Lord Ashcroft this week released a poll of Northern Ireland voters this which covered opinions on Brexit and a Border Poll.
The poll was conducted in late August to early September.
There was much publicity in the media on the results of this poll, which covered attitudes towards well known political figures in the UK and Ireland as well as views on Brexit and a Border Poll.
The data was presented contrasting the views of those from a unionist or nationalist background.
However, missing from all of the media reports was the views of those who do not identify as unionist or nationalist, nor were any results presented based on the religious background of the voters.
Fortunately, the Lord Ashcroft website did contain more detailed results which I will cover here.
Voters were asked how positive or negative they felt about certain politicians on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being extremely negative and 100 extremely positive.
These are some of the interesting findings.
Catholic No Religion Protestant
Boris Johnson 6 21 78
Arlene Foster 3 9 67
Nigel Farage 6 15 60
These results highlight the polarization between the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland with Arlene Foster viewed very negatively by Catholics and even more so than Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.
All 3 are viewed positively by the Protestant community. Interestingly, those with No Religion have views that are much closer to the Catholic community than the Protestant community.
Voters were asked how they would vote if there was a new EU Referendum tomorrow. Excluding non-voters the results were:
Overall Catholic No Religion Protestant
Remain in EU 60% 91% 81% 21%
Leave EU 39% 8% 16% 79%
Undecided 1% 1% 3% 0%
The actual vote in 2016 was 56% Remain so there has been a small, but significant, shift to Remain since then. This appears to be due to more Catholics and those of No Religion switching to Remain.
There was also the all-important Border Poll question which was worded:
“If there were a Border Poll tomorrow how would you vote?”
Total Catholic No Religion Protestant
Stay in UK 45% 6% 29% 89%
United Ireland 46% 84% 59% 5%
Undecided 9% 10% 12% 6%
EU Referendum Vote Leave Remain
Stay in UK 87% 16%
United Ireland 11% 70%
Undecided 2% 14%
The percentage of Catholics who would vote to Remain in the UK is very low at 6% with 10% Undecided.
The Percentage of Protestants who would vote for a United Ireland is very low at 5% with 6% Undecided.
Those with No Religion have views closer to those of Catholics and only 29% would prefer to Remain in the UK with 12% Undecided.
Those who voted to Leave the EU in 2016 are strongly in favour of Remaining in the UK at 87% but surprisingly 11% who voted Leave prefer a United Ireland. Why? These would be voters who voted Leave in 2016 but would now vote to Remain in the EU (12% of Leave voters in 2016 indicated in this poll that they would switch to Remain in the EU in a new referendum).
There were also some republican voters in 2016 who tactically voted Leave knowing it could lead to a United Ireland.
There are several other points I wish to stress from this poll. The percentage of Undecided among Catholics and those with No Religion is twice that of Protestants. Approximately 6% of the total 9% Undecided are Catholic or No Religion.
The percentage of Undecided among Leave voters is only 2% but 14% among Remain voters. Protestants who are also Leave the EU voters have all made up their mind and are all in favour of Remaining in the UK.
The 9% of voters who are Undecided are basically all Catholic, No Religion or Protestants who voted to Remain in the EU.
Of the 21% of Protestants who would vote to Remain in the EU in a new referendum I estimate half prefer to Stay in the UK and the other half are Undecided or in favour of a United Ireland.
So it is those Undecided voters who will determine the outcome of an actual Border Poll. There was also no mention of foreign national voters in the poll and foreign nationals are 10% of the voting age population and the electoral register is currently 5% foreign nationals- 3% EU nationals and 2% non EU foreign nationals.
The actual status and nature of a final Brexit is in total chaos at this moment in time and the final outcome will undoubtedly influence voter opinion on a United Ireland.