Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Poll: Just 3.8% want a united Ireland

Day two of the Belfast Telegraph's survey delivers a clear message on unity and reveals worrying levels of political apathy in young

The border is no longer an issue for most people in Northern Ireland – including many who vote for nationalist parties.

That's the message coming through loud and clear in the Belfast Telegraph's major poll.

Just 3.8% of people in the Northern Ireland-wide LucidTalk research want to see the border removed now.

The number is close to the poll's margin of error at 3.6%.

While political parties here seem transfixed by the issue of a united Ireland and the retention or removal of the border, it is clearly not high in the list of priorities for voters no matter what their political view.

The poll also showed falling numbers – less than a quarter of the population – being prepared to vote for Irish unity even as a longer-term aspiration 20 years in the future.

The research also revealed widespread disillusionment with politics generally, especially among the young, women and the middle classes.

In our poll, nearly half of people, 44%, said they wouldn't vote or didn't express a party preference if an Assembly election were held tomorrow.

This would give Northern Ireland the lowest turnout in the UK, matching the record low turnout in the 2011 Assembly election which was seen as a wake-up call for the political classes.

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The poll also suggests that, if a first-past-the-post election was held today, Alliance's Naomi Long would lose her East Belfast Westminster seat to the DUP by a narrow margin.

However, Bill White of LucidTalk said: "These figures must be taken with caution because in individual constituencies you are dealing with a twelfth of the total number of respondents so the margin of error rises."

The poll suggests more strongly that the DUP, Sinn Fein and the UUP will win next year's European election, though the UUP will struggle with the SDLP and possibly Alliance for the last seat.

Voter apathy remains a significant issue, said Mr White, head of LucidTalk, the firm that conducted the polling for the Belfast Telegraph.

He said: "It is noticeable that younger people seem more disengaged from politics than older age groups as 52% of the 18-24 age-groups said they wouldn't vote, compared with 40% of the 45-64 age group, and 38% of the 65+ age group".

His colleague Gerry Lynch added: "These non-voters are much more likely to be women than men. While only 36% of men don't express a party reference, 51% of women – over half – don't vote."

He went on: "In contrast to many other societies, the middle-classes are much less likely to vote than the poor."

Fifty-one per cent of ABs don't vote. The AB social category includes people working in managerial, professional and administrative posts.

The DE categories cover semi or unskilled workers in blue collar jobs as well as those on welfare.

The proportion of non-voters is also dramatically higher among the young – 51% of under 25s and 46% of 25-44s, as opposed to 38% of over 65s.

This suggests that voting is likely to decline over time as the older people who are most likely to vote die off and the younger non-voters move up the age scale.

Mr Lynch stated: "It is often assumed there is a dramatic difference in turnout between Catholics and Protestants. We find that the margin is now only 3% – 41% of Protestants don't vote, versus 38% of Catholics.

"The large section of the population which does not willingly identify with either religious tradition is much more likely to give Northern Ireland politics a miss – 47% in this poll," said Mr Lynch.

 

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View the story "Belfast Telegraph/LucidTalk Poll 2013" on Storify

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