What people think

A survey published in today’s Sunday Times makes for interesting reading (more details here). The top lines in the paper are..

– Two thirds of people in the north now oppose the Good Friday Agreement
– 43% of people would not mind much if the Assembly was abolished
– Only a tiny minority of each religious grouping (4% of Protestants and 2% of Catholics) say they feel unfavourably towards the other community
– Hardly any Protestants favour Irish unity but most (72%) said they would accept it if a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to end partition.
– Just 38% of people favour Irish unity over a range of other options
– Only 3% of Catholics said they would find it “almost impossible to accept” if Irish unity never happened.

Some of it fills me with horror – for example, do 43% of people really want to be ruled by unaccountable civil servants indefinitely?

And in some places I would question the Times’ interpretation – for example, isn’t 33% of people in favour of Irish unity a pretty high figure, in the absence of any government strategy to outline the proposals or offer solutions to the real-world concerns people have (the financial, the logistical, etc etc)…

  • Henry94

    It claims that two thirds of people in the north now oppose the Good Friday Agreement but also claims that 51% would vote for it again in a new referendum.

    Now there are things in the agreement we all might like to change or renegotiate. But that should not be taken as opposition.

    The survey failed to ask the only question worth asking ie Given a choice between the restoration of the Institutions and Joint Stewardship by the two governments, which way would you like to see the Agreement implemented.

  • Nevin

    Aaron, I’ve tried to access the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey website just now but can’t.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Yeah, Nevin.. I had trouble with some pages on it as well. I figured I’d put the link in as a pointer, in case other people had more luck!

  • Cynic

    “do 43% of people really want to be ruled by unaccountable civil servants indefinitely?”

    Ideally not, but unless ‘we’ can collectively aree, what’s the real alternative here?

    And are the civil servants unaccountable? We are in exactly the same position as anyone living in Cheshire or Norfolk and whose MP is not Labour. The civil servants here are accountable through Minsiters to Parliament. That may not mean much in practical terms but then it doesnt mean much in practical terms in England and Wales either!

  • Henry94

    Cynic

    We are in exactly the same position as anyone living in Cheshire or Norfolk and whose MP is not Labour.

    They can at least hope their party will govern at some point.

    And at least Labour will run in their area for both national an local elections.

    It is also a fact that the issues which affect them also affect people in Labour seats so there is a national political conversation they can identify with

    By contrast policing, the Marching season, border smuggling and power-sharing are issues only here.

  • cen2021

    “Yet just 38% (cathloics) favour Irish unity over a range of other options”

    “Hardly any Protestants favour Irish unity”

    i did hear a figure before that split the UI/UK support to be about 75% want to maintain the union, this seems to reinforce that.

    Irish unity is still hundreds of years off, isnt it time we knuckled down, and start learing to live peacfully with out neighbours ?

  • I see surveys have not imporoved in quality since Richard Rose did his stuff in the early 1970s.

  • Henry94

    I agree that the figure for support for Irish unity is nonsense and I suspect support for the agreement is far higher than 51%.

    In moost countries when surveys contradict election results it is accepted that the surveys are wrong.

    Only here do people disbelieve the election results and quote the survey.

  • Nevin

    Aaron, check out the final paragraph in Sue Denham’s column in the Sunday Times. It’s about a heated encounter between some folks in the OO and the Brehon Society!!

  • Reader

    Henry94: In moost countries when surveys contradict election results it is accepted that the surveys are wrong.
    But there hasn’t been a border poll since the 70s.

  • Henry94

    Reader

    Every poll is a border poll and nationalist parties are over 40%.

    If and when they hit 50% we will need a referendum on the border.

  • TAFKABO

    Henry.

    Following the logic of a number of points made by yourself.
    Isn’t it necessary to have poll before joint stewardship could be implemented?

    Unless of course, it will be in a form where Dublin rubberstamps what they’re told to rubberstamp, in which case no poll would be required.

  • “Every poll is a border poll”

    Come now Henry, we both know that’s nonsense. Leaving aside the minority who might vote for parties for reasons other than the border question, the turnout in any border poll would almost certainly be much higher, particularly in unionist areas where turnout in elections is decreasing more quickly.

    I’ve said elsewhere that the opinion polls, while only an indication, are probably as useful as any election results bar a straight referendum on the border.

  • “probably as useful as any election results bar a straight referendum on the border. “

    IMHO of course.

  • Reader

    Henry94: Every poll is a border poll and nationalist parties are over 40%.
    I see others have already taken you up on this. To their comments, I would add:
    Do you think that there is no reason to vote for an SDLP or SF; Councillor, MLA, MP or MEP other than the border? Think how much paper could be saved if they could fit their manifestos on one line…
    Do you think that every voter believes they are voting on the border in council elections?
    As for your point about calling a border poll when the vote reaches 50% – OK, fine, even earlier might be better. But the reason for me to agree is so that people might settle down to make the current options work once they stopped chasing pie in the sky.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    But the reason for me to agree is so that people might settle down to make the current options work once they stopped chasing pie in the sky.

