jump to navigation

Are 3/4 of people in NI Unionist? June 17, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland, opinion poll.
trackback

The Guardian reports the results of the most recent Life and Times Survey, which suggests that 73% of people in the north want to remain within the United Kingdom. Not just that.

Fifty two per cent of Catholics living in Northern Ireland wanted that union to continue, while 35% said they desired a united Ireland.

Only 4% of protestant respondents said they wanted a united Ireland. There may well be good grounds for thinking that both those results are too high.

The DUP seems pleased with the results anyway.

The Democratic Unionist party – the single biggest party in the Stormont Assembly – welcomed the Life and Times survey and said it showed that traditional communal loyalties were “crumbling away”.

The idea that the DUP wants to see such loyalties crumble is of course laughable.

So the elections tell us that the majority of catholics vote for militant nationalism. These results tell us the majority of catholics are keen to remain within the union. So what does all this mean? The most obvious answer is that it doesn’t mean very much. That elections are better judges of what people think than surveys, and that we need to take all this with a large pinch of salt. On the other hand, as pointed out in the article, there has been a clear trend in this survey to suggest that a united Ireland is of declining importance to large numbers of catholics, and that that number has been growing. Unionists liked to argue even during the troubles that around a quarter of catholics wanted to stay within the union, rather than see a united Ireland tomorrow. What we could be seeing here is that the number of catholics who have at the least put the idea of a united Ireland on the back burner has grown with the GFA and with the collapse of the economy in the south illustrating the advantages in terms of public services etc that come with being part of the UK.

Could we be seeing a situation where a vote to make Martin McGuinness First Minister does not contradict the desire to stay within the union for the forseeable future? That’s a hard idea to believe. Then again, if we look at the history of what is called Irish nationalism before the 1918 election, it was constitutional nationalism that was dominant. We should remember that Redmond was a British imperialist. At the same time, northern nationalists after partition continued to vote overwhelmingly for constitutional nationalist parties, as they do today. When we talk about the popularity of constitutional nationalism, could we really mean that securing a better deal for catholics within the existing framework has been more important than long-term aspirations for independence (assuming for the moment that we can characterise repeal and home rule as forms of independence)? It seems likely that that has always been true for a certain amount of constitutional nationalist voters, but the proportion is extremely hard to estimate at any given time, never mind over the longer run.

But if the Life and Times Survey is right, then there are more of that type of voter than there has been for decades. If that is true, and if they now feel comfortable voting for Martin McGuinness, Gerry Kelly et al then we could be looking at major changes underway in northern nationalism in terms of what aspirations it must represent. Are we looking at the transformation of their party into something much closer to the old Nationalist Party than to the politics of the 1980s and 1990s? Or is this all nonsense based on a poorly done survey?

Comments»

1. Hugh Green - June 17, 2011

Doesn’t this sort of survey evacuate the attitudes of the people surveyed of any consideration of the type of society, in material terms, that they would wish to live in, in favour a choice between two different constitutional arrangements in the abstract?

For instance, suppose the question were posed in the following terms: if a united Irish republic meant free health care, free education for all and a decent welfare state, would you prefer Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK?

Like

2. Andrew Madden - June 17, 2011

“a united Irish republic meant free health care, free education” – I think the people of NI would rather deal in realiites rather long shots.

Like

3. Hugh Green - June 17, 2011

I’m from there myself so I’ll speak for myself too, thanks.

Like

4. T - June 17, 2011

Has it not always been the case that the majority of Catholics in northern Ireland wanted a constitutional arrangement along the lines of power sharing with an ‘Irish dimension’ or joint authority or some variant on those themes. I always thought it was only a minority of Sinn Fein voters (ie not all SF voters) whose first preference was for an immediate British withdrawal and a united Ireland. This is not surprising given the likely destablising impact of such events, and the fact we can see the lack of any major backlash against SF now that they have ditched everything that defined traditional republicanism, in fact they have become more popular as they have done so.

I don’t know if there is a straightforward public services advantage to Northern Ireland remaining within the Union anymore. Yes in regard to the health service, but social welfare is far better down here than in the UK, likewise roads I think, what is eduction like in the North?

Like

5. FergusD - June 17, 2011

But maybe the survey is accurate and Garibaldy’s suggestion is right? A vote for SF in NI may, in many cases, be a vote for a strong “catholic” (for want of a better word) party that will fight that corner in NI gorvernment with perhaps no serious long term desire (at this point) of such voters for a UI. SF being seen as much better at that (fighting their corner)than the SDLP. And much, much better than the NAtionalist Party that was?

If this is true isn’t it the opposite of what the DUP have said? Because if true, given SFs solid (and growing?) support in the NI, it would be an indication of entrenched communitarian politics rather than a commitment to a political aim/ideology – a United Ireland.

