Abercromby Square

Policy evaluation and leadership in times of crisis – Covid and performance politics in Northern Ireland (with Sean Haughey)

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Thursday 5th May 2022
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
  • Admission: This is a free event. Please register via the Eventbrite link provided for the Zoom Link
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Abstract: In terms of its impact on electoral politics the Covid-19 crisis has been categorised as the ultimate valence issue both in terms of issue saliency and competence judgements. It has been demonstrated that public opinion has rewarded and punished governments for their perceived effectiveness at managing this major public health crisis. However, as yet we know little about the influence the crisis may have in cutting across entrenched existing divides within deeply polarised political systems. Does a crisis of the magnitude of a pandemic have the capacity to override long-standing divisions among the electorate with performance evaluations?
We explore this issue using a new representative survey of attitudes towards political institutions and politicians in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's consociational settlement has been considered a strong bar to the emergence of 'normalised' performance politics. The context of the pandemic and the institutional responses to it therefore provide a clear test for whether it is possible for valence issues to cut across these divides in such extreme circumstances. Our results demonstrate that while attitudes to political institutions and elites unsurprisingly remain strongly related to polarised political identities, Covid-19 and recent constitutional debates demonstrate the potential for the emergence of performance politics both within and across community divides.

Bio: Dr Thomas Loughran is Lecturer in Comparative Elections at the University of Liverpool. He is primarily a quantitative survey researcher whose research interests focus on young people's political values and identity, voting age reform, European values and young people's trust and knowledge in UK devolved institutions.