When it comes to political polling it is the underlying trends in the polls that matters, not the outcome of any one poll examined in isolation from the rest. And on the question of ending the partition of Ireland the trend is slowly but surely moving in favour of some form of national reunification. Yes, there are some results that buck that trend; in the north-east of the country at least. However, that is why terms like “outlier” and “rogue” exist in the lexicon of psephology. It is the collective wisdom of the polls, of the same methodologies across a period of time, that reveals the shifts in public opinion. And so far, anomalies and caveats aside, northern voters are showing a growing appetite for unity with the rest of the island.
According to the latest LucidTalk poll commissioned by The Detail, the Belfast-based current affairs publication, if given the option of a so-called “border poll” 45.4% of voters in the Six Counties would support a united Ireland while a wafer thin majority of 46.8% would oppose it, with 7.8% undecided on the question. That “Yes” vote increases to 47.9% when the question is phrased in the context of “Northern Ireland” rejoining the European Union within a unitary Irish state, while the “No” side drops to 44.8%. Which illustrates the importance of the EU in the renewed debate on ending partition. And perhaps more significantly, 41.7% in the north now favour the holding of a unity plebiscite in the next five years, with 63.2% in the south having the same view. That rises to clear majorities of 58.5% and 78.6% respectively when the time span is expanded to ten years.
While the formerly dominant parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have sought to avoid or dismiss talk of unity referendums in the near future it seems that voters across the island of Ireland are heading in a different direction from the political Establishment and its tame media wing, echoing the trends witnessed in the recent general election. To borrow a well-worn line, “Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people”.
Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.
I would be very, very careful about polls that are so close. Polling is a tricky and often inexact science.
Of course, there is a good chance that support for leaving the UK may grow over time. Especially if Brexit makes staying in it less attractive. Chances of an extreme catastrophic Brexit or another English Civil War are lower than they were just a few months ago, now that there isn’t going to be an abrupt exit. In fact, and English Civil War could well have made some Unionists feel it was their obligation to help save the country they were raised in, and in severely catastrophic Brexit could have been dangerous for Ireland.
A grey, crappy, long term suck of a Brexit would be more likely to place time on your side than a disaster.
True, the polls are extremely close. But better than what was being polled before much of the independence referendum in Scotland. Which is noteworthy given how close that became in the actual result.
But “carefulness” should be the byword in all this.
Even allowing for the various anomalies and the wide margins for error inherent in any public polling, these findings differ wildly from those produced by a recent survey conducted in Northern Ireland (between December 28th, 2019 and February 11th, 2020) on behalf of the University of Liverpool (UoL). In the UoL survey, 29% of NI people said they would vote for a United Ireland; 52% would vote against; and 19% “didn’t know”. Adjusting for the “didn’t knows” produced a pro-UK majority of 65% and 35% for a United Ireland.
I have to say, when the results of the UoL polling were published I was genuinely shocked. And not from any wishful-thinking standpoint, but simply because the figures did not in the slightest reflect what I’m hearing day to day from the unionists among whom I live and work. People are totally scundered, as we would say up here, with primarily Brexit and the central role that the DUP played in it; the re-establishment of Stormont after 3 years of “no can do” just when, coincidentally, the DUP and SF started losing significant numbers of voters to the AP and SDLP; and most especially with the same MLAs being able to just walk back into office after sitting on their arses for 3 years without having to face an election.
On a related issue, the EU issue is the key to enough unionists coming on board for a uniatary state. I fully expect the pro-United Ireland figures to rise among unionists when Brexit really begins to bite, which could be sooner than we think, and long before the full economic ramifications kick-in. Holiday queues at airports, holiday insurance costs, requirement for holiday visas etc will all piss people off even further.
Face to face surveys in the north, like NILT, always end up finding far lower support for a UI and for Sinn Féin than anonymous polling.
Until LucidTalk appeared on the scene a few years, polling in NI was as accurate as throwing darts at a dartboard. They are the only polling outfit that I pay any attention to and they are always right on the money.
Carry out an FTF survey in heavy West Belfast accents, as opposed to Unionist or plummy English accents and you will find a great reduction in support for remaining in the UK.