If the survey is accurate what would it say, if anything, about SFs “left” politics? Would it suggest that their support amongst those NOT committed to a UI is because of their “socialism”, or sadly, more likely I think, based on their militant communitarianism (is that a word?).

Like

6. Paddy M - June 17, 2011

From elsewhere in the same survey:

Political Party support
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 18
Sinn Fein 11
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) 16
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 17
Alliance Party 10
Other Party 3
None of these 21
Other answer 2
Don’t know 2

You can draw your own conclusions as to the reliability of any of the other data from that result set.

Like

7. Blissett - June 17, 2011

I think that the survey probably is flawed, but probably does reflect a certain reality that most people are relatively happy with the current arrangement.

With this blogs indulgence, the below are some observations from slugger i though of some value on the same topic

Lionel Hutz ‘And here is the difference. Its the difference between saying what you want to see and what you think is practical. Many Nationalist want a United Ireland but have bought into the notion that we couldnt afford it.

Thats why Sinn Fein and SDLP need to start making a coherent economic argument’

Paddy Reilly ‘The usual rubbish, which is marketing Catholic acceptance of partition for as long as a majority in the six counties want it, as something quite different, actual enthusiasm for it plus an intent to vote for its maintenance.

The difference between the 16% and the 33% makes this obvious.’

Paddy Reilly ‘ Basically if you want to get people’s true opinions you need to ask three parallel questions:

1) As things are at present constituted, what is the best option for NI?
2) In a referendum to end partition, how would you vote?
3) If at some future time there were a clear Nationalist majority in Stormont or the NI Westminster seats or the 3 NI European Parliament seats, and a referendum to end partition were called, how would you vote?

None of these surveys does so. Almost certainly because they do not wish to know.

That Catholics have consented to partition pro tem we already know, because that was the substance of the GFA, for which virtually the whole of the Catholic population and a majority of the Protestant population voted (the Orange lodges dissenting) .That Nationalists would put up with it when Unionism had dwindled to a minority faction is something else entirely.

So the purpose, if not of the survey, then at least of a lot of the people who are quoting it, is to take the answer to question one and pretend it is the answer to question three.

And of course, any survey which has SF on 11% and the SDLP on 17% is unrepresentative of NI.’

Lionel Hutz ‘At was at home there and put the question to my family:

My brother said: “well I suppose it would be safer to keep it to the whole Stormont thing”

I said. “so if there was referendum, you would vote for the Union?”

“Fuck off!” he replied’

I’d also note that the option of irish unity with devolved government wasn’t offered, unless I am much mistaken. I think that could have an impact.
In saying that, I think you would have to accept that republicans are not winning the arguments. Its clear as well that the state of the southern economy is, naturally, haviing an effect on how people consider reunification.

In saying all the above, the party political support in it does undermine its credibility.

Like

8. sonofstan - June 17, 2011

Perhaps one reason why nationalists in NI turn out to be not that nationalist is that ‘nationalists’ in the ‘republic’ are nearly to a (wo)man not at all interested in them. They know when they’re not wanted, and they wouldn’t like to impose.

Like

9. Pope Epopt - June 17, 2011

Doesn’t sound all that statistically credible but…

From personal experience of what were, at least a couple of years ago, upwardly-mobile Catholics in the North, I’d say it’s all about the perception of relative economic strength. Given a couple of years of the Cityboys in power, however, I wonder if these poll figures would be repeated.

But then given two years of continuity-FF and bankers driving European economic policy – who knows how the two regions may compare?

Like

10. roasted snow - June 17, 2011

SF would have argued that a United Ireland was the obvious if not only choice for Catholics during the worst of the troubles because the Orange State was exactly that and not reformable. Would republicans say that NI is an Orange State today and not reformable? I would say that many nationalist voters would probably consider it reformable today.

Like

11. Hugh Green - June 17, 2011

To me personally, the idea of a United Ireland -without specifying the character of the society that such an entity would entail, what sort of social institutions it might have- is just far too nebulous to bother entertaining. I mean, every main political party in the Republic of Ireland says it wants a United Ireland but (with the exception of SF) never bothers to say anything about what sort of society it might be, beyond Mary McAleese-style glittering generalities about building bridges and making friends. As sonofstan points out, none of them could care less about what their neighbours north of the border, regardless of political or religious persuasion, actually get up to.

But against this, my own experience is that northern Catholics know a lot more about, and have a lot more interest in, life in the ‘republic’ (consider the tens of thousands who go south every year to GAA matches) than the ‘republic’s’ residents know about the north. However lots of them (like many unionists, and probably lots of southern ‘nationalists’ too) think that a United Ireland means the ‘republic’s’ borders shifting northwards and eastwards until they reach the sea. And, you know, the ‘republic’ ain’t that pretty, whatever else about the people and life within its borders.

Like

sonofstan - June 17, 2011

I was never a republican in the accepted sense, because I wouldn’t wish this republic on anyone, but I did rather like the idea of a united Ireland as a way of smashing up ‘the south’.

