Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness found favor with both Catholics and Protestants

Martin McGuinness is the most popular politician in Northern Ireland.

So says a poll that came out today. It marks the tenth anniversary of the first attempts to set up a power-sharing government, according to Ulster Television.

The poll surveyed a representative group of 500 people. It showed McGuinness with the support of 45 percent of Catholics and 11percent of Protestants, according to the Belfast Telegraph, which undertook the study along with a Belfast firm called Inform Communications.

The North’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, had nothing to match McGuinness' approval rating. Robinson had just 7 percent of support amongst Protestants, and a zero rating with Catholics. This leaves McGuinness 20 percentage points ahead of Robinson in public opinion.

“Even unionists responding to the survey had praise for McGuinness’s performance as Deputy First Minister,” the Belfast Telegraph noted in its analysis.

McGuinness has fared well in other surveys this fall too. A popular Northern Irish blog called Slugger O’Toole voted him Politician of the Year just last week.

Remarking on that victory Slugger O’Toole blogger Mick Fealty said: “Both the readers' panel and the judging panel felt that the moment when he stood with Hugh Orde and Peter Robinson on the steps of Stormont after the Masserene and Craigavon killings was the one moment in the year when the need for political courage was both required and fulfilled.”

The Belfast Telegraph poll also showed a general suspicion of politicians however. Three quarters of respondents said the expenses scandals, which swept UK and Northern Irish politics earlier this year, had damaged their perception of politicians.

Still, McGuinness’ current popularity may herald a new era for Stormont. Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson said the findings of the poll suggest "we may be moving into a different phase of political life here in which politicians are judged as much on their performance in the here and now as on their history.”