MOT.
At 6pc, Jim Allister’s party is down two points from May, but still has nearly double the support it received in the 2017 Stormont poll.
Mr Allister is clearly held in high esteem by trade unionists. Only 25 percent think he is doing a poor or terrible job, while 39 percent believe Sir Jeffrey is doing it.
The fact remains, however, that voters are not convinced his party is viable and even those who have renounced their allegiance are open to a return to the DUP.
That doesn’t mean Donaldson doesn’t face dangers, however. The cost of living crisis will hit unionized voters like everyone else this fall.
If the party is still not fully reinstated in Stormont’s institutions, then its leader will surely face pressures he has so far escaped.
LucidTalk’s poll isn’t causing any problems for Alliance. At 16pc, it’s two points up from May and Naomi Long is the most popular local leader.
Five points clear of the Ulster Unionists, their position as Northern Ireland’s third-strongest party is perfectly secure.
Sinn Féin will also be pleased with the results of our survey. Some observers thought it had capped in May, but it’s up a notch to hit a remarkable 30 percent.
Michelle O’Neill’s personal ratings have also improved. Both nationalist and alliance and Green voters apparently like how they have behaved since the election.
It’s the SDLP that’s the big loser in this poll. The party has fallen two points since May to just 7 percent.
It does not bode well for next year’s local elections, in which it could lose a number of councillors.
The SDLP can only hope that the standoff at Stormont ends soon and Jeffrey returns to the executive branch.
If he doesn’t, even more nationalist voters will rally behind Michelle O’Neill, angry at her being denied a chance to become First Secretary.
https://www.independent.ie/news/cost-of-living-crisis-will-test-the-dups-resolve-41927667.html The cost of living crisis will test the DUP’s resolve