My father, who could be wrong about a lot of things, used to enjoy saying that no one in FF, FG or Labour wanted a united Ireland, because it would mean a million socialist votes. (He didn’t relish that prospect either, incidentally)

Like

LeftAtTheCross - June 17, 2011

Perhaps I misunderstand the nationalist thing absolutely, but I always got the impression that they sort of assumed the million unionists / protestants / “British” (and presumably hence socialist, in the sense of having an expectation of and commitment to the functioning British welfare state of the 80s and before) would, well how shall I put it, “fuck off home to the mainland” in the event that a united Ireland was to come about.

Like

Blissett - June 20, 2011

‘Perhaps I misunderstand the nationalist thing absolutely’

Yeah, pretty much. I’m sure there were some bar stool pups with those sort of chauvanistic ideas, but I dont think any nationalist with brains ever thought any such thing

Like

12. Joe - June 17, 2011

The republic sure ain’t that pretty. You can sing it.

Like

13. Colonel Blmp - June 17, 2011

LeftAtTheCross: Whatever the deficiencies of republican and nationalist thinking, “fuck off home to the mainland” was never a position I heard from any republican or nationalist. I’m sure the odd looper holds such a view but most republicans, rightly or wrongly, see popular unionism as a form of false consciousness. That republicans, even the non-armed variety, have never done much to attract Protestant support is a fair criticism.

Here’s my question: why is the southern left so neo-unionist in outlook? Is it the WP taint (“my enemy’s enemy” attitudes to the Provos)? Is it because it’s easy to support for revolutions in far off lands but not so easy when they look like ugly civil wars closer to home? Or is it something else?

Like

LeftAtTheCross - June 17, 2011

Colonel B, is there not a bit of a contradiction there in terms of seeing poular unionism as a form of false consciousness, and not extrapolating beyond that to also include nationalism as being more of the same?

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

To be honest LATC, while I would agree with your critique of Republicanism as ignoring the wishes and the issue of the 1 million mainly working-class Protestants in NI, to dismiss Republicans as simply hoping for Protestants to fuck off back to the mainland is both unfair and silly. While I believe myself that a United Ireland without the support of the majority of Northern Protestants would see a return to sectarian civil war, debating this point would be a lot easier without using deliberately provocative and simplifying rhetoric like that above.

Like

LeftAtTheCross - June 17, 2011

Budapestkick, I wasn’t criticising republicans, I’m a WP member after all, I was criticising nationalists.

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

Republicanism is by any measure a form of nationalism, esp. in Ireland. The point still stands even if you replace all my references to republicanism with nationalism.

Like

Garibaldy - June 17, 2011

I’m not really sure what measures make Tom Paine a nationalist. I;m not sure what measures made the Republicans in Spain nationalists either. I’m also not sure what measures make Marxists – all of whom are republicans in so far as they want any form of state while the state as an instrument of class oppression continues to exist – nationalists either. I’d feel myself to say that republicanism MUST be a form of nationalism is simplifying.

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

*Irish Republicanism

Like

Garibaldy - June 17, 2011

Ah, well now we are into a different set of questions. To call Tone or Connolly a nationalist seems to me to be a massive injustice to the scope of their politics and their worldview, which were defined by internationalism as well as separatism. There’s a case to be made that the same can be said of many of the leading and/or most ideologically aware republicans of the C19th too, especially the Fenians. Although then in particular we face the question of self-definition as nationalist, but we’d have to look at what ideas were assoicated with nationalism within the contemporary context, especially the idea of struggling nations uniting to battle oppressive empires. Then in the post-1921 era, we have the usual stuff re the Republican Congress, republicans in Spain, as well as the 1960s and what happened after.

Plenty of self-defined republicans were nationalists. Sometimes the majority. But lots were not.

Like

14. Colonel Blimp - June 17, 2011

Maybe, but I’m not a representative of republicanism or nationalism or here to apologise for their many failures.. I’m just saying that’s what they’ve usually argued.

Nevertheless, as a “Nordie”, as so many smug southerns have taken to referring to people from the North, it does strike there is a prevailing attitude of Saorstáttery in the Irish left IMO. Wilful ignorance, one might say.

Well, actually, it’s not only on the left, but the point is I would expect more from the left, not from FG or ex-PD people.

Southern leftie love of the NHS and Northern welfare state etc also strikes me as completely blind to its many deficiencies. The Republic may not be pretty but nor is its ugly sister in the North.

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

I’d largely agree Blimpy though actually the Left in Ireland (left of labour anyway) has traditionally been quite focused on the issue of the north (just look at the Left Archive on this very site). That would include the Workers Party. Whatever way you feel about their positions and politics they did pay quite close attention to the north and still remain active there. Similarly, the SP, SWP, CP etc. are all-Ireland parties that have devoted a lot of attention to the national question and the north in various newspapers, pamphlets etc.

