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”.