Voters happy with how Irish Government has handled Brexit
Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll: Desire for a united Ireland has not wavered in Republic
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with British prime minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll results show that the majority of Irish voters are satisfied with the way the Government has handled the Brexit negotiations so far, with 54 per cent indicating that they are satisfied and 28 per cent dissatisfied.
However, as we approach the endgame of the negotiations, Irish voters are split on whether or not to compromise in order to secure a deal and avoid a hard border. Opinion is also divided on how to implement one of the outcomes of a hard Brexit – checks on goods crossing the border from the UK.
Fieldwork for today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a nationally representative sample of 1,200 eligible voters. Interviewing was conducted face-to-face, in-home, across all 40 constituencies.
Notably, those from the farming community, who are particularly vulnerable in the case of a hard Brexit, are most likely to be open to compromise
Roughly two out of every five Irish voters (43 per cent) believe that the Government and the EU should compromise to help secure a deal and avoid a hard border. However, the same proportion (42 per cent) say they should hold their ground and not compromise even if this risks a hard border.
Notably, those from the farming community, who are particularly vulnerable in the case of a hard Brexit, are most likely to be open to compromise. Among this grouping 58 per cent believe that compromises should happen to avoid a hard border.
If a hard Brexit was to come to pass, checks on goods originating from the UK would be necessary before they pass into the EU. Again, opinion is divided on where these checks should take place. Just over a third (35 per cent) would prefer checks on the Border and therefore no checks on goods going from the Republic to the rest of the EU. However, 33 per cent would prefer to see checks on Irish goods going to the rest of EU, therefore eliminating the need for a Border with the UK.
Sinn Féin voters are most enthusiastic with 76 per cent indicating they would vote in favour
Of course, one way to entirely eliminate a border with Northern Ireland would be through the reunification of Ireland. Half of all voters (49 per cent) believe that there should be a referendum on Irish unity. This has majority support outside Dublin (55 per cent) and among those aged under 50 (53 per cent). Analysis across party lines shows that demand for a referendum is highest among Sinn Féin voters (62 per cent).
If there was to be a referendum, 62 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote in favour of a united Ireland. The remainder are evenly split between saying they would vote against, or do not know how they would vote.
Those saying they would vote in favour of unity are a broad base of Irish voters across all ages and regions. It also has majority support among voters of all the main political parties. Unsurprisingly, Sinn Féin voters are most enthusiastic with 76 per cent indicating they would vote in favour. Roughly two-thirds of Fine Gael voters (67 per cent) and Fianna Fáil voters (65 per cent) say they would vote in favour.
While some may be surprised by a strong desire for unity, it is in line with historical trends. Previous polls have shown a gradual increase in the expectation of a united Ireland. When asked in 1987, 49 per cent of Irish voters thought that it would never happen. This declined to 40 per cent in 2001, and to 35 per cent in 2012. In the 2012 poll, 64 per cent of Irish voters categorised a united Ireland as “something to hope for”.
While the future relationship with the UK and Northern Ireland is in a constant state of flux, the desire for a united Ireland has not wavered.
Kieran O’Leary is a director with Ipsos MRBI