NILT for 2012 suggests passion for constitutional issues is dropping fast…

Headline findings from the 2012  Life and Times survey includes some mixed news, and some fascinating snippets. Ive added emphasis to highlight some of the more intriguing findings:

  • percentage believing that a United Ireland is very unlikely has now risen to 41%.
  • proportion of Catholics expecting Irish unity remains less than among Protestants.
  • a marked rise in the percentage of people describing their national identity as Irish, up from 26% in 2010 to 32% in 2012
  • a fall in the proportion describing themselves as Northern Irish ‑ from a historic high of 29% in 2010 to 22% in 2012
  • a jump in the percentage of Protestants calling themselves British from 60% to 68%
  • proportion of Catholics calling themselves Northern Irish fell from 26% to 17%. – the lowest in more that a decade
  • 60% of Protestants described themselves as Unionist
  • 49% of Catholics describe themselves as Nationalist
  • the proportion describing themselves as neither Nationalist nor Unionist rose to 47%, reflecting an increase among both Catholics and Protestants.
  • percentage of respondents thinking it either very likely or quite likely that there will be a United Ireland has fallen from 29% in 2003 to 15% in 2012
  • significant drop in the number expressing a positive wish to remain in UK from 72% to 63% since 2010 and the lowest since devolution in 2007, especially among Catholics.

[Strictly for you night owls, I’m off to bed…]

Rolling blog on the detail

So today I’m going through the main findings bit by bit (in no particular order of importance), and adding commentary…

NILT Political ID by age[1] Political identity by age is very interesting. If we make the assumption that each generation’s base attitudes are set in the years of early adulthood, we can make a rough (if unreliable) sketch of historic attitudes. So disillusion with the generic description ‘unionist’ sets in very early with it being strong in the over sixty fives (those already in adulthood when the Troubles began) and the drop happening almost in concurrence with the outbreak of civil rights and first riots… By contrast, the onset of the Troubles seems to have hardened nationalist identity, with a massive dip coming after the GFA generation hit majority. Looks like the street troubles of recent years has a positive effect on Nationalist ID, but no effect on the decline of Unionist ID.

NILT Mixed schooling: Catholics and Protestants

[2] Schooling by age again is interesting and it shows the same bump in people wanting separate schooling in that lower 18-24 demographic are sitting significantly above those in all other  age bands. But for this is interesting. There is only a 5% gap between Protestants and Catholics who want separate schooling. So it is not a case that Protestants want to co-opt Catholics into their system so much as a significant majority in both camps want some form of co-schooling.

NILT Is it getting better by age[3] Is it getting better, by age? Now look at the top, pre Troubles demographic and then the bottom ‘parades’ and ‘flegs’ generation. Both these age groups express less optimism than any others. But the pessimism is concentrated on that lower age group. Youth unemployment may also be an important, non troubles related influence. Not least since the eldest in this group would have been at most nine years old and at least three when the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

NILT Gay child by religion[4] Comfortable with gay child is interesting cut by religion. I chose this because it’s probably the question where people might have the most practical reason to worry about not having a blood grandchild. There is a significant difference between Catholics and Protestants, suggesting that whilst socially liberal attitudes are in the majority in both communities, the Protestant community has almost double the proportion of those saying they would be uncomfortable.

[5] Now a comparison with 1998 that shows no movement whatsoever. Could you live with never having a United Ireland? Back then with the SDLP in a leadership position of Northern Irish nationalist, some 90% of Catholics said they could either live with it or would happily accept it.NILT Tolerance of no united Ireland 1998

Roll on to 2012 and you can see that after twelve years of Sinn Fein’s leadership this figure has barely changed with the only category rising slightly being the ‘Don’t know’ column… NILT Tolerance of no united Ireland 2012

Are you a Unionist or a Nationalist?[6] A reprise of a data set mentioned earlier on the self description of people as Unionist or Nationalist. The largest single group is Neither, which is nearly half the population at 47%. The implications of the change since 1998 is not uniform. There has been virtually no change amongst nationalists, but a 12% decline of those self declaring as unionists in 1998. You’d have to ask, is unionism is becoming an outmoded political motivator now the smoke of war is beginning to clear?

More to follow…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty