Northern and southern voters have similar views on wealth redistribution

Research finds some differences on social issues, such as abortion

Voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic have similar views on key questions about the role of the government in reducing inequality, but there are some differences on social issues, new research that compares political views in both parts of the island has found.

The research is part of the North and South series for The Irish Times and ARINS which was carried by Ipsos in both jurisdictions last year. ARINS is dedicated to analysing and researching Ireland North and South and is a joint research project of the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame in the US.

Voters were asked a series of questions about their views on a possible united Ireland and related issues, as well as their own political and ideological views in two surveys conducted simultaneously by Ipsos last year. This is the final instalment of the series.

NI poll tuesday

In the first question, on the role of governments in redistributing wealth, voters were asked to place their views on a scale of 0-10, where 0 indicated a “strong belief” that governments “should act to reduce inequalities in income and wealth” and where 10 indicated a strong belief that government “should not act to reduce inequalities in income and wealth”.


The results showed a strikingly similar outlook on both sides of the Border. Almost four in 10 voters in both jurisdictions – 39 per cent in the South, 38 per cent in the North – put themselves at 0 on the scale, indicating a strong belief in wealth and income redistribution.

A further 15 per cent in both North and South put themselves as 1 on the scale. Just 4 per cent in both jurisdictions put themselves at 10 at the other end of the scale.

Voters from a Catholic background in the North were slightly more likely to strongly favour the redistribution of wealth and income.

There is greater divergence between North and South when asked about their attitudes to same sex marriage and abortion, though majorities of declared voters favour a liberal position in both jurisdictions.

Almost half of all voters in the South (49 per cent) say they “very strongly support” same sex marriage, with a further 23 per cent saying they “fairly strongly support” the measure. In Northern Ireland 36 per cent very strongly support same sex marriage and a further 24 per cent fairly strongly support it. Support for same sex marriage is weakest among people who vote for the unionist parties in the North, with just 18 per cent of TUV voters in favour, compared with 80 per cent of Alliance Party voters.

Sixty per cent of voters in the South say they support the provision of abortion services, with just 19 per cent opposed. The margin is tighter in Northern Ireland – 47 per cent support the provision of abortion services, 27 per cent are opposed, with 22 per cent say saying they take neither position and 4 per cent don’t know. Protestants are slightly more anti-abortion than Catholics.

Supporters of the TUV and the DUP are the most likely to oppose abortion, while among the parties in the South, Fianna Fáil voters are considerably more likely than other parties’ supporters to be anti-abortion. Sinn Féin voters in the South are noticeably more liberal on abortion than Sinn Féin voters in the North.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times