Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Border poll: Results that reflect a country in a state of widespread social change

The Belfast Telegraph poll gives a snapshot of a society in rapid transition.

Trends can change in response to events, but if the present ones continue, we are heading towards a society where politics will be less about the border and where once hotly divisive issues will seem less and less relevant.

At most points in our history, polls showed that a significant proportion of Catholics, often 20% or 25%, favoured retaining the border. The poll suggests that the proportion of Catholics wanting Northern Ireland to remain as a separate entity is up to double that. The rise may be tied to the economic downturn and the £10bn annual subsidy we receive from the UK.

It may also reflect the fact that Northern Ireland is no longer such a “cold house for Catholics” as it was at some points in the past.

There is broad equality in employment, housing and powersharing at Stormont.

Gaelic games and Irish culture are now generally respected and not sneered at.

Unionists should take the message that their position in the UK is strengthened if Catholics and cultural nationalists feel comfortable too.

Things could slip back, but a future is possible in which constitutional issues are settled by the rational accommodation of interests rather than conflict or violence. There is support amongst nearly half the population for British and Irish parties to stand in elections here.

This, together with a fall in the numbers voting, shows that the orange and green political divide does not satisfy everyone. Our politicians should take note. Increasing Protestant acceptance of Gaelic games as an option for their children is very significant.

No doubt it has been encouraged by the GAA presence at the funeral of Ronan Kerr, one of several police officers who played Gaelic games and was attacked by republican dissidents. This built communal solidarity.

One wake-up call in today’s results is the widespread unease — particularly amongst Catholics — about the prospect of a relative joining the police.

We can’t push the snooze button and hope this will go away.

Cross community participation in policing is a central pillar of the peace settlement — if it weakened, the whole thing could come down.

Fear of dissident attack is one factor which makes people nervous. The PSNI needs nationalist support, not criticism, when it takes action to break up dissident gangs.

That might be more forthcoming if confidence in the Police Ombudsman’s Office — whose independence was a vital prop for Catholic support for the PSNI — could be restored after being eroded by recent critical reports.

Michael Maguire, the new ombudsman, must ensure that the office holds the police to account and is seen to do so.

For full statistics analysis visit Lucid talk

The polling methodology

Polling was carried out by telephone using 24 poll questions that were supplied by, and agreed with, the Belfast Telegraph and other poll project partners (CBI and Momentum).

The poll questions were agreed with the project partners with the aim of determining an accurate representation.

The poll was carried out by interviewing a random sample of 1,267 residents, aged 18+, via telephone between May 6-26.

LucidTalk are members of the British Polling Council (BPC).

The BPC is the primary professional and standards body for polling organisations in the United Kingdom.

As laid down by the BPC LucidTalk follows professional Polling and Market Research methodologies, and would be pleased to answer any questions/queries regarding the poll results.

All Data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-3.6% at 95% confidence.

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