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New research shows North-South divisions on Commonwealth

Findings show that some apparently hardline positions could be open to change among some voters

Voters in the Republic and Northern Ireland are divided on attitudes to the Commonwealth and on the question of whether a possible future united Ireland should be a member of the organisation, according to new research.

While the Republic remains strongly opposed to Commonwealth membership, opposition to the Commonwealth among southern voters and northern voters from a Catholic background eases when its international character and the fact that many of its members are republics are stressed.

The findings of the research suggests that debates about some aspects of a possible future united Ireland could be influenced by how they are presented and framed – and that some apparently hardline positions could be open to change on the part of some voters.

NI Poll Friday

The latest wave of research for the Irish Times/ARINS North and South series seeks to examine attitudes among voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic to flags, emblems and symbols – and, in today’s installment, to the Commonwealth.


It also seeks to probe how those attitudes might be open to change by presenting the issues to respondents in two different ways.

In today’s instalment of the series, respondents were split into two groups and were asked about their attitudes to the Commonwealth in two different ways – one that stressed its British, post-imperial character, and the other that noted a majority of Commonwealth countries are republics with a president as their head of state and also mentioned the Commonwealth Games.

When the “British” of the Commonwealth is stressed, voters in the Republic have strongly negative views of the organisation. But when the “international” character is stressed, voters are somewhat less negative.

The opinion polls are part of the North and South series, a research collaboration between ARINS and The Irish Times. ARINS, Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South, is a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. This is the second year of the collaboration between The Irish Times and ARINS.

Two simultaneous, identical polls were taken by Ipsos B&A in the Republic and Ipsos in Northern Ireland, who conducted in-home interviews with over 1,000 voters in each jurisdiction last year. The margin of error in each is estimated to be +/-3.1 per cent.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times