However, I think you’re quite right with regard to the more general trend in the south, especially historians but also politicians, where simply ignoring the issue of the north is now equated with national maturity and progress, rather than a more accurate national amnesia. As Conor McCabe has pointed out before, the narrative of the history of Ireland now seems to be primarily about the rise of the Southern Catholic middle-class. The issue of the north would obviously compromise that cosy little narrative.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

Hmm. Perhaps. I see your point but I remain unconvinced on some details.

I don’t really want to get into a left-sectarian thing here, but the WP was certainly neo-unionist in practice, as was the Socialist Party of Ireland, Democratic Socialist Party and (then, not not) B&ICO. Yes, this is all political necrophilia, but these tendencies certainly achieved, whether they intended to or not, the driving of a wedge in the left. The issue of partition (supporting it) was effectively linked to any kind of progress, a line only later taken up by Establishment liberals.

Today the SP is pretty mushy on the question. I’ve no idea where the SWP is at these days but they’ve been all over the place in the past. Personally I don’t rate Éirígí really but was shocked at how leftie friends dismissed them as “nutters” and “those people” during Forelock Week. All of my southern leftie friends – all of them – demure on the North. Why? They make infuriating weak claims like “I don’t really understand it.” Well, do some bloody reading then! (I do, alas, suspect the real issue is cowardice or even hypocrisy, however.) It’s not just the Establishment who succeeded in making the North alien.

RE Conor McCabe’s point you reference, agreed.

(PS I’ve demoted myself.)

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

I’m not sure I’d agree about your southern leftie friends. I’ve never met them but personally I think i has a lot more to do with the fact that the troubles are over and there is a general feeling in the south that the north is ‘sorted.’ This view is slightly undermined by the fact that sectarianism is still a massive issue, amongst other things. But when there isn’t fighting in the streets or a major paramilitary campaign, southerners do tend to just ignore anything happening north of the border.

Like

15. Colonel Blimp - June 17, 2011

Let me expand on that point about the welfare state in the North: it’s shit. The NHS is an underfunded joke and universal provision has been under attack by the last two governments (yes, including Labour); the dole is an appalling experience etc etc. That it’s better than the southern health service (but not dole) is not saying very much all. Please don’t romanticise it.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

Budapestkick, this thing won’t let me reply to you above. I don’t know why.

All I can tell you is the kind of thing they’ve said and my impression that it runs deep. I’m sure age has something to do with it. The people I speak of are all a few years younger than me and their formative years would certainly be post-conflict.

The project of stripping Northerners of their ‘Irishness’ continues apace. It seems, to me at any rate, that it been so successful that many self-proclaimed radicals are, wittingly or otherwise, on-board.

I realise this is complex and that, to a large degree, it stems from a perfectly legitimate desire to distance themselves from the actions of the IRA, but that seems to me to be a fairly binary way of looking at things. The days of oppression of Northern Catholics are over, no question about that, but that doesn’t mean that the Northern state is actually a positive force any more than saying Sinn Féin was wrong should necessarily lead people to believe that unionists are an oppressed group – a strangely common idea among sections of the left.

Moreover, the characterisation of the million unionists as “predominantly working class” is worth examining. From a purely Marxist POV it’s perfectly true, but it also obscures a lot of things:

First of all, why is the tiny, tiny, tiny left of loyalism viewed with indulgence that would never be afforded the left of republicanism? Secondly, how useful is a straightforward class argument when, despite thirty odd years of attempts to change it, the primary allegiances of the public are not those of class? Finally, in an era when a great many people either don’t view themselves as working class or seek to escape it *and* the industrial working class has been diminished to such a degree as it has, what is the point of people like you or I attempting to make an appeal to people on that basis?

Like

Garibaldy - June 17, 2011

The way to reply to a comment that has no reply button seems to be to move up until you see one, and then use it. Your comment should then appear at the bottom of the one you wish to reply to. So in this case, I think clicking the reply button at the bottom of Budapestkick’s comment ending “…cosy little narrative” would do the trick.

Like

Budapestkick - June 17, 2011

1. I really don’t agree that that is the case. In terms of advancing class politics there has to be a certain engagement with both labour unionism and left-republicanism. I don’t think left-loyalism is viewed with particular indulgence. Perhaps you could be more specific on who you’re referring to here?

2. That’s an important point, but people define themselves by class almost as much as they do by religion or nationality, even if the latter have been in the ascendant for an extremely long time. I think that in the context of the depth of the cuts hitting NI at the moment that class politics could come to the fore in a much bigger way than it has for a long time. I’m not saying that’s guaranteed but it’s certainly possible. In particular a large non-sectarian party of the working-class could do a lot to help this.