    For once, I agree with Sinn Fein – in as much as they are calling for the government to outline a reunification strategy. It’s impossible for people to make an informed judgement on the border until they know, for example, the economic ramifications. I suspect, if those were favourable to the majority, you might be surprised by, say, how many supposedly ‘pro-Union’ Catholics were convinced to vote for a united Ireland.

    When it comes down to it, when the governments decide it’s time for reunification, they will buy the right result. The only question is when. And how long the subsequent civil war will go on for.

  • “- 43% of people would not mind much if the Assembly was abolished “

    By the way, I’m also in that 43%. While it would be nice to think local and accountable politicians would be more interested in sorting the mess out than mostly English civil servants, they may be more constrained by their inability to stop bickering long enough to do anything constructive.

    The only difference is with Direct Rule we have a handful of ministers doing the same job as 12 ministers and over a hundred MLAs, all with their salaries paid by Joe Q Taxpayer of course.

    Value for money, I think not.

  • Liam Clarke

    For those who want to read the survey in full the address is

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2005/

    Its noteworthy, and a consistent feature of opinion polls over the years, that a lot more Catholics want to remain in the UK than vote for or intend to vote for unionist parties. A reflection of the sectarian dynamic of local politics?
    Its also worth noting that although those surveyed are of voting age they are not all actually voters.

  • Henry94

    TAFKABO

    Isn’t it necessary to have poll before joint stewardship could be implemented?

    I don’t see why. It is a matter for the British government how they choose to run the north. If they choose to involve Dublin then that is up to them. There was no referendum on the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

    If I remember correctly Unionist MPs resigned their seats to force a quasi-referendum but it made damn all difference.

    If unionists want to avoid JS then they have to opt for power-sharing. The British haven’t given them another choice.

    Re-partition for example is not on offer. Neither is a return to majority rule. Or British rule with no input from Dublin.

    Reader

    People may vote between the nationalist and unionist parties on various policies but nationalist and unionist parties are by definition just that.

    That is why a 50% vote for nationalism should in my view trigger a border poll as provided for in the Agreement.

    As for settling down and making current arrangements (the Agreement) work, that should be happening anyway.

    The better the Agreement works the better chance we have of winning the referendum in my opinion.

    beano

    the turnout in any border poll would almost certainly be much higher, particularly in unionist areas where turnout in elections is decreasing more quickly.

    Maybe. But these are the unionists that came out and voted for the Agreement. Their views are continually ignored by unionist parties. I wouldn’t count on them if I was you. The garden centres might be busy on the day.

    Liam Clarke

    Why did your paper lead a story saying 51% would vote for the Agreement with a headline saying two-thirds oppose it?

  • lib2016

    There seems to be a concerted effort to reassure unionists in the leadup to November. Accusations of republican turncoats and huge manufactured majorities for the union won’t help the process. Instead they will reinforce the hardliners who think they can endlessly defy democracy and the two sovereign governments.

    Far better to point to the situation in Portadown where Drumcree is settled and both sides are building a prosperous future together. It used to be pointed out that the ‘loyalists’ were always more loyal to the halfcrown than they were to the Crown. In the future we’ll all be loyal to the Euro or we’ll all be poor together. Not hard to choose.

  • Cynic

    Henry

    Your response to my post is fine …in theory at least….but the practical realities of the way that democracy works in National Government are rather different.

    Frankly, the fact that people can elect MPs whose party will form a Government is irrelevant to this issue. On your basis every Lib Dem or BNP supporter in England is unfairly disenfranchsied because their Party can never get enough support to govern. Sorry, but that’s how any democracy works….. and with some of the fringe parties, a lot of people might say thank God for that.

    The key perhaps is how to get the right balance between central and local Government so people at least have a sense of ownership in the decisions, although often that just means giving them someone local to complain to! They can have limited impact on the national picture – however you define ‘national’.

    “By contrast policing, the Marching season, border smuggling and power-sharing are issues only here.”

    Perhaps and perhaps not …..but most of those are and are likely to remain reserved matters, even if Stormont staggers to its feet again. So British Ministers will still take all the key decisions on those too?

    We need to realise that, while Stormont has been hyped up, in reality, politically its very much like an old style County Council and most of the real power will stay with Westminister and / or Dublin.

    Discuss!!!

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Henry 94

    We all know there will be many that don’t like the way these numbers and those in the last census stack up i.e. there is less chance of a United Ireland than there is of Sinn Fein supporting an OO March in Crossmaglen.

