Belfast Telegraph

Opinion polls reveal the fine details that elections can't show

By Bill White

Like them or hate them, I'm sure you noticed that the polls drove the flow of the Scottish referendum campaign – so they're here to stay, and will be increasingly influencing the political agenda.

As such, I hope you enjoy this week's coverage of the annual LucidTalk – Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland-wide poll-project.

One thing polls are useful for is tracking the key demographics, ie what particular parts of society think, and we will be showing all these patterns in this week's reports.

For example, in the Scottish referendum the polls showed that there was a clear 'No' majority among those aged 55+, including a three-to-one margin for 'No' among those aged 65+.

So without the Scots 55+ vote, the Union would have been over.

This is something that public elections, like those for Stormont and Westminster, can't show.

We're starting our poll coverage with 'that question': 'Should Northern Ireland be granted a border poll referendum similar to Scotland?'

It's been answered as a 'Yes' with 56.2% of those registering an opinion saying they would like a Northern Ireland referendum on the constitutional position. So what sorts of people make up this 56.2% who support a referendum?

We can see that nearly 60% of our 18 to 24-year-old age group want a referendum, compared with only 33% of the over-65s. Maybe our young people have seen the energy of the recent Scottish referendum campaign and want to experience that here?

The religious breakdown shows 81.2% of Catholics who took part in the poll want a referendum, whereas 66.7% of Protestants said no.

However, 24% of Protestants did say 'Yes' for a referendum, which is a sizable chunk.

Of course, maybe this 24% want a referendum for different reasons than the Catholics – they think it will show that Northern Ireland still has big support for the Union?

Males were more supportive of a referendum than females. Of those supporting a referendum 56.6% were male and 43.4% female.

Again, this follows the Scottish referendum pattern were males were more inclined to support 'yes' even with all the possible risks. Maybe females just want a quieter life! Enjoy the coverage.

  • Bill White is managing director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk, polling partners to the Belfast Telegraph

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