3. I have to say I disagree with you strongly on the last point. My own opinion is that limiting the concept of the working-class to industrial manual workers is simply not accurate. Marx famously made no differentiation between a clerk or a machinist and neither should we. The decline of class-conscousness is a much broader issue that goes well beyond NI. We might have to disagree on this but it comes down to whether you think that decline in consciousness is temporary or terminal. I tend towards the former, articularly as most of the young Northern graduates I come across seem to be ending up working in call-centres (21st century sweatshops). In the context of of the cuts and the recession I do think the appeal to class can resonate and cut across sectarianism in a real way, especially given that the NI trade union movement is actually quite strong.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

OK, thanks Garibaldy.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

Listen, I have to go here. Just very quickly:

I wasn’t liming the working class to industrial workers. Quite the opposite. I was saying, in Marxist terms most ppl are working class (ownership of means of production etc). My mention of the industrial working class was specifically in relation to unionisation and political (class) consciousness having always been higher in that sub-group than in most. others.

Like

yourcousin - June 17, 2011

Two things.

First I think that while the “bombing a million prods into a republic” argument is worth having I think that the Provisionals and the orginal IRA before them were far more concerned with bombing themselves out of the empire. If we look at it from that perspective (not saying that’s the right perspective btw) that it adds a little ambiguity to the critiques offered up here ad nauseum.

Second and I know this makes me the asshole, but seeing as how academic threads and threads about IT folks go off the hook here I want to say something to represent the actual blue collar working class (adding full well that it’s just me speaking for myself not my kind as a whole). I don’t care what Marx said. He was an asshole who never worked himself. Talk is cheap. I don’t need a new metaphor for 21 century sweat shops. We’ve still got the originals and I hate to say it having been involved with organizing call centers, but call centers while in full need of economic justice are nothing compared to what took place in the factories and mills back in the day. Just like now an IT worker while fully in need of good pay, benefits and working conditions isn’t in the same league as someone in heavy industry or the trades. No offence, but there are damn few office workers in need of knee replacements, back surgeries, issues surrounding their lungs (asbestoes, silica dust be it drywall finishing, dust, concrete dust etc). Your hearing isn’t going to go listening to a computer boot up while the simple act of firing up a skil saw, rotor hammering, a 90 lbs compressed air jack hammer etc does do quite a bit of damage to our ears (not to mention long term nerve damage, arthritis, and tendinitus). As a union hand I am now expected to work 46 years or so until I can get full benefits. Even if I was able to take advantage the 30 year and out rule I would still be fucked up. Because as it stands now (under thirty but with a decade in the trades) my knees are fucked, I’ve had a pinched nerve in my lower back and when we do demo or alot of drywall finishing my nose bleeds and scabs up inside (not pleasant) not to mention the fact that I have a stuffed nose 365 days a year now due to dust and allergies which I never had before I went to work indoors.

So again I apologize. I’m not trying to start a “I’m more working class than you” thing, but how about we recognize some fundamental differences between the clerk and machinist.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 18, 2011

Yourcousin, funny, I was going to write something similar about call centres etc. I do think it’s important. Calling them sweat shops is a huge exaggeration. They’re crap workplaces (I’ve worked in them, and the NHS which was also crap) but to so overstate the case just means one can be easily dismissed.

Like

16. Garibaldy - June 17, 2011

No-one has been romanticising the NHS, nor saying that it is not struggling with a great deal of underfunding and creeping privatisation. But things like not having to pay to go to the doctor, the level of care afforded to older people in their homes etc do have an importance (even if symbolic) to many people. People acknowledge there are serious problems with the health service, but there doesn’t seem to me to be a general feeling that it’s shit. No-one is saying that people are changing their definition on nationality on that basis. But what there sometimes is a sense that living in the UK has considerable benefits the loss of which would be quite painful, and that it mightn’t be the worst thing in the world if things continue as they are. This is also related to the weight of public sector employment in the northern economy.

I couldn’t be bothered going over the ground that’s gone over here several times before regarding the question of the supposed neo-unionism of an all-island party constitutionally committed to creating an all-island republic, but recognising the fact that change on partition was not going to come from violence but from persuasion is not the same as supporting partition. It’s disingenuous to say so.

I’ve never heard anyone say unionists should fuck off back to the mainland. But only because it’s not the language that people who think that way use. I have heard numerous people say they should fuck off back to Scotland and/or Britain and England. Of course this is not the policy of any party or grouping. But it’s not unheard of among people who are politically active either.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

As I said, I’m not looking to start a ‘your-group-sucks’ thing. If the history of the WP has been done to death on here you’ll have to excuse me for not having read it. I’m not a regular around here. Anyway, I have no idea what the WP proposes these days but my point is about its actions during its hey-day which are well documented.

