Monday 20 November 2017

Just 7pc in North want Ireland to be united

Liam Clarke

Only 7pc of voters in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland this year.

And, according to a new poll, even when asked if they would vote to remove the Border in 20 years' time, the figure increases only to 32pc.

Significantly, the proportion of the Catholic population that favours unity now or in 20 years is also a minority -- just 48pc.

People in the North were asked: "If a Border referendum was held within the next year how would you vote?" They were given the options "Yes", "Yes, in 20 years", "No, keep Northern Ireland" and "No opinion".

This allowed the pollsters to distinguish support for unity as an immediate political priority and as a longer-term ideal.

Protestants were overwhelmingly against Irish unity, but the Catholic population was more divided.

Just 7pc of Catholics would vote for it now and a further 41pc would opt for it in 20 years' time, 48pc in all.

The proportion of Catholics offering no opinion on the issue matched the percentage in the population as a whole, 14pc.

This was a low opt-out rate compared with other questions.

If these 'don't knows' are ignored, 63pc of people in Northern Ireland, including 44pc of Catholics, want Northern Ireland to remain a separate entity even after 2032.

Across all social classes and among both men and women, support for removing the Border now is below 14pc.

It is often argued by commentators and politicians that if the Catholic population ever replaces Protestants as the majority, then Irish unity will inevitably follow.

This assumption tribalised local politics for most of Northern Ireland's history.

Sectarian

The new figures indicate that this 'sectarian headcount' model is no longer entirely valid.

Instead, a substantial minority of Catholics, nearly half, and an overwhelming majority of Protestants (96pc) favour the status quo.

The findings come from a major new survey commissioned by the 'Belfast Telegraph' and carried out by polling company LucidTalk.

Another study, published by the Community Relations Council in February, found that Catholics are already the majority population for people under the age of 30.

Despite this, the new survey shows that support for Irish unity is marginally lower in the 18-24-year-old group -- 36pc compared with 37pc in the population as a whole.

Irish Independent

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