The referendum on EU membership will naturally cover the whole of the United Kingdom, but the vast majority of polling covers only Great Britain. This is because Northern Irish politics are so radically different from the rest of the UK. I suppose in some cases one could make a similar case for much more polling in the post-devolution age as Scottish politics diverges more and more from English politics, but we are where we are – the default position is still for polls to cover Great Britain but not Northern Ireland. When we get closer to the referendum I expect we’ll see some start to include Northern Ireland, but for the time being many questions will just be being asked on the back of regular Omnibus surveys covering just Great Britain.

The Belfast Telegraph today have a new poll from Lucidtalk asking specifically about EU voting intention in Northern Ireland. Current Northern Ireland voting intentions are REMAIN 56%, LEAVE 28%. Unionist voters are more than two-to-one against EU membership (REMAIN 21%, LEAVE 54%), Nationalist voters are overwhelmingly pro-EU (REMAIN 91%, LEAVE 8%).

Northern Ireland is only 3% of the UK population so is unlikely to have a decisive effect in the EU referendum unless it’s extremely close – even if Northern Ireland does vote two-to-one in favour of EU membership, that would increase the REMAIN lead in the UK as a whole by about one percentage point. Still, worth remembering when looking at GB polls that the UK position will be ever so marginally more pro-EU once Northern Ireland is included.

100 Responses to “Northern Irish poll on the EU referendum”

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  1. There is also the BBC/RTE poll, by B&A, details of which were broadcast on Wednesday

    All – Remain 55% : Leave 13% : DK 32%
    “Brought up RC” – Remain 61% : Leave 8% : DK 31%
    “Brought up Prot” – Remain 52% : Leave 16% : DK 32%

  2. Interesting that the area of the UK that has the greatest direct experience of the simplification of cross-border relationships brought about by EU membership, is the area most in favour of remaining.

    I suppose if you Iive in Belgium or Spain or Austria or any other contiguous EU member state, you have much more personal experience of the benefits of open borders than most people in the UK.

  3. Somerjohn

    It’s always hard to compare results from different pollsters, but “the area most in favour of remaining” may not be the most accurate way of describing the VI pattern.

    Scully gave the YG “Remain” figures by GB nation as Eng 40% : Wales 42% : Sco 55%,

    and we can now add the NI figures as 56% (LucidTalk) / 55% (B&A).

    It looks like (as in other matters) there is a similarity in attitude between Scotland & NI on the one hand, and E&W on the other.

    The B&A survey was face to face , while Lucid Talk used an “open invitation” approach – with inevitably higher error margins.

  4. Oldnat

    I didn’t mean to impugn the euroenthusiasm of Scots voters.

    As you rightly say, the levels of ‘remain’ support are similar in Scotland and NI. I wonder what is the most important common factor? Strong nationalism (somewhat ironically, given the supranational EU) and a healthy scepticism regarding the merits of Westminster rule, I suppose.

  5. Somerjohn

    I assumed no impugning! :-)

    I’ve been thinking about your “the simplification of cross-border relationships brought about by EU membership” and it probably makes sense in both Scotland & NI.

    In both places, the importance of their larger southern neighbour is recognised (but can simultaneously be of concern). The value of open borders to trade, as well as facilitating common interests, is pretty obvious, as are the interests of large numbers who regularly cross “the border”.

    Clearly a “Union” which guarantees freedom of movement across a border is more likely to be seen as advantageous.

    The constitutional question (which remains a potent force in politics in both Scotland & NI) does tend to focus attention on the relevant border.

    Membership of the EU allows open borders to exist on both islands of Ireland and Great Britain, regardless of the whether there is a closer political union of those on either side of it.

    I suspect that the attention of rather few in England is concentrated on “border issues” outwith the “island mentality”. Indeed, we still see examples of politicians and media in England describing themselves as being an “island nation”.

    If the national psyche is concentrated on the English Channel as being “the border”, then that might well invoke a different way of thinking about borders.

  6. Oldnat

    Yes, that was my thinking. Those of us living in England don’t really experience many of the practical benefits of EU membership, like slipping across they border for cheaper petrol, or of a common currency, and so our attitudes are more dependant upon information from the media.

  7. Anthony

    “I suppose in some cases one could make a similar case for much more polling in the post-devolution age as Scottish politics diverges more and more from English politics, but we are where we are – the default position is still for polls to cover Great Britain but not Northern Ireland.”

    The question is “Why is that the default position”? now that we have entered the age of EVEL.