You don’t need to tell me about the cognitive dissonance I experience when having to present a credit card to see my GP. Believe me, years later and I’m still baffled and irked by it. The unfortunate fact , however, is that the care is better in the south – vastly. Of course, you have to pay for it (directly). Last time I wanted to see a GP in the North I was told I’d have to wait ten days; here I can do it today. Last time I needed clinical outpatient services I was told I’d have to wait three months. I couldn’t wait so I ended up paying anyway – the nice NHS doctor had his own private clinic built onto the grounds of his vast house (a clinic that was parasitical on NHS services – after all, he certainly didn’t have staff or equipment on site). Is any of this fair? No, of course it’s not.

The NHS is appalling. no matter how you look at it. Has been for a very, very long time. If there’s no politically viable middle ground between the crap NHS and entirely privatised medicine, that’s not my (or your) fault.

Like

Garibaldy - June 17, 2011

I think we’ll have to agree to differ on what the actions of the WP during its hey day represent.

I’d obviously agree with what you are saying about private medicine being parasite on public medicine. As for whether care in the south is better or not, I think that’s probably dependent on what your problem is and where you live etc. I do think, however, that there is a sense of crisis about the way people talk about the southern health service that isn’t there in the north. This may or may not be factually based, but it’s a real and, I think, influential thing.

Like

17. sonofstan - June 17, 2011

There’s probably a profitable comparison to be made with Scotland here, with regard to this poll: the SNP now govern alone at Holyrood, but it’s still certain a referendum on independence would be defeated – and the same people who vote SNP in Scottish elections return Labour MPs to Westminster. In other words, same as with the majority of SF voters – people aren’t voting for nationalist parties for a new dispensation outside the current arrangement but for a better deal within.

However, it does raise another interesting question: just suppose the rest of the UK were to break up? or at least more or less Scottish independence, followed by a much looser federation between England and Wales. Firstly, there would be a consequent Little Englander reaction that would want to be rid of the fringe – and from an English POV, there’s none fringier than NI – and secondly, given that the ties between northern unionists and Scotland are thicker than with England……..well, things would change.

Like

Pope Epopt - June 19, 2011

Good point SoS, I also think Scotland will be key, perhaps not in the next couple of years but by the end of the decade. Especially as they have much of the remaining gas and oil, and seem intent on rapidly building their renewable sector.

Interesting NIMBY call by the cityboys in power over the water.

Like

18. Jackson Way - June 17, 2011

I live in Dublin. I’m a socialist and I wish my town was part of the British republic failing that part of the UK – a lot of the time.

Like

Subcomondante Blimp - June 17, 2011

(Drawn back in…)

I suspect you’re severely over-romanticising the place. Either that or playing wind-up games. The failures of the Republic are just… different.

(Really do have to go now)

Like

19. Watch Out! – Dodgy Survey Suggests “Most Northern Ireland Catholics want to remain in UK” « Tomás Ó Flatharta - June 17, 2011

[…] a long thread about all of this over on the Cedar Lounge – Ten out of Ten to this Paddy M comment : https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/are-34-of-people-in-ni-unionist/#comments In the main story Garibaldi asked : is this all nonsense based on a poorly done survey? Our […]

Like

20. Lies, Damned Lies, And… Polls « An Sionnach Fionn - June 18, 2011

[…] Are 3/4 of people in NI Unionist? (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]

Like

21. An Sionnach Fionn - June 18, 2011

The survey grossly underestimates the true percentages, as aptly illustrated by the rather odd results given for party political support.

Accordingly we are told that support for the DUP stands at 18%. Which is somewhat bizarre when one compares this to the 38% the party actually received in the recent northern assembly election. The SDLP garners 17% support in this survey, but it is 14% in the real world. While Sinn Féin is at 11%, when the actual vote they received at the ballot box is almost three times as much at 29% of the electorate.

So, Sinn Féin support in this survey is at 11%. In the real world Sinn Féin support stands at 29%, almost 2.7 times as much.

So let’s take the support for a United Ireland in this survey, which is claimed to be 16%. Multiply that number by 2.7, and you get 43.2%.

Estimated Nationalist population of the North of Ireland as a percentage, c.40%.

This survey, like all surveys, is what you want it to be. The only real test and real result will be at the ballot box.

Like

T - June 18, 2011

Possibly accounted for by the difference between the electorate and the population? (i.e. a lot of people do not vote.)

Like

An Sionnach Fionn - June 18, 2011

True, but that should be accounted for in the methodology of the survey. The inconsistencies between the DUP and SF percentages in this poll and at the ballot box are too great to be explained away as simple statistical anomalies. It seems to me the survey itself is flawed.

Like

Garibaldy - June 18, 2011

Part of the reason I put this up was that this survey consistently throws up a large disparity between the attitudes it reports and the voting patterns of people. I think there are good reasons to argue that there must be flaws in this survey. On the other hand, if it consistently reports something year in, year out, we may have to start wondering at some point whether there is more to it than bad methodology.

