Northern Ireland would vote decisively against a united Ireland if there was a Border poll, according to an Ipsos opinion poll for a new research project into North-South relations and political views on the future of the island.
The poll shows almost twice as many voters who expressed a preference want to remain in the United Kingdom.
In the Republic, however, there is a majority of more than four to one in favour of unity, according to a simultaneous and identical poll.
Majorities in both jurisdictions believe that referendums on the unity question should be held, with voters in the Republic more likely to favour a vote in the next five years, while a majority of voters in the North want a Border poll in the next 10 years.
The findings are contained in twin opinion polls carried out north and south of the Border for The Irish Times and the Arins Project. Arins — Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South — is a joint initiative of the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame.
The two polls, along with a series of accompanying focus groups, were carried out among more than 1,000 voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic in August and September of this year.
Half of all respondents (50 per cent) in Northern Ireland said they would vote against Irish unity, which included 21 per cent of those from a Catholic background.
Just over a quarter (26 per cent) in the North said they would vote for unity, while 19 per cent said they didn’t know how they would vote and 5 per cent said they would not vote.
The highest percentage of don’t knows was among the “others” — those who do not identify as being from a Catholic or Protestant background — where almost a third (31 per cent) are undecided.
The strongest opposition to unity was among those of a Protestant background (78 per cent). Those of a Catholic background were most in favour of unity, though only just over half (54 per cent) of all Catholic respondents said they would vote in favour, with 21 per cent against and 22 per cent undecided.
In the Republic, the picture is very different. Almost two-thirds of all respondents (66 per cent) said they would vote for unity, with just 16 per cent against. Don’t knows were at 13 per cent.
Despite the differing outcomes, there are strong majorities in both jurisdictions in favour of holding referendums. More than three-quarters of voters (76 per cent) in the Republic are in favour of a Border poll, with a majority favouring a timescale within five years.
More than half of Northern voters (55 per cent) favoured a referendum, with a majority preferring a longer timescale of 10 years. A clear majority of “others” wanted a referendum, with 51 per cent in favour, 24 per cent against and 25 per cent saying they don’t know.
Among voters from a Protestant background, 39 per cent said there should be a referendum, 47 per cent were opposed and 14 per cent said they didn’t know.