    This is what Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted for and asked their supporters to vote for in the referendum and then spent the last 7 years promising a United Ireland just around the corner – just accept that it isn’t going to happen and time soon and with ever day that passes the likelyhood recedes even further in to the distance as 40% of the Catholic popuation think of themselves as British and apparently hardly any Protestants think of themselves as Irish.

    We all know for Sinn Fein (and SDLP) supporters it is a bitter pill to swallow but as soon as it is swallowed and attention turned to more pressing matters, such as education and health, then the sooner there will a transformation in the attitude of the Protestants.

    NOTE:- the 51 % and 66% are fully consistent as 63% are either broadly or fully in support of the agreement and of those 51% would support it again, obviously ‘in principle’ as some would like to see some changes.

  • Crow

    While I don’t think nationalist party support in say Westminster Elections equals support for a United Ireland, I am also convinced that the emotive nature of any Border Poll with yield higher percentage in favor of a UI than that reflected in a dispassionate survey response.

    Also its interesting that such high numbers support the elimination of Stormont. I suppose the West Lothian Questions poses no difficulty for NI.

  • all out

    Have a border poll. It would finish off the very concept of unity for – in any real terms – ever.
    Time to make the best of what we have.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Have a border poll. It would finish off the very concept of unity for – in any real terms – ever.
    Time to make the best of what we have.

    The term ‘wishful thinking’ seems appropriate here.. still, if you fancy the gamble.

  • oh dear

    Lib2016, me thinks you need a namechange mate

    how about

    lib2516 ????

    lol 😀

  • all out

    No! I personally DO favour unity – but not at the cost of civil war. It’s not going to come by consent, the mathematics as demonstrated by ANY statisical research do. not. stack. up.
    No gamble – it’s a dead cert failure.
    The ‘agreement’ was essentially the principle of concent enshrined for slow (Provo) learners.
    So call it, get it over with and DEAL with it. Both sides.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    It’s not going to come by consent, the mathematics as demonstrated by ANY statisical research do. not. stack. up.

    Errrr, I think what you mean is that “it’s not going to come by Caflicks outbreeding the Pradisins”. Which is probably, but not definitely true.

    Consent, on the other hand, implying at least some current unionists deciding to vote in favour, is another matter entirely.

    Sometimes I think everyone gets these two concepts hopelessly muddled.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Ciaran Irvine

    Consent on the basis of the current position is much less likely than ‘Caflicks outbreeding the Pradisins.’

    So just give it up for a few generations and get into the world of reality not the world of green tinted smoke and mirrors and leprechauns.

  • harpo

    ‘For once, I agree with Sinn Fein – in as much as they are calling for the government to outline a reunification strategy.’

    Aaron:

    Why should the government have to do this? PSF are just being shite stirrers here – demanding that the government spend money looking at something that may never happen, and make plans for it as if it is certain to happen.

    If they are so bloody interested in a UI strategy why don’t they come up with one?

    ‘It’s impossible for people to make an informed judgement on the border until they know, for example, the economic ramifications.’

    I don’t think you understand NI people very well. The border issue isn’t one that depends very much on informed judgement. It’s a political belief one. Nationalists wanted a UI even when the ROI economy was a disaster. They didn’t care about economics. And many unionists wouldn’t care if NI was a wasteland, so long as it stays in the UK.

    As for your point here, if there is some merit in trying to give people information that would lead them to make informed decisions, then why doesn’t PSF do these studies and present them inorder to persuade people? Why is there this reliance on government? PSF have an agenda – if they care so much about such factors let them spend money on such studies. The government shouldn’t be in the business of producing material to support one political view over another.

    BTW
    I presume you think such studies would support the view that a UI would be best. What if it came out the other way round? Then PSF and you would be complaining that it was pro-status quo propaganda.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    I don’t think you understand NI people very well.

    And I think you think that everyone thinks the way you and I do. A surprising number of people are less interested in politics than stability and prosperity.

    why doesn’t PSF do these studies and present them inorder to persuade people? Why is there this reliance on government

    Because they don’t know what the circumstances would be? Because only the governments can know this? For example, would people live in NI jump immediately to paying RoI taxes, or would there be a honeymoon period? Would the business sector pay lower taxes immediately, or would they be staggered over time? Would people from NI be entitled to free health insurance? Who knows? Not me, and not SF.

    I presume you think such studies would support the view that a UI would be best. What if it came out the other way round? Then PSF and you would be complaining that it was pro-status quo propaganda.

    Not neccessarily. I think you must be confusing me with someone else.

  • smcgiff

    I think there should be a border poll. Not because I think it would mean a majority favouring a UI, but it would indicate the support for such.

    A large minority would lead to a moral obligation for influence in the decisions of NI by the ROI. In the same way that if ever a UI came about a level of influence from GB would need to be considered.