    It may well be of interest to ask those in Coventry about their views on the proposals of the Government of Guernsey – but it would be somewhat pointless.

    YG don’t ask their panel members in England about Police Scotland, so why do you insist on asking those in Scotland what they think about Police Commissioners?

    Default positions can result from a variety of factors – from pollsters, clients, or both. Amongst these would be laziness, ignorance, incompetence or political bias.

    Of course, those in NI are a small proportion of the UK population – as are those in Wales and Scotland. As the largest nation in the UK, by far, the decisions of those in England will always dominate.

    On UK issues, however, why should the opinions of someone in Belfast be wholly ignored, while those of folk living in Cardiff are sought? Wales has only 4.8% of the UK population, not much larger than the 2.9% in NI.

    There seems little logic in what the pollsters do, so why don’t they poll the UK population appropriately for the issues being examined?

    Laziness, ignorance, incompetence, political bias or something else?


    “Membership of the EU allows open borders to exist on both islands of Ireland and Great Britain, regardless of the whether there is a closer political union of those on either side of it.”

    EU Membership does not allow open borders, SCHENGEN does and neither Ireland nor the UK have signed up to this. The border is open because the UK and Irish Governments have made it so.

    Similarly, scotland and the rest of the UK would need to agree a deal were they to go their separate ways. It would have nothing to do with the EU although scotland might decide – or be forced* – to join schengen, which would be a substantial complication since anyone inside the schengen area wishing to enter england or wales would then be able to take a flight to glasgow and hop on a train.

    *All EU countries not currently in Schengen have been required to commit to joining. Only the UK and Ireland have real opt-outs. Whether an independent Scotland would be able to hold onto this is an open question, (alongside the one about the Euro opt-out).

  9. Oldnat

    I’ve just lost a carefully crafted response because I failed to login before trying to submit it, only to see it disappear when I logged in.

    So here’s a ‘cut to the chase’ synopsis:

    I wonder if the seeming convergence of S & NI attitudes to the EU is the result of declining sectarianism? From different levels of intensity and pervasiveness, but nevertheless so long as catholics and prods are at each other’s throats there is unlikely to be much shared identity.

    From this, and bearing in mind that in fluid and interesting times it can pay to think the unthinkable, I further wonder what might be the consequences if S &NI vote yes to Remain while E&W vote for Brexit?

    It seems inconceivable that a majority in NI would prefer to link up with the republic and stay in the EU. But religious domination of political and national life is fast weakening in the south too. Might the prospect of remaining in the EU within a federal Irish state, with a modern constitution and strong guarantees of religious freedom, non-discrimination etc be sufficiently attractive to sway a sufficient number (actually quite small, given the demographics) of NI protestants towards an Irish solution?

    All this is by way of supporting the call for more NI polling. If seismic shifts are underway, we need to monitor the subterranean rumblings!

    Incidentally, it would be good to have more NI contributors here. I seem to remember there were one or two? It would relieve the somewhat bipolar nature of discussions here…

  10. The overwhelming majority of Nationalists in the North of Ireland are in favour of the UK staying in the EU is because a Brexit would be a disaster for Ireland North and South economically. It would seriously damage connectivity within the island. Its likely for example that in order to travel from Dublin to Donegal, one would require a passport and have to suffer two border crossings. Many people for example live in Donegal and commute accross the border to Derry for work. There is an All Ireland market in electricity for example and it would be a major headache to businesses. Having seperate currencies is a nuisance already but I don’t think Britain’s mind is changing on that issue unfortunately. An exit from the European Union might suit the agenda of a certain strand of extreme unionism but would seriously damage an economy already heavily dependent on subsidisation from Westminster already.

  11. Having both the UK & Ireland in the EU helps stabilise the internal politics of NI. The border barely exists when you are at it – indeed it doesn’t even have the EU signs found at other European borders. For northern nationalists this makes Ireland FEEL less disunited, while still enjoying the benefit of being in the UK. As a result, the other polling done this week by B&A for BBC/RTE suggests there is now little demand for an actual UI on either side of the border. (Link here)
    The most interesting result related to support for a UI in the event that one’s taxes would have to rise to pay for it (11%). For Unionists, there is little reason to rock this boat with a Brexit.

  12. @David Colby – 8.29

    The impact that joining Schengen might have on an independent Scotland is worth a minute or two.