Like

Paddy M - June 19, 2011

I’d have said that what the NILT survey measures are the attitudes that people regard as politic to express face-to-face to total strangers with an NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency – equivalent of the CSO in the Republic) identity badge.

The political support question is the one question in the survey where we have a “control” sample of actual electoral performance with which the survey results can be compared. Possible conclusions are:

i) NISRA are really bad at getting an accurate sample,
ii) the NI electorate undergo a massive but strictly temporary personality change when in the polling booth,
iii) SF and the DUP massively rig elections in their favour without anyone noticing, or
iv) people tell interviewers lies and portray their political attitudes as more “moderate” or “non-committal” than they actually are, making the NILT surveys a waste of time.

I know which I think are most likely.

Like

WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2011

Paddy M, that’s an excellent appraisal.

Like

WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2011

Actually, the first straw in the wind I had about this divergence between what people do and what and what they think they should say and how this mightn’t necessarily be a bad thing came about a decade or so ago at a conference where talking to a political scientist from the North he spoke about how there was a huge middle ground that encompassed both UUP and Dup and was shifting towards the latter but that this might be less intractable than the DUP appeared to be and would influence their subsequent approach. I was amazed not least because he saw this [shift to DUP] as a good development and by then the polls hadn’t borne this out. Lo and behold the DUP moves ahead of the UUP and the rest is history. And in truth as a transitional process I can’t see that in the same negative light I would have ten years ago, or five years ago.

Like

22. Mark P - June 18, 2011

Is anyone at all surprised that people vote for communalist parties for reasons other than their declared programme?

SF’s vote is based far more on a perception that they are the strongest advocates for Catholics in a zero sum game than it is on ideological belief in a united Ireland. Similarly, the DUP’s vote is in large part based on a perception that they are the strongest advocates for Protestants.

Like

tomasoflatharta - June 19, 2011

The posters arguing that this poll is flawed have, in my view, proven their case comprehensively.

If the powers-that-be hold a referendum we will know the answer for sure – and we will know if there is a huge gap between people voting SF/SDLP in the ballot box, and rejecting a United Ireland in a constitutional poll.

I doubt if the voting figures would vary much from the support given to the main parties – that is most SDLP and Sinn Féin voters will favour a United Ireland, and the Unionists plus the Alliance Party would choose staying inside the United Kingdom – roughly a 60-40 split.

As the result is a foregone conclusion, a referendum may not be held any time soon – and many who know they will be on the losing side may not bother to vote.

Of course this at the moment is guess work – mine is as good or bad as anyone else’s.

If the NI state organised a credible scientific opinion poll we could debate the issue with a little more certainty.

And here is a key proof to look for – are the voting figures for the political parties credible? In this poll the numbers are nonsense : for example, the DUP is the lead party with 18 per cent, closely followed by the SDLP with 17 – laughable stuff.

I can not comment on other polls asking similar questions, as I have not read them – but if they produce nonsense numbers they are scientifically useless. Just like a stupid Sunday Independent Survey of Dublin West before the recent general election which “predicted” the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins would not be elected. Higgins gave the unfortunate Philip Bouchier-Hayes of RTÉ Radio a memorable tongue-lashing for basing a constituency profile on this sort of slovenly research.

Turning to real numbers, we should pay attention to the result of the recent Scottish parliament Elections – for the first time the Scottish National Party won an overall majority of seats, and is in a position to call referendum on Scottish Independence within the next few years.

This reopens a question – will Scotland remain within the state styling itself the United Kingdom?

The nationalists living in the six counties accepted the Good Friday Agreement, thus agreeing to the principle of Unionist Consent – which is also known accurately as the Unionist Veto.

Perhaps sooner than most expected, they will soon be living in the “United Kingdom” of Wales England and Northern Ireland (WENI) : goodbye Ukania, hello Weeniestan.

I favour the strategic goal of a 32 County Workers’ Republic – a United Ireland – and therefore voted No to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – I would do the same again!

Like

Mark P - June 19, 2011

There’s something slightly bizarre about a line of argument which assumes not only that this poll is flawed but a priori that all of the many polls which have consistently shown significantly lower support for a united Ireland than for nationalist parties must also be flawed. And then goes on to simply ignore the disparity between SNP votes in Scotland and support for Scottish Independence in opinion polls.

Like

WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2011

I think the point though is that this poll seems even more flawed in that the figures for political support are so widely at variance with the recent poll. Of course, you’re correct, there’s no absolute necessity for the global aspects of a political programme to necessarily be followed by those who support more local aspects and no doubt that’s as true in NI as anywhere else. On the other hand if the poll figures here for political parties seems ludicrously low then it seems not unreasonable to suggest that the sympathy for a UI might actually be greater than is reflected here.

Like

Mark P - June 19, 2011

There’s a distinction to be made between questioning this poll and simply assuming without evidence that all of the many polls which show greater support for nationalist parties than for a united Ireland must be wrong because they don’t fit with a nearly religious belief.

