Belfast Telegraph

Strong majority of Northern Irish still favour link to the UK

By Liam Clarke

Support for Irish unity remains low, leaving little doubt about the outcome of a snap referendum if one was called tomorrow.

The figures haven't changed much since 2012 when we first asked the question and concluded that "Irish unity is a dead issue for at least a generation".

Respondents were asked how they would vote if a border poll was held under the Good Friday Agreement. They were given three options – yes for unity as soon as possible, yes for unity in 20 years' time and no, for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.

Excluding the 'don't knows' (DKs), 7.7% wanted unity now and about a third (32.5%) favoured it in 20 years, a more aspirational choice. Combining these two figure gives us just over 40% support for unity at any time this generation, compared to 59.8% favouring the status quo.

DKs, who made up 26.3% of the sample, might be the most likely group not to vote if a referendum were held. Removing them from the figures gives total support for unity to 29.7% (5.7% for unity as soon as possible and 24% in 20 years) with 44.1% supporting the UK link. Support for Irish unity was marginally up on the 26% who supported it in last year's poll but slightly down on the 32% who favoured it in 2012.

Support for unity was strongest amongst Catholics but not unanimous. Just under half (48.3%) would vote for unity at any time while just over a fifth (20.7%) preferred UK membership. Among Protestants this fell to 11.4%. Some 30% of both main religious groups didn't know. Women (31.9%) were more pro-unity than men (27.2%).

Going by region, Londonderry city and the surrounding area (44.4%) showed highest support for unity followed by Armagh-Craigavon (42.2%), Tyrone/Fermanagh (41.3%) and Belfast (37%).

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