    Whilst the overwhelming majority of journeys firth of Scotland involve travel to England, I am not sure what %age of the Scottish population travels more often to Schengen countries (such as France and Spain) than to England (or Wales or Northern Ireland, of course.)

    Of my immediate neighbours, for example, one couple have never travelled to England in the nine years I have known them, but travel at least twice a year to Spain or Portugal. Another couple travels to Manchester sometimes to get cheaper flights before the English school holidays start, but otherwise hardly ever to England. Another couple, on the other hand, travels regularly to family in Northumberland. As far as I and my wife are concerned, we travel to Italy as often as we travel to England.

    So for many Scots, perhaps even the majority, joining Schengen would save hours of waiting in ridiculous queues. But for those involved in regular travel south – on business, for example – the situation would be very different. ‘The majority’ here needs to be defined clearly: do we mean the majority of people, or the majority of journeys?

  13. Not really a polling question but just curious, presumably on results night of the EU referendum the Beeb will do their typical results show and I was wondering how will the results be presented to us?

    Logically it makes sense to follow an identical format to the Scottish referendum and deliver the results on a local authority basis. If so with the several hundred local authorities across the UK that would be terribly exciting and begs the question as to where the more pro-EU or anti-EU authorities are?

    Unless of course someone high up in the EC is going to ruin all the fun and deliver the results of much larger areas for example the EU parliament constituencies. I can’t be alone in thinking it would be more fun to deliver the results by local authority area.

  14. David Colby and John B

    The question of Schengen will only arise if a vote for Brexit is followed by a vote for Scottish independence.

    Presumably one of the first acts of a post-EU UK government would be to suspend freedom of movement from the EU. If Scotland then votes for independence and remains in the EU (or applies for admission) it would surely be E&W that would erect a hard border, since otherwise there could be no control of immigration via Scotland.

    For the same reason, there would also need to be a hard border between NI and the republic. As I previously mooted, I wonder if this prospect might be enough to tip NI towards remaining in the EU by linking with the republic. In which case, we could have the interesting prospect of Scotland and (united) Ireland in Schengen, with E&W as a rather embattled enclave.

    It all sounds a bit fanciful, but the law of unintended consequences can have strange effects.

  15. Somerjohn

    Commiserations on the lost post.

    Sectarianism has undoubtedly declined, as has its cause – organised religion.

    Immigrants do tend to merge into the host population, and this has happened with the families of both Protestant and Catholic Irish immigrants, as well as those from elsewhere like England, Poland or Pakistan.

    Social attitudes also tend to coalesce beyond national boundaries, and both Lucid Talk and B&A have interesting data on these.

    Sometimes political parties (like SF & DUP) seem well behind the views of their voters on some of these.

    Ireland is rapidly moving towards being a liberal democracy that makes the UK look outdated.

    If we are to “think the unthinkable”, then joining the Republic in some form of confederation might seem a progressive move for many younger folk.

  16. And on the subject of languages, I understand Scotland is copying Brick Lane and putting second languages onto signs. But because they’re putting them where the locals don’t actually speak the second language, some quirks are emerging. See

    Isn’t this the essence of liberal democracy? The freedom to make a complete fool of yourself on public signage? It’s like some of David Beckham’s tattoos in Sanscrit which don’t quite mean what he thought they meant. Would you be allowed to randomly rename places and call them Penis Island in the Irish Republic? I think not!

  17. “ISn’t this the essence of liberal democracy? The freedom to make a complete fool of yourself on public signage?”

    No it isn’t.

  18. I’ve just started reading ‘On Liberty’ by Shami Chakrabarti.

    I think Liberty describe the essence of liberal democracy extremely well.

    No mention of public signage yet….

  19. As a Northern Irishman I support staying in EU but I do think that the only long term solution to the West Lothian question is the disintegration of the U.K. a and formation of a Celtic Confederation. The EU referendum may well expedite this outcome – particularly as the English keep electing Tory governments which are an anathema to the Celts – perhaps the North of England & Cornwall will opt to cede from England too in order to remain in the EU and escape Tory rule.

  20. @catmanjeff

    What not even a footnote about it?

  21. SWEBB
    You seem to be implying that Scotland Wales and NI are all Celtic nations. If this is true, and “…particularly as the English keep electing Tory governments which are an anathema to the Celts..”, how do you explain the Tories getting 11 seats in Wales at the last GE?

    In fact it could be argued that it was the Tory seats in Wales and Scotland that gave them their majority.

