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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 06:49 GMT
Poll indicates support for deal
By Mark Devenport
BBC Northern Ireland political editor

Graph showing level of support among Unionists and Nationalists for the St Andrews Agreement
Unionists
UUP: Yes 51.8% No 19.0%
DUP: Yes 46.6% No 31.9%
Other: Yes 48.1% No 15.4%
Nationalists
SDLP: Yes 71.6% No 9.8%
Sinn Fein: Yes 57.9% No 23.1%
Other: Yes 33.3% No 48.5%
Other
Alliance: Yes 63.2% No 13.2%
Other: Yes 57.1% No 17.9%
Source: BBC/PWC

More than half of voters in Northern Ireland back the St Andrews deal, a poll commissioned for BBC NI Hearts and Minds programme suggests.

The poll is the first survey to be published since Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern announced their deal in Scotland last month.

However, the poll indicates less than half of DUP supporters back the deal and most people don't believe the Stormont Assembly will be up and running by the March target date set by the two governments.

A total of 1,100 people were interviewed for the Hearts and Minds poll. Fifty four per cent (54%) of those surveyed said they backed the St Andrews Deal.

Twenty three per cent (23%) were against with a similar number yet to make their minds up. Less than half of DUP supporters interviewed were in favour of the deal, around a third were opposed and just over 20% didn't know.

By contrast a majority of Ulster Unionists and nationalists supported the agreement.

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The poll indicates widespread scepticism about whether the timetable laid out at St Andrews will be met.

A total of 69% of people don't believe Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness will be installed as shadow first and deputy first ministers by 24 November.

Sixty three per cent (63%) don't think the Stormont Assembly will be fully operational by 26 March - the target date for the restoration of devolution set at St Andrews.

With both the DUP and Sinn Fein crucial to the chances of a deal, the survey suggests substantial minorities within the party are against movement on the key questions of power sharing and policing.

Graphic

Twenty two per cent (22%) of DUP supporters told the pollsters their party should never share power with Sinn Fein.

Forty six per cent (46%) said they should share power only after republicans sign up to policing.

Eighteen per cent (18% ) of Sinn Fein supporters said their party should never endorse the PSNI. But more than half of Sinn Fein supporters said republicans should back the police after a meeting of a special party conference or Ard Fheis.

The poll also suggests that the DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson is the favourite amongst DUP supporters to take over as party leader should Ian Paisley stand down.

A total of 33% backed Mr Robinson, 25% backed the leader's son Ian Paisley Jr., 20% supported the former Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson whilst 11% opted for the North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.

Asked which party best represented their views, 30.6% of people said the DUP, 20.1% favoured Sinn Fein, 17.7% backed the Ulster Unionists and 16.8% supported the SDLP.

The poll was conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers who interviewed people face to face at the end of last month. The pollsters estimate their potential margin of error at just under 3%.

Graph showing views on what should happen if there is no agreement among NI parties




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