Irish Times poll: Northern Ireland voters do not want DUP-Tory Brexit

Large majority would back staying in EU in second vote while one-third want border poll

Voters in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly reject a hard Brexit, would vote to remain in the European Union in a second referendum and would prefer checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and the North rather than checks on the Irish Border, according to a special Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll in Northern Ireland.

A parallel poll in the Republic finds that almost half of all voters favour a referendum on Irish unity and a clear majority would vote in favour of reunification.

The poll finds that Northern voters are deeply dissatisfied with the management of Brexit by the UK government and, most significantly, with the Democratic Unionist Party, with more than three-quarters of all voters saying they are dissatisfied with the UK government.

Two-thirds of all voters (67 per cent) say the DUP is doing a bad job of representing Northern Ireland at Westminster, while 69 per cent of people – including 57 per cent of those from a Protestant background – are dissatisfied with DUP leader Arlene Foster.


The poll in Northern Ireland was conducted through face-to-face interviews among a national quota sample of 536 people throughout all regions. Personal in-home interviewing took place on March 4th, 5th and 6th. The accuracy level is estimated to be about plus or minus 4.29 per cent. (If you are reading this on the Irish Times app you can access the full poll results here)

Checks on goods

Strikingly, the poll shows that in the event of a hard Brexit, more voters would favour checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland than would favour checks on the Border.

Almost half of all voters (48 per cent) disagree with Northern Ireland leaving the EU on the same terms as the UK if it means border checks in Ireland.

But 59 per cent say they want a special arrangement for Northern Ireland for no checks on the Border – even if it means some checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and the North.

But by far the biggest majority (67 per cent) is in support of a very soft Brexit where the UK stays in the EU single market and the customs union to avoid the need for checks anywhere.

Northern voters are divided on whether there should be another Brexit referendum; but if there was one, they would vote overwhelmingly (59 per cent) to remain in the EU.

While voters are clearly at odds with the approach of the DUP to Brexit, they are also critical of Sinn Féin.

Just 13 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill is doing her job, with 61 per cent dissatisfied. A large majority – 60 per cent – of voters believe that Sinn Féin MPs should take their seats at Westminster. Among voters from a Catholic background, the figure rises to 64 per cent.

Just over a third of Northern voters want a referendum on Irish unity. If one was held, just 32 per cent would vote in favour of unity, while 45 per cent would vote against. The number in favour of unity rises to 58 per cent among voters from a Catholic background, with 18 per cent against and 24 per cent who say they don’t know.

Referendum on unity

In the Republic, the picture is different. Almost half of voters (49 per cent) say there should be a referendum on Irish unity, and if such a referendum was held, 62 per cent say they would vote in favour.

The poll in the Republic was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face-to-face interviews at 120 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Over half of southern voters (54 per cent) say they are satisfied with the way the Government has handled Brexit, but they are deeply divided on the choices that may face the Irish Government in the future.

Asked if the Government should compromise on the backstop – the guarantee that there will be no hard border that has brought the Brexit talks to a standstill – in order to secure a deal and avoid a hard border, 43 per cent say the Government should compromise, while 42 per cent say that they should not compromise even if this risks a hard border.

Voters are similarly divided when asked about the options if there is a hard border. Asked if there should be checks on goods at the border to avoid checks on goods going to the EU, 35 per cent agreed. Asked if the checks should be on goods going to the EU to avoid checks at the border, 33 per cent agreed.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times