Union Support Drops

The proportion of people who wish for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK has dropped from 72% to 63% since 2010.

The figure is the lowest since devolution in 2007, especially among Catholics.

This was one of the findings of the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT) published today.

The annual survey is conducted by ARK at the University of Ulster and QUB.

Despite the headline finding, the survey also found that the percentage of people who believe a united Ireland is 'very unlikely' has risen to 41%.

The proportion of Catholics expecting Irish unity remains less than among Protestants.

And yet, the number of people describing their national identity as Irish has risen from 26% in 2010 to 32% in 2012.

This has been marked by a fall in the proportion describing themselves as Northern Irish, from an historic high of 29% in 2010 to 22% in 2012

The number of Protestants calling themselves British has risen from 60% to 68%, while the proportion of Catholics calling themselves Northern Irish fell from 26% to 17%.

60% of Protestants described themselves as unionist and 49% of Catholics describe themselves as nationalist.

The proportion describing themselves as neither nationalist nor unionist rose to 47%, reflecting an increase amongst both groups.

The percentage of respondents thinking it either 'very likely' or 'quite likely' that there will be a united Ireland has fallen from 29% in 2003 to 15% in 2012

Dr Duncan Morrow of the University of Ulster said: "These results confirm that that the hybrid nature of Northern Ireland as a shared space sharply and persistently divided over questions of national identity is unchanged.

"However, this does not translate into a similar division over constitutional status, where there is little evidence of any strong desire for Irish unity at present.

"At the same time, there is evidence that events over many years have caused a significant rise in the proportion of people describing themselves as neither nationalist nor unionist among both Catholics and Protestants and a measurable alienation from the United Kingdom among Catholics in 2012."

Professor Rick Wilford of QUB added: "Without further data, it is impossible to definitively diagnose the underlying dynamics.

"However it appears that recent political events in Northern Ireland may have alienated some Catholics from emergent preference for the United Kingdom without yet persuading many that a United Ireland provides a desirable destination."


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