GB public gives views on Northern Ireland’s place in the Union

Barely a third of the public in Great Britain hope Northern Ireland would vote to remain in the UK, new research showed.
Ipsos MORI poll graphicIpsos MORI poll graphic
Ipsos MORI poll graphic

A fifth said they would prefer it left and joined the Republic of Ireland following any future referendum on removing the Irish border, pollsters revealed.

One in three (34%) thought Brexit will make it more likely that Northern Ireland will join the Republic over the next decade. More of those who voted Remain in the referendum than of those who voted Leave think Brexit will make a united Ireland more likely.

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The research was published by market research organisation Ipsos MORI for King’s College London.

Roger Mortimore, professor of public opinion and political analysis at King’s College London, said: “When Scotland voted on whether to become independent in 2014, there was a clear majority among the public in the rest of the UK that hoped it would choose to stay. But many fewer Britons, it seems, would mind if Northern Ireland decided to leave the Union.”

Conservatives are most likely to hope that Northern Ireland would vote to stay in the UK: 49% of those who would currently vote Conservative say they would prefer Northern Ireland to vote to stay, compared to 34% of Labour supporters and 27% of Liberal Democrats.

Those who voted for Britain to Remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum are more likely (23%) to want Northern Ireland to leave the Union and join the Republic than those who voted Leave (15%).

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Three in four adults who live in GB have never visited Northern Ireland, and a further 17% have visited only once or twice. Just 3% have lived or worked there, and 5% have visited many times.

In response to the survey results, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “The poll shows clearly that support for Northern Ireland remaining within the Union is twice that expressed for a United Ireland.

“Arlene Foster has outlined the need to put forward a positive case for the Union and there is a need for unionists to ensure this case is made right across the UK.”

Mr Donaldson added: “The issue facing people at present is not Northern Ireland voting to weaken the Union, but the insistence upon a backstop which would place in internal border inside the United Kingdom. There are many people from all political viewpoints who do not support such a proposal.”

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Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said: “The recent Ipsos MORI poll revealed that in GB only 18% believed Northern Ireland should leave the UK, with roughly a third each saying that NI should stay or didn’t have strong feelings either way.

“While in comparison to similar polls around the Scottish referendum there was a more marked response to stay, it is clear that, by this poll, there is no marked call for the end of the Union.”

Mr Aiken said there is “absolutely no room for complacency” but took issue with how this poll has been “spun” – claiming a closer interpretation of the poll, rather than just reading the press release, “would have resulted in rather less sensationalism”.

He added: “A constant barrage of 30 years of negative media stories has obviously taken its toll on how this place is perceived, but a great deal of good work is being done to attract visitors and I know from experience, that once we get them here, they want to come back.”

Mr Aiken also accused the DUP of associating itself with the ‘ultra’ wing of the Tory party which he said “isn’t doing unionism or indeed Northern Ireland any favours”.