Northern Ireland pensioners turning away from Europe with a quarter backing Brexit according to new bank poll
Northern Ireland is becoming slightly more in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, with one in four pensioners now supporting a Brexit, according to the latest opinion poll.
A survey of 1,000 people, carried out last month for Danske Bank, showed that 56% of respondents were content to remain in the EU, 18% wanted to leave and 26% said they were uncertain.
The percentage who favour a Brexit has risen 2% since the bank's last survey in June 2015. Nine months ago, 16% wanted to leave the EU. Last month, 18% favoured this option. Simultaneously, there was a 2% drop in those who support Britain's continuing membership, down from 58%. The percentage of those still undecided remained static at 26%.
But the survey, carried out by Millward Brown, showed a sharp rise in the number of pensioners who favour Brexit. The proportion of over-65s hoping to remain in the EU fell 15% to just 43% in the latest poll. And there was a dramatic rise in pensioner uncertainty, with "don't know" responses up from 22% in June last year to 31% last month. Just over one in four pensioners - 26% - said they would like to exit the EU.
Young people were more positive about Europe, with the proportion of 24-35-year-olds hoping to stay rising 7% to 62% over the past nine months.
Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said: "The latest poll shows a very small shift in Northern Ireland's preference for EU membership. Support for staying in Europe is by far the majority view, although the leave campaigners have made a little ground over the last year. Typically we have found that middle class households, men and full-time workers remain most eager to remain in the EU. However, older people, those in low income households and people in the north of Northern Ireland are more likely to support a Brexit.
"The result will have economic, political and social consequences and it is alarming that 26% are uncertain about how they will vote."
The survey showed that men were more decided than women on the issue. 60% of males, versus 53% of females, said they were prepared to remain in the EU. 23% of men wanted to leave, compared to 14% of women favouring a Brexit. Over a third of women - 34% - replied "don't know", against just 18% of men who haven't yet made up their minds.
With more than two and a half months to go before the referendum on June 23, voters are being assailed by a plethora of surveys, speeches, campaign messages, claims and counter-claims.
In a major EU debate in Belfast on Monday night, live streamed by the Belfast Telegraph's website, the 150-strong audience heard impassioned speeches and sharp exchanges between Brexiteers Owen Paterson, the former NI Secretary of State, and Labour's Northern Ireland-born MP Kate Hoey, and the pro-EU campaigners Vernon Coaker MP, currently Shadow Secretary of State, and the former MEP John Stevens.
Snap polls of the audience, conducted by Ipsos MORI before and after the 90-minute debate, recorded a 17% swing in favour of a Brexit, and a 12% drop in those supporting EU membership.