Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Only 29% oppose reform of abortion laws in Northern Ireland

By Suzanne Breen

Forty per cent of people in Northern Ireland support reforming the law on abortion here - compared to 29% who oppose changing it, a new opinion poll shows.

The findings will be welcomed by pro-choice campaigners who have long claimed that politicians are significantly out of touch with public opinion on the issue. Surprisingly, more DUP voters support liberalising abortion law (41%) than Sinn Fein supporters (32%).

The poll also shows a clear majority of the public (53%) in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, with only 23% opposing such a move.

The results are part of the 2017 Northern Ireland general election study in which 1,200 people were interviewed after last month's Westminster vote. The poll was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

It found that more DUP supporters (44%) were in favour of same-sex marriage than were opposed (42%).

Of Northern Ireland's five main political parties, only the UUP had more supporters against same-sex marriage than in favour, although the party was almost evenly split.

Two-thirds of Sinn Fein and SDLP voters, and almost all Alliance supporters, back change.

Age determined attitudes to same-sex marriage more than political affiliation.

Only 7% of 18-24 year-olds oppose its legalisation, while just 31% of those aged 65 and over are in favour.

The public was split on an Irish Language Act, although more people (34%) favoured a new law than were opposed (28%).

An overwhelming 84% of Sinn Fein supporters wanted the Act - 4% said they didn't - but only 10% of DUP voters agreed with such a measure.

Despite the deadlock at Stormont, there is still strong backing for the political institutions, with two-thirds of people supporting the Assembly and the Executive and only 9% opposing them.

A total of 71% people want power-sharing restored.

Asked to rate our political leaders from zero (not at all) to 10, Naomi Long emerged the most popular with only 9% of people giving her zero. Next was Colum Eastwood (13%), followed by Robin Swann (15%) and Michelle O'Neill (17%).

Arlene Foster was the least popular leader, securing a zero from one in five people.

There was strong opposition to reducing the voting age from 18 to 16, with 43% of people disagreeing with such a move compared to 28% supporting it.

More people were against continuing academic selection at 11 (38%) than agreed with it (25%).

In the event of a border poll, 53% would vote to remain in the UK, with only 27% opting for a united Ireland. Although the idea features heavily in the media, only 18% of people believe that Brexit makes a united Ireland more likely.

More people here disagreed with the idea that immigration had been good for society and the economy (30%) than agreed with it (29%). There was no groundswell of support for either British (Conservative or Labour) or Irish (Fianna Fail/Fine Gael) parties contesting elections here, with only 20% backing the former and 15% the latter.

But a majority of people (57%) backed political parties being required to put forward a certain proportion of female candidates.

Two-thirds of those questioned believed that only innocent people could be categorised as victims of the Troubles.

There was also strong opposition to the idea of an amnesty, with 56% against the proposal and just 18% in favour.

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