Like

WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2011

Yep, as I said, no reason why global policy should be necessarily supported as well as local policy. But that’s true of many many political areas far beyond the issue of an UI. But this poll appears particularly suspect.

Like

tomasoflatharta - June 19, 2011

Hello Mark : you are right there “is something slightly bizarre about a line of argument which assumes not only that this poll is flawed but a priori that all of the many polls which have consistently shown significantly lower support for a united Ireland than for nationalist parties must also be flawed.” and that is not what I said.

Readers of this thread can make up their own mind,

I have read credible opinion poll surveys which indicate “a disparity between SNP votes in Scotland and support for Scottish Independence” so Scotland may well remain within Ukania..

There is no point taking anything for granted.

At this point in time we we can assume there will be a referendum on Scottish Independence within the lifetime of the current SNP government – let’s see how the debate develops over there.

Like

tomasoflatharta - June 21, 2011

Here is a contribution on the Socialist Case for Scottish Independence : http://collectiveresistance.com/2011/05/19/the-socialist-case-for-scottish-independence/

Like

23. IN CALO IL SUPPORTO DEI CATTOLICI ALLA RIUNIFICAZIONE DELL’IRLANDA? | The Five Demands - June 18, 2011

[…] Are 3/4 of people in NI Unionist? (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]

Like

24. CL - June 19, 2011

With the IMF/EU imposing neoliberal economic policy, and subordinating the ‘Republic’ to finance capital, the old notion of self-determination is meaningless. That people in the North are reluctant to join such a failed entity is quite understandable.

Like

25. Jim Monaghan - June 19, 2011

I would add that there is a difference between what people want and what they would settle for. At least in the short term.Republicanism represents one and nationalism the other.
I tend to think that people want to please. Hence marketing surveys are very unreliable.

Like

26. EamonnCork - June 19, 2011

Surely, without going into ideology at all, a poll which shows the SDLP comprehensively beating SF as the choice of the voters is discredited from the get go. Unless Gerry Fitt was right and it’s all personation. That being unlikely this poll, whatever about other polls, seems to have been put together in a slipshod manner but is being treated as though it’s of some significance. It got an approving mention in today’s Sunday Times for example with nary a mention of that odd party preference figure.

Like

27. Captain Rock - June 20, 2011

The poll looks dodgy. But there is a wider issue: privately republicans were told during the Peace Process that demography was leading inevitably to a united Ireland anyway, and that this would happen by 2020. The ‘Tim Pat Coogan’ theory. But the theory is flawed, because the Catholic population (and nationalist vote- see W. Belfast) is stable but not growing, and not all Catholics vote, and not all of them vote for a united Ireland. And it is also a sectarian theory.

Like

tomasoflatharta - June 20, 2011

I agree 100 per cent

Like

Garibaldy - June 20, 2011

I don’t think that idea was that private was it? You can find the argument that demographics were pushing inevitably towards a UI (without the date) and that unionists should negotiate for a deal while they were at their strongest in print and in remarks to the press in the late 90s. Mitchell McLaughlin was particularly keen on this argument. You can find it in his contribution to a book edited by Norman Porter to mark the 200th anniversary of the United Irishmen and what republicanism meant in 1998. There always seemed to me to be an irony in that. The 2001 census put an end to it, and saw a lot of gloating from unionists about that fact.

There were also people in Belfast being told privately that the 1994 ceasefire would lead to a UI within 10 years. Some even believed it.

Like

yourcousin - June 20, 2011

Certainly this idea that demoghrapics were on some sort of inevitable march towards a predetermined political end is flawed but what of the housing situation in North Belfast for example where “Catholic” areas are overflowing, “Prod” areas are becoming underpopulated but because of the volatility involved in a natural growth situation families are denied housing? I know Splintered Sunrise also had some good observations about the sectarian attacks around ’07(?). Where according to his memory growing up the villages in question were not only purely Protestant, but purely Free P. The old ideas about demographics leading to a predetermined political ramification are bunk since both demographics and politics (both in the big “P” and little “p” sense) are dynamic and ever changing. Certainly there is a, for lack of a better word “greening” of NI. Whether this is the acceptance of nationalist populations as equals by unionism or by the ability of the catholic population to assert their politicals rights and beliefs within the system. Certainly that is a sea change from the majority of NI’s history. I don’t think that that will inevitably lead to a UI, but it certainly doesn’t make it less likely in the long term.

Like

28. fergal - June 20, 2011

Another opinion poll soon might tell us how 3/4 of the population north and south are finding austerity unbearable..the green and orange tory versions of it!

Like

29. Joe - June 20, 2011

Certainly 3/4 of the population of NI are not unionists. The census makes it around 58% unionist, 42% nationalist. It’s just that a good number of the nationalists wouldn’t be in favour of a UI. But they’re still nationalists. Simple.

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: