Almost a fifth of voters in Northern Ireland, including nearly a third of voters from a Protestant background, say they would find a vote in favour of a united Ireland “almost impossible to accept”, according to an Ipsos opinion poll.
A further quarter of all voters (26 per cent) say they “not be happy but could live with it” while almost half of all voters in the North (47 per cent) say they would “happily accept” such an outcome.
The results of the poll, and the accompanying focus groups, show that there is a hard core of unionist voters who would be fiercely opposed to a united Ireland but that a significant majority of those from a Protestant background would accept the result.
The questions were asked in surveys of voter sentiment in Northern Ireland and the Republic for the North and South series. This is a joint project of Arins and The Irish Times. Arins is a research collaboration between the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame in the United States, and is dedicated to analysing and researching Ireland North and South.
The project involves two simultaneous, identical polls taken in Northern Ireland and the Republic and a series of focus groups in both jurisdictions to discuss issues related to potential Irish unity and possible future referendums on the subject.
The first results were reported in The Irish Times last Saturday and showed that a Border poll would be easily defeated in Northern Ireland, but would pass comfortably in the Republic. There was strong backing for holding referendums in both jurisdictions.
Both polls were conducted among more than 1,000 voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic in August-September of this year.
Respondents were asked to consider the outcome of possible referendums North and South and to give their reactions to a result in support of unity, and to a result rejecting unity.
In Northern Ireland, just under half (47 per cent) of all voters said they would “happily accept” a vote in favour of unity. A further 26 per cent said that they “would not be happy but could live it”, but 18 per cent of all voters — which includes 32 per cent of voters from a Protestant background, and 14 per cent of voters from a non-Catholic and non-Protestant background — said they would find this result “almost impossible to accept”.
Acceptance of a pro-union result was much higher. Almost three-quarters of voters (73 per cent) in the North said they would “happily accept” this outcome, with 19 per cent reluctantly accepting it and just 2 per cent who said they would find it “almost impossible to accept”.
In the Republic, half of all voters (50 per cent) said they would happily accept a vote to remain in the UK, while a further 40 per cent said they would not be happy but would accept it.