Demographics are destiny and it was clear to some of us in the early 00s that we would hit demographic parity and then electoral parity in the mid 2020s +/- 5 years and here we are. Star Trek had it right too, the bastards.
Brexit is just the final push to heave us over the line a little earlier.
5 years ago nobody but us anoraks were saying a UI was coming, no one wanted to talk about it or border polls. Now the conversation is everywhere. Discussion of what is never going to happen, always picks up right before it happens.
In 5 years time Ireland will be united. Probably less. But the timing is now completely dependent on Tories calling the poll.
I agree with most of that, but where on earth did you get the idea that Belfast working class unionist accents are any different from those of Belfast working class nationalists? Northern unionists and nationalists do not have an accent distinct from one another.
Fair enough, I landed on the West Belfast accent as a signifier for Republicanism, not as a class conscious indictment of Unionism. I am more than happy to switch it out for an Armagh accent, but the point I am making about accent and source impacting results in FTF surveys remains.
Thanks for this, and I realise the overall point you’re making. But believe me, there is no such thing as a unionist accent distinguishable from a nationalist or republican accent, be it Belfast, Armagh or wherever else in NI.
I think the real problem with FTF surveys in NI is that many people either resent or fear giving their true feelings/thoughts to a total stranger.
I tend to agree. And I’d add the fear of us “sleepwalking” into a reunited Ireland. That a series of swift events that drop us into a reunification vote before we are ready which would be the worse outcome. We need to start the preparations, the drafting, the outline plans now, even if they sit on a shelf gathering dust for a few years. My own preference, a “reverse” GFA simply because it brings continuity, at least outwardly, with a few tweaks in a unitary state. The less the disruption, the greater the familiarity, the more likely a positive outcome in a border poll.
We were always sleepwalking into a UI unless SF got into power in the south. FF/FG/LAB were never, ever, ever going to lift a finger to increase SF’s political power here. With an FF/FG/GP govt for the next 5 years, it is unlikely there will be any of the needed preparations.
But here’s the thing, worrying about it is a red herring entirely. East & West Germany had it worse and faster. Our problems are far smaller. There was always going to be a Unionist tantrum that came with a body count. There will be bombings, there will be shootings, there will be protests they will ramp up and peak before the border poll and end once the decision has been made for a UI. There will be protests but they will be weak tea compared to the 90s. Contrast AIA protests in 84 to Drumcree to Fleggery.
In my opinion a reverse GFA is the worst possible solution after partition, unless Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are added to Stormont. Partition is the problem, it is the source of sectarianism and it will take 3 generations from ending partition for the poison to work its way out of the body politic. Keeping partition around, only perpetuates the problems. I recommend RTÉ’s Seven Ages of Ireland documentary series for some insights into how the same dynamics played out in the early decades of the Free State (it’s all on youtube).
I would submit that Unionism is Narcissistic Personality Disorder writ large, Settler-Colonist psychology rests on NPD as one of its main pillars. When dealing with NPD you are on a see-saw, and you can never maintain parity/equality. NPD’s only understand power and authority, if you are nice to an NPD you are weak and they shit on you, if you are firm, harsh and set boundaries they believe they are weak and fall into line. You see this in the Indian caste and Victorian class systems. Same thing as the advice to stand up to a bully and see them crumble. Amir Levine’s Attached digs into the science behind the psychology of empathy and how authoritarians hijack it to create top down hierarchies of abuse. How else do you con people into working themselves into an early grave for their bosses?
Yes, I think pro-unity types, myself included, should be wary of the polls and overoptimism. Which is why I’m focusing more on the trends in the polls. And the electoral polls. The trend is towards a future pro-unity or “Yes” majority. And I’m deliberately avoiding the term “nationalist” majority as I think we should all start doing so.
Hopefully small “u” pro-union voters and floaters can be persuaded that a unitary state across the island can be as familiar or unfamiliar as they want it. Or vote for it.
I favour the GFA as the template for reunification. I think it will satisfy more people. And assuage more fears. And historically something similar has been on offer for 100 years from the nationalist side of the equation. Well, the thinking side. A devolved Six Counties’ region within a united Ireland would hurt no one. And might save much grief on all sides.
