2010 Northern Ireland Westminster Election Survey

This ESRC-funded project aimed to provide the first General Election survey in Northern Ireland since 2001. The survey was carried out across Northern Ireland from 7 to 31 May 2010.  Market Research Northern Ireland (MRNI) completed 1,002 face-to-face computer-aided personal interviews, using clustered stratified random sampling.


Possible election scenarios tested by this election study included:

  • a thawing (via cross-community voting) of the acute sectarian divide between Protestant-British Unionists and Catholic-Irish nationalists
  • electoral divisions between Unionists over entering into government with Sinn Fein, via a strong showing by TUV
  • the prospects of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in Northern Ireland amid such Unionist divisions, with the potential to provide the First Minister by 2011
  • movement away from the main ethnic blocs by voters who may support cross-community parties such as Alliance
  • further washing-out of the previous structural basis of party choice within Northern Ireland’s ethnic blocs, given the modern ‘respectability’ and ‘de-ghettoisation’ of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party.


The survey attempted:

  • continuity in the generation of data which can be used in conjunction with existing longitudinal studies
  • comparability with the British Election Survey, whilst also structured upon the particular circumstances pertaining to Northern Ireland
  • change assessment: to what extent has a new, innovative political dispensation in Northern Ireland been accompanied by electoral change?

The Survey also wished to:

  • analyse the voting behaviour of the Northern Ireland electorate on the occasion of the first domestic region-wide election since the formation of the devolved power-sharing executive in May 2007
  • explore whether the sectarian/confessional ethno-religious divide in Northern Ireland is diminishing, increasing or remains static
  • assess the level of support for the devolved executive consociation of political representatives of the main ethnic blocs created under the Good Friday Agreement
  • analyse the perceptions of voters in terms of the extent of powers that should be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive
  • examine the degree of insecurity felt by the electorate given the ongoing threats posed by 'dissident' republican armed groups
  • gauge the priorities of electors as devolution embeds but is confronted by a period of financial restraint


Datasets from the survey have been logged at the ESRC data archive, but are also accessible here:


  • Professor Jon Tonge (Department of Politics, University of Liverpool), Principal Investigator
  • Professor Bernadette Hayes (Department of Sociology, University of Aberdeen)
  • Dr Paul Mitchell (Department of Government, LSE)

Advisory Expert Board

  • Professor Brendan O’Leary (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Professor Ian McAllister (Australian National University)
  • Professor Shane O’Neill (Queen’s University, Belfast)
  • Professor Yvonne Galligan (Queen’s University, Belfast)

Thanks are also due to Professor Jocelyn Evans (University of Salford) for helpful informal advice.

More information

For more details about the Survey, please contact Professor Jon Tonge.