| 7.3°C Belfast

Backing for united Ireland slides, but third undecided in Belfast Telegraph poll

SUPPORT for Irish unity continues to slide, despite a Sinn Fein campaign for a referendum on the issue, and is down significantly since we asked the questions last year.

If a border poll was held less than one respondent in 26 (3.8%) of people said they would vote for Irish unity "as soon as possible".

The proportion favouring unity in 20 years (2033) time rose to just over one fifth of the population (22.3%).

That means just over a quarter of the population (26.1%) want unity either now or in 20 years.

That is well down on May 2012 when 32% wanted unity at some point, 7% plumping for it straight away and 25% favouring it after an interlude of 20 years.

A generation is usually considered to be 25 years.

So giving the option of voting for unity in 20 years time is a way of measuring long term aspirations rather than immediate priorities.

2033 is four or five electoral cycles away and few politicians attempt to plan that far ahead.

Support for unity was almost entirely confined to Catholics with only 8.1% of Protestants favouring unity in 20 years and none at all wanted it sooner than that.

At the margins there was some interesting movement on opinion on the issue amongst Catholics.

Catholic support for unity as soon as possible is now 12.5%, up from 7% in May 2012. This was more than matched by plummeting Catholic support for unity after 2033, down from 41% last year to 27% this month.

In all 39.5% of Catholics favoured unity at some point, down from 47% last year.

The groups most open to Irish unity were the people who did not classify as Catholic or Protestants, 38.2% of them wanted unity after 2033 and 1.2% saw it as an immediate option. Those who said they had no religion at all took a broadly similar view, 1.1% favoured unity now and 35.1% would prefer to wait 20 years.

One ray of hope for those advocating Irish unity is that a relatively high number of people are undecided on the issue – nearly a third of the population, 30.1%.

Indecision was spread fairly evenly between the main religious groups. 31.8% of Protestants, 31.5% of Catholics and 36.2% of people who said they had no religion and 33.5% of people saying they had another religion declined to express a preference on unity.


Follow the latest updates and reaction to this story on Storify:

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

Belfast Telegraph