  22. SWEBB
    “…perhaps the North of England & Cornwall will opt to cede from England too in order to remain in the EU and escape Tory rule.”

    The Tories actually won quite a few seats in the North of England (e.g. 8 of 16 in Lancashire), and all Cornwall’s seats were won by the Tories, so your thesis is looking a little thin.

  23. Pete B

    “In fact it could be argued that it was the Tory seats in Wales and Scotland that gave them their majority.”

    Well, it could be argued that the non-English Tory MPs are the ones that give the Tories their UK majority, as opposed to any other dozen – but why would anyone do that?

  24. SWEBB


    The Celtic population of the British Isles didn’t disappear when the Romans, Saxons etc, Norse invaded. Those in England are just as much direct descendants of the Celtic population as any other nation in the British Isles.

    The majority of people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and parts of England) don’t currently support the Conservative Party – but that may be much more because they are seen as representing the interests of the affluent SE of England.

    Lots of people outside SE England do support right wing parties [snip]

  25. Candy .

    We’ve had bi lingual road and station signs for 30 years in Scotland .

    The policy was begun and fully funded by the Conservative controlled Scottish Office .


  26. I didn’t post that twice lol

  27. Chasglas

    I think Candy found the Scotsman article while discovering that her original statement was wrong.

    A friend of mine on Bute rather liked the sign. He said it was a testament to his “talent”. :-)

  28. Rivers –

    The legislation setting up the referendum appoints local counting officers (which will be by local authority) and above them regional counting officers. The legal duty to certify the number of votes cast rests with the regional counting officers, but that doesn’t mean in practice local counting officers won’t announce what their local totals are when sending them to their regional counting officer.

    I expect it will be done the same way as the AV referendum & the Scottish referendum, which both had results by local authority announced.

  29. It’s probably worth pointing out that Celts aren’t indigenous to the British Isles either, and invaded and conquered/subsumed the Ancient Britons (not all that long before the Romans arrived).

    The Celts originate from the Alps, as I understand it…

    I agree with Oldnat (for a change) that if there is a split in the British Isles, you can pretty much trace it to distance from London. Cornwall is actually the exception, rather than part of the trend. Despite being pretty poor and dysfunctional, it seems to eschew the Labour party in most elections. I suspect that’s a combination of seeing the Labour party as hostile to fishing/farming, and the fact that rich, old incomers are far more likely to vote than the locals (and than the other kind of incomers – poor, drug-addled ne’er-do-wells from England’s grittier cities).

  30. Neil A

    It’s probably worth pointing out that the “Ancient Britons” weren’t indigenous either. They were Iberians who came up from Spain and Portugal…….

    But then who is indigenous?

  31. UKIP in financial trouble, according to the Mail.

    It could explain some of their by-election bad luck since the election, if true. Losing a quarter of members and being unable to pay staff is really bad.

    It also bodes poorly for Oldham West. If your party can’t organise buses or reimburse train tickets, you run into trouble getting campaigners in place.

  32. Norbold,


  33. Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton seems to be a bit loose-lipped. Even if one agrees with his every word, he should really stay out of politics.

    Maybe its the visit of the Egyptian President, giving him ideas..

  34. Swebb

    Well, your Celtic confederation seems to have taken a bit of a hammering. I think you’ll have to give up on the Welsh and Cornish, but I can see a Scotland/Ireland combo taking off.

    The question is, who in Scotland and Ireland will embrace and promote this concept? Maybe Nicola could take the lead, trying to get closer to the govts of Ireland and NI, establishing areas of common interest and joint action. A bit like the Nordic Council and its Council of Ministers.

  35. @Norbold

    then who is indigenous?

    As far as I know the isles were populated after the last ice age. So, everyone.

    Also projecting ethnicity and especially nationality to the past is highly problematic.

    The Celts, as it is used today (outside of the science of history) is largely an 18th century creation – but it has a real influence, and perhaps even identity.

  36. I was hoping there’d have been some more polling on tax credits following the publicity the issue got due to the Lords vote.

    Some updated polling on Trident renewal wouldn’t go amiss either.

  37. Celtic speakers probably came up from Iberia around 2000 BCE (aka the beaker people). But all this is contested….and there’s really no way of interrogating bones to see what language they spoke. You can only look at their DNA and that’s contested too.

  38. @Laszlo,

    I think its possible to come up with a sensible definition of “indigenous” – something like “The first ethnic group to raise children in that area” or something. Whether there’s any point is another matter. Questions about whether the “Native American” tribes of North America were truly the first humans to live there arouse a great deal of ire.

