Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ireland Poll 

Almost missed this poll over the weekend:
The great majority of Irish people are nationalists to a greater or lesser degree, favouring a united Ireland in either the short or long-term, according to the results of the latest Sunday Business Post/Red C opinion poll.

However, most of these do not believe that achieving a united Ireland is as important as other tasks facing the government.

Almost 80 per cent of Irish people would like to see a united Ireland. Almost a quarter of voters - 22 per cent - believe that ‘‘delivering a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority’’.

More than half of voters, 55 per cent, say they would like to see a united Ireland, but ‘‘other things should have priority’’.

The survey, carried out among more than 1,000 voters between March 20-22 in conjunction with the tracking poll of political support, shows that these proportions are broadly reflected in attitudes among Irish people to the 1916 Rising, the 90th anniversary of which will be commemorated shortly.

Four out of five voters say the Rising was a ‘‘positive event in Irish history’’; 71 per cent believe Ireland ‘‘owes a debt to the leaders of the 1916 Rising’’, although just half of voters believe that the government’s plans for a military parade are appropriate. One fifth of voters say they ‘‘couldn’t care less’’ about the Rising.

Taken together, the figures show a large reservoir of nationalist feeling among the great mass of the Irish people, although it is striking that by far the largest group (55 per cent),while in favour of a united Ireland, believes the government should have other priorities.

However, the group that believes that a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority is also relatively large, at 22 per cent.

Clearly, this encompasses much more than just Sinn Fein supporters, who make up about 10 per cent of the electorate.

Attitudes towards a united Ireland are remarkably consistent across the various age brackets, and show that younger people tend to be at least as ‘green’ as their parents.

For example, 22 per cent of those aged 18-34 believe that delivering a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority - exactly the same proportion as in the general population.

For those aged over 65, the proportion is only slightly higher, at 26 per cent.

Of those in the largest group (55 per cent) who say they would like to see a united Ireland but ‘‘other things should have priority’’, the proportions are again broadly similar across all age groups.

The proportions are also largely consistent across all social groups, with some slight variation among the wealthy ABC1 section of the population and farmers, who are slightly (but only slightly) less ‘green’ than the population at large.

Geographically, attitudes to a united Ireland are also broadly consistent, with one exception.

Fewer people in Dublin believe a united Ireland should be the government’s first priority - 15 per cent against almost a quarter in the rest of the country.

Consequently, more people in Dublin - 61 per cent - do want to see a united Ireland but not as the government’s first priority, as opposed to the rest of the country where the proportions in this bracket are smaller.

Overall, the figures show the enduring strength of the Irish people’s attachment to the ideal of Irish unity - even if most of them are in no hurry to achieve it in practice.

The great mass of people are in the ‘soft green’ middle ground, with those who are either not interested or actively hostile to the idea in almost exactly the same proportion as those who are committed to the idea as the national priority.

The story sort of poo-poos it, but I think 22% saying a united Ireland should be the government's "first priority" is quite high. It also mentions fewer people in Dublin believe a united Ireland should be the government's top priortiy, however, if you look at the 2004 Dublin City Council election, Sinn Fein did quite well. These numbers can be spun either way, but with the parade and hoopla surrounding the 90th anniversery of the Easter Rising coming soon, I wouldn't be surprised if Sinn Fein does even better.


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