A new poll was released this week. It was commissioned by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cardiff and was called the “Future of England Study”. Voters were polled throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during late June and early July 2018. In Northern Ireland the fieldwork was conducted by LucidTalk and included a weighted sample of 1,089 voters. Numerous questions were asked and I will go over only the most relevant ones.
Voters were asked how they would vote if a Westminster election were held. The results were (excluding those who would not vote)
Other Unionist 3.1%
Total Unionist 45.8%
Total Nationalist 39.3%
The Undecided were 70% from the unionist community, 10% nationalist and 20% Neither. Taking that into account it appears the total Unionist vote would be 48%, the total nationalist vote 40% and the Alliance-Green vote 12%. The sample in the poll appears to reflect the actual electorate since the unionist vote is nearly identical to the actual unionist vote in 2017 though the nationalist vote is lower and the Alliance-Green vote higher than the 2017 election. However, I wish to note that 22% of voters stated they would not vote and the results by constitutional background were:
None-Non Political 91%
Nationalist voters are much less likely to vote in a Westminster election than unionist voters. As you know, this has been my contention for many years that voter turnout is lower among nationalist voters than unionist voters.
Voters were asked how they would vote on a new EU referendum and the results were:
Nationalist Unionist Neutral None-Non Political
Remain in EU 85% 28% 94% 92%
Leave EU 3% 68% 3% 3%
Undecided 12% 4% 3% 4%
For all voters it was 60% Remain, 32% Leave and 8% Undecided. This poll shows an increase in support for Remain compared to the actual EU referendum result of 56% Remain in Northern Ireland.
A question on a Border Poll was not directly asked. Voters were asked if Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland should become independent countries. The results for Northern Ireland were:
No it should become part of a United Ireland 44%
No it should remain the UK 43%
Yes-independent country 4%
The breakdown by constitutional preference was:
Nationalist Unionist Neutral None-Non Political
United Ireland 89% 2% 39% 2%
Stay in UK 0% 93% 16% 5%
Independent country 4% 3% 8% 1%
Undecided 6% 1% 37% 93%
The results are unsurprising. A small number of voters actually prefer an independent Northern Ireland. There are 3 interesting findings about the None- Non Political group. Over 90% are in favour of Remaining in the EU and over 90% are Undecided about a United Ireland. Over 90% of this group also indicated that they would not vote in a Westminster election. So major questions are:
How many None-Non Political voters would vote in a Border Poll since over 90% indicate they would not vote in a Westminster election?
Since over 90% wish to Remain in the EU how will that influence their vote on a United Ireland?
The more recent Delta Poll showed that voter preference for a United Ireland would range from 53% to 56% depending on the Brexit scenario with 40% preferring to Remain in the UK. It appears that in the interval between the Edinburgh-Cardiff poll and the more recent Delta Poll that the Undecided and those who prefer an independent Northern Ireland have move to a United Ireland preference.
Another interesting finding is that voters were asked the following question:
Question 47: Some have suggested that leaving the EU may present challenges to the UK. One of these includes the unravelling of the peace process in Northern Ireland. If this happens would you say that:
Leaving the EU was not worth jeopardizing the peace process
None- Non Political 99%
Yes it was worth it to take back control
None- Non Political 1%
So unionist voters believe that leaving the EU is more important than peace in Northern Ireland.
This may seem surprising but it is actually not.
First of all, not all Protestants vote unionist and taking this into account perhaps 60% of Protestants believe that leaving the EU is more important than peace in Northern Ireland. When the Good Friday Agreement passed in the Referendum held in 1998 there was little polling done. The media and governments involved tried to convince the world that a slight majority of Protestants voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is more likely that a there was a slight majority that voted against the Agreement and these voters are now still opposed to power sharing and believe that any action that jeopardizes peace in Northern Ireland, including leaving the EU, is acceptable.
The final nature of Brexit should be known by late November. It is likely that LucidTalk will conduct another poll on preferences for a United Ireland after that time.
Clarifacation of the poll quoted above as requested by Lucid Talk ” LT did the NI fieldwork (ie gathered the data) but Edinburgh/Cardiff did all the weighting, data analysis, and produced the poll results”