    We cannot get away from hundreds of years of history – Ireland and Britain are Indelibly linked. Before anyone suggests I think the ROI should rejoin the UK – I don’t – we’ve got it far too good. :¬)

  • Nathan

    I don’t think a border poll is a realistic option as yet.

    And even if a majority vote was present for a UI, it would merely be the first step in a long-drawn out process. Negotiations for a new dispensation will take months if not years to sort out in detail (considering that no blueprint exists for an agreed United Ireland which incorporates the Unionist tradition)

  • smcgiff

    ‘(considering that no blueprint exists for an agreed United Ireland which incorporates the Unionist tradition)’

    That would have to be sorted out before the border poll, Nathan.

    There’s possibly two types of border polls.

    One is a snap poll without much effort or thought going into it.

    The second is a considered poll taking into account all the traditions and the connection between a UI and GB and much more.

    Both would fail to be passed (in the near to medium term), but the second would give a more accurate gauge of people’s opinions to the UI they would be pledging allegiance to.

    When we talk about a UI now we consider a 32 county version of the existing ROI. I don’t think this is what a UI would look like. As I’ve said before, the relationship between the ROI and GB needs to be considered.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    When we talk about a UI now we consider a 32 county version of the existing ROI. I don’t think this is what a UI would look like.

    You’re right – and a pertinent, oft ignored question is – will the people of the RoI want change? Anecdotally, I suspect not.

  • smcgiff

    ‘You’re right – and a pertinent, oft ignored question is – will the people of the RoI want change? Anecdotally, I suspect not.’

    I was going to make that point in my above post, but decided on brevity.

    I think you’re right. The impression I get is that most people in the ROI are happy with the status quo. However, it’s the status quo because it’s not been challenged in any real way despite all the parties down here falling over themselves to claim the “republican” tradition. If it came to it I think a majority would favour it.

    The question that then needs to be asked is if GB would be interested in maintaining a relationship with a UI – I think it would, but it’s not a forgone conclusion.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    If it came to it I think a majority would favour it.

    I agree with that.. but I wonder what the short-term reprecussions would be for the community that was seen to have been responsible for the required change in society.

    Just see the reaction of Munster rugby fans in Lansdowne Road to ‘Ireland’s Call’ for one illustration of how the southerners don’t appreciate compromise.

  • kensei

    “This is what Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted for and asked their supporters to vote for in the referendum and then spent the last 7 years promising a United Ireland just around the corner – just accept that it isn’t going to happen and time soon and with ever day that passes the likelyhood recedes even further in to the distance as 40% of the Catholic popuation think of themselves as British and apparently hardly any Protestants think of themselves as Irish.”

    And here we hit the reducto ad absurdum of these polls. If SF’s and the SDLP’s success is based on selling a United Ireland to people, how does this work when there are so many people that don’t wnat it? It doesn’t stack up. Why isn’t there more Catholic support for Unionist parties? Doesn’t stack up.

    There is still too much stigma and such to take any of these polls seriously.

  • barnshee

    “Consent, on the other hand, implying at least some current unionists deciding to vote in favour, is another matter entirely.

    Sometimes I think everyone gets these two concepts hopelessly muddled

    ANYONE who thinks that “current unionists” with their experience of catholic republican murder gangs (and the experience of their family fmembers in the ROI) would vote in favour of a UI is as they say “hopelessly muddled”

    Republican murder gangs suupported by 50+ of the catholic community in N Ireland,with direct support of 10/15% of the republic and tacit support from most of the rest have alienated another 3 generations of “unionists” from any truck with the ROI

  • joe blow

    The survey detail on choice of political parties demonstrates it is either slanted or that nationalists are still afraid of giving honest opinions to surverys. SDLP + SF only get around 30%. Only 9% of voters said they supported SF. Yeah right!

  • Reader

    joe blow: SDLP + SF only get around 30%.
    Don’t forget to include the 22% who voted None, Don’t Know or Other Answer before you dismiss the numbers so completely. What proportion of the Electorate (Not Voters) voted nationalist?

  • DavidD

    Protestants were indeed ‘flooding out’ of the 26 counties from 1861, but so were Catholics. Between 1861 and 1911 the proportion of Protestants was remarkably stable at around 10.5%. In 1926 the proportion was 7.4%. This sudden and dramatic drop is surely worthy of some explanation.

    What is troubling about the ‘Life and Times’ survey is the question on support for political parties. SDLP has, apparently, the support of 21% of the population, while Sinn Fein has only 9%. This is manifestly wrong in view of recent election results. If this is so wrong then how much credence can be given to the other findings? Most surveys consistently under-estimate support for Sinn Fein (and incidentally the DUP).
    What is probably true is that a significant proportion of SDLP voters who would not support a united Ireland, sufficient to reduce those in overall favour to about 38/39% of the total population. This may be in the form of pro-union votes or, more probably, abstention.

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