No surprise to most long term readers but it seems that those looking towards sectarian divide to re-unite the island of Ireland might be looking in the wrong direction:
The (Life and Times) survey, which was conducted between October and December last year, found just 33% of Catholics wanted Irish unity on the long term. More than half of Catholics said they would prefer to stay in the UK, a view shared by 90% of Protestants.
I can’t access the historic data sets, but one detail we included in our 2003 study of the future of Unionism included this view of the other side of the equation from the same survey twelve years ago:
Protestants find the principle of consent more difficult to accept, with 29% finding the idea that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would ever vote for a united Ireland ‘almost impossible to accept.’ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 1999, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster.
It may be that some of the recent easement in Unionist attitudes towards the current settlement relates to the fact that, currently, most Catholics and Nationalists are drifting towards a similar (if much more purely pragmatic) view on the constitutional arrangements as themselves.
Why then, do most nationalist politicos seem to be so out of step with their electorate? Is that they have imbibed too much high octane, Peace Process™ Koolaid? Or, indeed, are they out step at all? I think we should be told!
Adds: Thanks to PaulT for this chart which graphs attitudes over time…