Great stuff, ASF. Obvious though it may seem to make this point, we need to be thinking about how to create an all-island sovereign nation within which we can all feel represented, safe, comfortable, and at home – regardless of colour, creed, cultural background, sexuality, and so on. Now, wouldn’t that be the sort of nation worth striving for? Wouldn’t that be the great place to call home?
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But that’s retaining partition and continuing to shaft Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan. And it will bring you zero Unionist support.
British empire has left over a hundred colonies in the last hundred years. In every single place the Unionist Settler Colonists never recognized the legitimacy of the independent countries, they retreated into their ex-pat clubs and sang GSTQ until they died.
Just as the did in TCD and D4.
I wish it were different but the Liofa bursary should have been the last straw for that thinking. The best way to deal with Unionism and re-unification is to sit them down, tell them we are keeping the flag, we are keeping the anthem, the 6 county entity is gone and if you have any requests for constitutional amendments or financial support make the requests now. They won’t, they will pout and refuse to engage and then we move on. I really wish it could be different, I would much rather the hand of friendship and partnership, but as the RTÉ documentary I pointed you to earlier shows, it is not going to happen.
However, Brexit has fractured Unionism, as seen in North Down and we will see a larger chunk of Unionism, especially the younger pro-EU faction break free of this shite and join us in partnership. That I did not see coming and I wholeheartedly welcome it.
One big thing to do ahead of time could be to sort of “Bunny Proof” the Irish Constitution, Electoral System, Auditing System, Judicial selection and more against any loopholes where people might try all sort of mischief/shenanigans to get an outsized amount of political power for their own faction. If they can’t do so nationally they might try it locally.
There is a risk that certain Ulsterman might not embrace a United Ireland wholeheartedly from the beginning-or even generations down the road. Even if they decide the prospect is better than Britain becomes with Brexit, they might still resent the fact such choices were placed before them. Sometimes the “deal” with venal resentment politics is that people end up doing such things, not even because they want any particular objective, but just as a sort of “show of influence” or a way to thumb their noses as those they resent. One thing I base this advice on is a simple observation: Ulster Unionists remind me quite a lot of White Southerners and Neo-Confederates in the US-In terms of the political behavior and just the way they think and act. In short, I’ve watched the kind of “games” I’ve been warning you about all my life. You might really, really want to go over the whole system for loopholes, that you can close in advance before they have a chance to fight your efforts to close the loopholes. After all, if the DUP could make itself “The Tail that wags the dog.” against a much larger Tory Party with Brexit, in a United Ireland they would be a larger portion of the population.
This could end up raising the question of Federalizing Ireland. Federalism in Ireland could be a very mixed blessing both in terms of minimizing Shenanigans in what’s now NI, and in terms of wealthier Counties in the current Republic that want to keep all their tax money for themselves. However it would almost certainly be better than letting NI become a special devolved region in the ROI as it currently is in the UK-Where what’s now NI has its own devolved Parliament like in the UK, while the rest of Ireland gets no such thing-just as England has been “left out” in the UK. (It would be a bad idea in Ireland for different reasons than leaving England as the largest country in Europe without a Parliament or other Leg, but still.)
Another thing I can see coming is that a lot of Republicans and Unionists alike will absolutely panic when the reality of no NHS sets in. This is not necessarily an endorsement of an NHS model of healthcare (indeed I believe a German model or hybrid between a German and a Canadian, or a German and more localized POS model would be better). The Irish Health System despite its byzantine nature does way, way better than Britain’s when it comes to certain outcome-based metrics. However the reality is often that people who were socialized for generations on a model where everything was free at POS, can utterly and absolutely panic when faced with any other reality. Even if you put them in a sweetheart public/private insurance model with rather nice coverage for everyone, or a solid public system that expects “top-up” insurance like Australia or France. …I’ve watched such things in person. I’ve seen people who have personally endured civil war, severe hunger and displace completely and utterly lose it when two forms (no major language barrier) was all they needed to get temporary state provided coverage. I mean like break down sobbing and fall to their knees in a matter of seconds.
So unless The ROI is willing to do a complete overhaul, and adopt an NHS style system full-scale: A proposition that may or may not be the best for society as a whole.