Narrow majority of NI voters support remaining in UK - poll

BBC Spotlight survey finds more than half of voters in State would back Irish unity

A narrow majority of people in Northern Ireland would vote to remain in the UK if a border poll was held today, a survey conducted for the BBC has found, while just over half of respondents in the Republic would back a united Ireland.

The findings, announced during a Spotlight programme marking the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland last night, found 49 per cent of the North’s residents favour remaining a part of the UK and 43 per cent supported leaving. In the Republic, 51 per cent favoured a united Ireland with 27 per cent backing the status quo.

Participants in the poll conducted by Lucid Talk were also asked for their predictions on a potential return to violence in Northern Ireland.

Respondents in the Republic were pessimistic, with 87 per cent agreeing that Northern Ireland “might not have left its violent past behind”, compared to 76 per cent of respondents from the North.


The centenary was considered something to celebrate by 40 per cent of those living in the North, with 45 per cent saying they did not think so.

The greatest level of support was to approach the occasion “in a neutral way” with a focus on sporting and cultural achievements. In the Republic, exactly half of participants did not regard the centenary as a cause for celebration.

The programme also asked about the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol and its future, an increasing focal point of differences in the community.

Views on its were quite evenly spread in the North with 48 per cent saying it should be scrapped and 46 per cent saying it should not be. In the Republic, 74 per cent of people supported its continuation.

Separate research published by Queens University suggests the protocol issue is likely to be at the centre of polarised debate in the run up to next year’s Assembly elections.

It found the vast majority of voters in Northern Ireland distrust politicians to manage its effects, while just 5 per cent had “any trust in the UK government on this matter” and only 15 per cent trusted the Northern Ireland Executive on it.

The first in a series of ‘Testing the Temperature’ polls commissioned by the university, found 19 per cent trust the UK-EU Joint Committee but, at 62 per cent, the majority of confidence lies with business leaders. It was conducted by Lucid Talk in March with a sample of more than 2,100 people.

“This poll shows us that the protocol is a live and contested issue among voters as well as political parties in Northern Ireland,” said Prof David Phinnemore, principal investigator on the project.

“The political debate in Northern Ireland in the lead-up to the Assembly elections in May next year could very well centre upon the protocol. The results of this poll suggest that the debate would be both impassioned and polarised.”

A majority of respondents (57 per cent) did not think Brexit was a good thing for the UK as whole, but views were evenly split on whether the protocol was good for Northern Ireland. The poll found 43 per cent agreed it was and 44 per cent thought it was not.

A clear majority (65 per cent) agreed that specific arrangements for Northern Ireland are necessary to manage Brexit, with political instability the main cause for concern among respondents.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times