Belfast Telegraph

Brexit impact on Northern Ireland could sway border poll result: survey

By Jonathan Bell

A Brexit that damages Northern Ireland could lead to a close result in a referendum on the border, latest polling suggests.

Polling company LucidTalk conducted a survey of its near 10,000 strong panel before boiling down responses to 2,080 in order to get a representative sample of the Northern Ireland population.

It asked if there should be a border poll and if so when, what the winning margin should be - after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested it should be more than 50% plus one - and how Brexit would affect people's voting.

And on the last point it shows that if Northern Ireland was badly affected by the UK's departure from the EU, more people would vote for a united Ireland.

If a border poll was conducted today, a majority would still opt for Northern Ireland staying in the UK with 55% in favour of remaining and 33% against. This is a marginally smaller majority based on previous polling.

One in 10 Northern Ireland people, however, said they were undecided on how they would vote in any border poll.

However, if Northern Ireland bears the brunt of a tough Brexit, those figures change from 54% in favour and an 11 point rise to 46% saying it should join with the republic.

In the event of a tough Brexit on Northern Ireland.

And in the case of a soft Brexit, which would benefit Northern Ireland, 62% of people would be for Northern Ireland remaining as part of the UK.

"The key group in all of this is the Alliance, others and Green voters," says Bill White, managing director of LucidTalk.

"They are split three ways, for united Ireland, staying in UK and undecided. So that is where it could be won or lost - depending on your stance.

"A sizeable chunk of that group are annoyed over the EU referendum result, that Northern Ireland voted to remain but is leaving. So if they perceive Brexit as going to be tough on them and on Northern Ireland, it could affect how they vote. And they do vote. In the EU referendum 98% of them came out to vote." 

He added: "Also Brexit has hardened the nationalist position. There were some SDLP and even Sinn Fein voters content to a degree for Northern Ireland to continue as it is. They are now a lot more pro-united Ireland."

In the event Northern Ireland benefits from Brexit.

Meanwhile, the polling found 60% of all Northern Ireland people say there should be a border poll within 10 years with just over half of all unionists saying there should never be a border poll.

And 54% of respondents said any border poll should be won on a straight majority margin - 50% plus one.

Bill White continued: "Probably the point Leo Varadkar was trying to make was that you need a sizeable portion of the public with you on the outcome of any referendum of this magnitude.

"Referenda, what ever the subject, are very crude and very divisive tools. They should be used to rubber stamp something which is obvious and not for toss of the coin issues.

"But that's for the politicians to decide, I'm just a pollster."

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