Northern Ireland news

Study claims less than third of people would back united Ireland in border poll

People taking part in an Irish unity march as they cross the Lifford Bridge between Donegal and Strabane. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

LESS than a third of people in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland if a border poll were to be held soon, according to a new survey.

A study of 2,000 voters, in a project carried out by Liverpool University, found that 52 per cent would opt to remain within the UK.

The survey of voters across the north's 18 Westminster constituencies found that 29 per cent would support Irish unity.

Of voters who defined themselves as neither nationalist or unionist, 27 per cent said they would opt for a united Ireland.

The Alliance Party has seen a surge in support over the last few years, including at the local, European and Westminster elections.

The new survey found that around 30 per cent of Alliance voters backed a united Ireland, compared with 70 per cent who wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the UK.

Unsurprisingly, 99 per cent of DUP and Ulster Unionist voters backed the union. However, the survey also found that 92 per cent of Sinn Féin and 81 per cent of SDLP voters said they would support Irish unity in a border poll.

The survey involved face-to-face interviews conducted by Social Market Research between December 28 and February 11.

Although less than a third of people said they would back a united Ireland, 35 per cent identified as Irish. A total of 34 per cent of people said they were British with 23 per cent saying they were Northern Irish.

The survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that 28 per cent of people identified themselves as ideologically unionist, with a quarter saying they were nationalist. Around 40 per cent of people said they were neither.

On power-sharing, 81 per cent backed the restoration of the executive. Around 61 per cent also supported joint nationalist and unionist governance.

The survey found that a proposed Irish language act has divided voters. Of those interviewed, 36 per cent supported the move while 32 were opposed.

Around three-quarters of DUP and Ulster Unionist voters were against the act while 82 per cent of Sinn Féin and 77 per cent of SDLP supporters wanted legal provision for Irish speakers.

Of the Alliance voters interviewed, 32 per cent wanted the act, with 25 per cent against.

The survey revealed that voters in the north remain divided on sectarian lines.

No Catholics said they voted for either the DUP or UUP, despite rumours that some had opted for the DUP in support of its anti-abortion stance.

Around half of the Catholics surveyed said they voted Sinn Féin while 28 per cent opted for the SDLP, and 13 per cent for Alliance.

No Protestants voted for Sinn Féin, although one per cent said they opted for the SDLP. Of those who said they were of 'no religion', 28 per cent voted Alliance.

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