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Opinion Panel poll finds majority now view the Protocol as positive for Northern Ireland

A new poll conducted for a research project at Queen’s University Belfast, shows most respondents now view the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland as on balance ‘a good thing’ for Northern Ireland.

NI Edge

In the latest poll, 52 per cent of respondents agreed, compared to 43 percent of respondents in June. 

This is the third poll of its type as part of a three-year (2021-2023) ESRC-funded research project entitled "Governance for 'a place between’: the Multilevel Dynamics of Implementing the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland".

The survey was undertaken at the start of October 2021 using the online LucidTalk Northern Ireland Opinion Panel and the results involve a weighted sample of 2,682 voters across Northern Ireland who take an interest in current affairs and politics, and who are likely to exercise their right to vote. 

It reveals that current opinion on Brexit and the Protocol remains divided and generally consistent with the previous two temperature testing polls conducted in March and June. Concerns persist about the impact of Brexit and the Protocol on Northern Ireland. 

However, there have been some noticeable shifts in opinion, especially regarding how the Protocol is viewed.   

The poll found most participants now ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that the Protocol provides an appropriate means for managing the effects of Brexit for Northern Ireland which has increased to 53 per cent compared to 46 per cent in June. The majority (53 per cent) of respondents also disagree that the UK would be justified now in triggering Article 16. 

This shift in opinion in acceptance of the Protocol is also reflected in responses to the question as to whether the Protocol provides Northern Ireland with a ‘unique set of post-Brexit economic opportunities compared to the rest of the UK which if exploited could benefit Northern Ireland’. In the latest poll, 62 per cent of respondents agreed, an increase on the previous June (57 per cent) and March (50 per cent) polls. The proportion of respondents who disagreed with the proposition fell from around one third in June to around one quarter in October. 

Despite the UK government saying it wants to remove the European Court of Justice from its oversight role as part of the Protocol, the poll also found removing the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice from the Protocol is not a top priority concern for voters in Northern Ireland.   

Principal Investigator of the project, Professor David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Majority opinion in Northern Ireland appears to be becoming more accepting and indeed more supportive of the Protocol, although many voters remain concerned about the impact Brexit and the Protocol are having on Northern Ireland. Immediate priority concerns relate to the future availability of medicines and increased paperwork for and restrictions on bringing goods into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.  

“The UK government sees removal of the Court of Justice from the Protocol as an overriding priority; the evidence from this poll is that this is not a priority concern of voters in Northern Ireland. What matters more are practical issues and addressing the political instability resulting from Brexit and responses to the Protocol.” 

The poll also showed the overall assessment of the economic impact of the Protocol among NI voters has moved from being predominantly negative to being positive, whilst the overall assessment of the political impact of the Protocol among NI voters remains predominantly negative.  

Further findings from the survey include: 

  • The impact of the Protocol for the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland and for customs paperwork are priority concerns for respondents.    

  • There remains high levels of distrust of those involved in managing the Protocol in Northern Ireland; most particularly so for the UK government (87 per cent).   

  • Levels of trust in political parties that form the NI Executive to manage the interests of Northern Ireland with respect to the Protocol varies. Levels of distrust are generally higher than levels of trust.    

  • Three quarters of respondents would like to see officials and experts from Northern Ireland attend relevant meetings of EU committees and agencies dealing with EU law applicable under the Protocol. 

Co-investigator on the project, Professor Katy Hayward, Professor of Political Sociology at Queen’s and Senior Fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe, noted: "Given that the UK and EU are currently in talks to make adjustments to the Protocol, this survey is an important indication of the views and concerns of the people in Northern Ireland. The UK and the EU have a crucial opportunity now to restore trust and confidence across communities in NI, as well as to address the issues that have arisen since the end of the transition period that matter most to people here."

The report on the findings of the poll, including some of the written comments submitted by respondents is available at: 

Featured Expert
Photo: Professor Katy Hayward

Professor Katy Hayward

Professor of Political Sociology and Fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW)
Photo: Professor David Phinnemore

Professor David Phinnemore

Professor of European Politics
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics (HAPP)

Media inquiries to Sian Devlin at Queen's Communications Office on email