Current Affairs Politics

Lies, Damned Lies, And… Polls

According to the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times survey as reported in the Irish Times:

‘…one in three Catholics (33 per cent) want a united Ireland, while 52 per cent want the North to stay in the United Kingdom, with 46 per cent of Catholics happy with the current devolved arrangements and 6 per cent favouring a return to direct rule from Westminster.

In contrast, nine out of 10 Protestants want the union with Britain to continue, with 69 per cent supporting devolution and 21 per cent in support of direct rule, while 4 per cent of Protestants favour unification. Just one in 100 Protestants and four in 100 Catholics believe in a united Northern Ireland.’


‘Overall, 73 per cent believe the long-term policy for the North should be maintaining the union, with 58 cent supporting devolution and 15 per cent in favour of direct rule. Just 16 per cent want a united Ireland with 3 per favouring a united Northern Ireland.’

The poll has ben hailed as ‘another’ nail in the coffin of Irish Unity by the usual suspects. Over in the Guardian Henry McDonald writes:

‘So much, then, for the break-up of Britain. The United Kingdom is safe – at least when it comes to Northern Ireland. Whatever Alex Salmond is attempting to do in Scotland, in the north-east part of the Emerald Isle the future remains orange rather than green.

The respected Northern Ireland Life and Times survey released its latest findings this week on political attitudes towards the province’s constitutional status. Overall, it found a large majority, 73%, in favour of staying inside the UK.’

What all these (many, many) journalists and commentators have failed to point out is that some of the other results of the survey are rather, well, odd.

Accordingly we are told that support for the DUP stands at 18%. Which is a bit bizarre compared to the 38% the party actually received in the recent northern assembly election. The SDLP garners 17% support in this survey (or 14% in the real world) while Sinn Féin is at 11% (which must have made the actual vote they received at the ballot box, almost three times as much at 29% of the electorate, somewhat, er, surprising).

ARK, the organisation behind the survey, has admitted before that people surveyed in their polls have not always been entirely honest, especially in relation to voting intentions (the survey was of only 1205 adults – hardly the largest statistically valid survey number I’ve seen).

One interesting thing to note. If Sinn Féin’s actual support is almost three times as large as shown in the ARK survey, what happens if we multiply by three the number who according to the survey support a United Ireland: that is 16%? And the result is 48%. And, hey, guess what? The general estimate of the Nationalist population in the North of Ireland is? Around 45%!


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