A bit of a diversion, but given the historical context, it’s hard to avoid comment on the recent opinion poll reported on by BBC. The poll included a question asking whether the respondemt preferred Irish unity (42.1%) or the continuation of British control (45%) with 12.7% saying they don’t know and 0.2% saying they wouldn’t vote on it or would spoil their vote. This is roughly in line with the electoral performances of pro-Irish unity and pro-UK parties in the north. Buried in the data, though, is a more significant figure that points where the sentiment lies within that critical 12.7% of don’t knows and arguably points to a preference for Irish unity now standing at 51.5% overall (it is also the stated preference of under 45s, by a significant margin).
The genesis of the northern state was as a self-selected territory that was run in the manner of a ‘continental dictatorship‘ and was intended to be self-perpetuating in maintaining a pro-UK electorate. So a poll suggesting it has an electorate that now favours Irish unity marks a significant change in sentiment. It also reflect recent electoral trends in unionism failing to return the majority of members to an elected assembly for the first time:
…and falling below 50% of votes cast in the north in a Westminster election (in 2017, despite a clear push by unionists to even get the vote out in their safe seats – suggesting they are well aware of how sentiment has changed):
The recent poll included asking how Brexit had influenced respondent’s constitutional preference.
The 28% open to persuasion on a united Ireland is the interesting statistic here. To look at this, we can extrapolate from that data to the 45% pro-union, 42.1% pro-united Ireland responses mentioned earlier in the first question. It requires 15.2% (of the 28%) to bring the 26.9% pro-united Ireland figure to 42.1%. And 3.55% (of the 28%) to bring the two pro-union responses (0.85% and 40.6%) to 45%. So, removing 15.2% and 3.55% from 28% leaves 9.25% who must be within the 12.7% ‘don’t knows’ of the other poll question. But we now know they are open to supporting Irish unity. The data suggests that this group who are ‘open to persuasion’ actually split 81.1% towards Irish unity, 18.9% towards UK union when answering the first question. I’m basing that on 15.2% of the 15.2%+3.55% needed to bridge the responses to the two poll questions.
If opinion on Irish unity and UK union among that 9.25% ‘don’t knows’ who are open to a united Ireland divides along similar proportions as just outlined (and there’s no reason it wouldn’t), then this is the true balance of opinion in the last column below:
So, if you actually drill down into that poll data on Irish unity versus the UK union, this seems to be where you end up: 51.5% for Irish unity against 48.5% for UK union.
A historic moment.
Three caveats, though: (1) this is just opinion poll data, (2) only votes cast count, not opinions and (3) in case you missed it – this is only opinion poll data.