  39. @John C,

    I don’t think there’s any real reason to think they spoke anything that resembles Celtic languages. Just unknowable really.

    I doubt that the Celts that arrived over 1000 years later considered them to be kinfolk in any way.

  40. Anthony
    Thanks for that, should be an exciting but long night.
    I’m assuming closer to the time the polling people will start doing some analysis as to how certain areas may vote?

    I’m probably jumping the gun but regardless of the eventual result if I had t guess where would be the most pro and anti EU areas on the day I’d have to guess….

    Highest Remain vote=Cambridge
    Highest Leave Vote=Boston

    If I’m right I think I deserve a prize.

  41. @Rivers10,

    You’re probably about right, which put alongside the previous discussion about identities, regions and political preferences says a lot. Any subdivision of the UK would be very likely to have Cambridge and Boston in the same sub-unit.

  42. Neil A
    Not necessarily, British statistical data, EU constituencies, boundary commission etc all put Cambridge in the “Eastern” or East Anglia region. Boston is always located in the East Midlands region.

  43. Neil A

    Be good to see some polling if the UK public agree with the Army involving itself in party politics policy arguments.

    I would guess they would agree at the moment.

    However as you say he should really stay out of politics.

  44. For what it’s worth the earliest know human habitation in the area now known as Great Britain dates back some 800,000 years, though, of course, they weren’t Homo sapiens. At that time, Britain was joined to Europe, so they would not have been asked for their passports and would just have trotted across from the continent. An early Schengen agreement I expect.

  45. I supported Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Generals Lord Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach when they denounced Trident as “irrelevant”, and provided cogent reasoning for not renewing the programme.

    However, I would not have supported their publicly saying so, had they not been retired.

    That General Houghton feels free to make political comments (and it is reasonable to assume that he cleared his remarks with the Defence Secretary first) is bad enough.

    That a senior Labour politician supports him doing so, as part of an internecine party battle, is probably an even worse offence.

    Separation of powers is a good principle – especially when one of the powers manages a highly trained killing operation!

  46. Norbold

    Since the area that is now the North Sea was just a river valley at that time, “from the continent” seems a somewhat inapposite description.

  47. First, that Northern Ireland poll is interesting on a number of levels. First, we get so little polling from there. Second, it suggests that the population are broadly supportive of an open land border, including those not favourable towards a politically united Ireland and in spite of the migrant/refugee situation. Third, that there is a significant disconnect between NI’s elite level politics and public opinion – many DUP politicians are strong Eurosceptics and the party could easily campaign to leave.

    LucidTalk also had a VI poll for the assembly (changes v 2011): DUP 26 (-3), SF 25 (-1), UUP 15 (+2), SDLP 11 (-3), ALL 8 (-), UKIP 2 (+1), GRN 2 (+1), CON 2 (New entry). Not sure what happened to TUV (can’t find tables, quoting figures from @britainelects on Twitter).

  48. The Irish News reports on an internal SDLP document which suggests they will lose 5 seats in the Assembly (from 14 to 9).

  49. Times really do seem to be bad for the SDLP – perhaps they need to think about becoming a cross-community left-wing party rather than a nationalist one if they’re to make progress, though that would be a tough decision to make. Ultimately I think this will have to happen if NI politics is eventually to ‘normalise’, though we may still be a couple of decades away from this being a realistic possibility.

    An interesting sub-plot is if Sinn Fein end up with the most seats. In that case they would be entitled to the office of First Minister – which in terms of powers and responsibilities is little different from that of Deputy First Minister, but symbolically would clearly mean a lot more. NI and Scotland (assuming the SNP win the Holyrood election) would both have FMs who don’t want to be part of the UK.

  50. Jack Sheldon

    I’m assuming that the Lucid Talk “Assembly VI poll” is the latest tranche from their “open invitation” poll [1] that they promised. They were looking for changes in VI since the UUP decided to leave the Executive (a move which Unionists strongly supported).

    While their poll has a much wider moe than standard polling, it is certainly possible that UUP gains from DUP and SF gains from SDLP could result in a change of “largest party”.

    Perhaps the NI Green Party is best placed to become a cross-community left wing alternative (in the longer term) as it has fraternal links with the Greens in the Republic, Scotland, E&W as well as throughout the EU.

    [1] While BritainElects is a useful reporting service, they sometimes misunderstand polling and election matters which aren’t FPTP!

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