IF there was a border poll tomorrow, almost 80 per cent of those voting would support the Union, a major poll for the BBC last night revealed.
In results which reinforce the findings of a series of surveys over recent years, the Ipsos MORI poll found that of those who would vote and expressed a preference just over 20 per cent would vote for a united Ireland.
The poll also showed deep discontent with Northern Ireland’s main political leaders, with the unelected PUP leader Billy Hutchinson receiving an approval rating better than or almost as good as the main unionist and nationalist leaders.
The poll for a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast last night found that despite little appetite for a constitutional change, there was significant support for the holding of a referendum on the border.
Twenty seven per cent said that a border poll should be held within a year, while 30 per cent said that a poll should be held within seven
Just 19 per cent said that there should never be a referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional position.
When asked how they would vote if there was a border poll tomorrow, 65 per cent said they would vote for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK, 17 per cent said they would vote for Northern Ireland to join the Republic outside the UK, 12 percent said that they would not vote and just five per cent said that they did not know how they would vote.
If those who say that they would not vote or do not know how they would vote are excluded – a crude attempt to replicate what would happen in an actual referendum – the majority for the Union is striking.
Of the 82 per cent who would vote and expressed a preference (who divided 65/17 in favour of the Union), 79.3 per cent would support the status quo, with just 20.7 per cent voting for a united Ireland.
The poll also backed up other polls such as the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey which show that while many more Catholics are happy for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK, the overwhelming majority of Protestants are unwaveringly pro-Union.
The BBC poll found that more Catholics would vote for the Province to remain British (38 per cent) than would vote for a united Ireland (35 per cent).
Among Protestants, however, 92 per cent would vote for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK. Just two per cent would vote to leave the UK.
There was also a much greater percentage of Catholics (18 per cent) than Protestants (four per cent) who said that they would not vote in a border poll.
And just one per cent of Protestants said that they did not know how they would vote in a border poll, far fewer than the nine per cent of Catholics who were unsure.
Ipsos MORI conducted 1,046 interviews with a representative sample of the Northern Ireland population aged 18 and over.
Interviews took place between 17 January and 26 January and were conducted at 64 sampling points across Northern Ireland.
All interviewing was conducted face-to-face via Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.