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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Making Sense of The Polls

The results of a recent poll on the question of Irish unity have been running in the Irish Times for the last number of days. The poll was conducted by Ipsos (a market research and consulting firm) on behalf of the Irish Times and the AIRNS project, a joint research project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Centre for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Details of its informative publications can be read here.

The poll is a first of its kind, as it polls north and south on a wide range of questions. The results in the south mirror other polls that continually find around two-thirds support for unity.

Its findings in the North are very much an outlier in terms of support for Unity. The report found 50% in favor of continued partition, is similar to the findings of other polls. However it found 27% in the North in favor of Irish Unity, 18% don’t know and 5% would not vote.

This is only one of many polls conducted in the North over the last number of years. Professor Jon Tonge of Liverpool University placed this poll in the context of others where support for Irish unity had an average poll rating of 37%.

In the last election, Sinn Féin received a vote share of 29% yet the poll finds total support for unity at 27%. The May election results return 41.6% for overtly pro-unity parties. The Irish Times poll would mean that a third of these parties would not support Irish unity and neither would anyone who voted Alliance or Green!

John Doyle, Director, of Dublin City University Institute for International Conflict Resolution raised some questions on the poll found on the AIRNS site here.

While there are some interesting findings in the poll relating to attitudes on what are the important issues in the unity debate, these findings are questionable given the outlier findings on attitudes to unity in the North. Further findings of the poll will be released in January.

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