Almost two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland believe that Brexit has increased the likelihood of Irish unity, according to a social attitudes survey.

The 2021 results of the NI Life & Times survey, a joint initiative between Queen's University and Ulster University, also showed 48% support for Northern Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom, a decline since 2016.

The survey suggests that unionist and nationalist identities have become stronger, and the proportion of those who are neither unionist nor nationalist has decreased since 2018.

The survey taken from a randomised sample of 1,397 adults in Northern Ireland covered four main themes of the Good Friday Agreement, political identities, constitutional status, and Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol, an was co-authored by Professor Katy Hayward, Dr Milena Komarova and Ben Rosher of Queen's University.

Prof Hayward said: "If the Northern Ireland Assembly election of 5 May was a defining moment, it only compounded the political flux that has troubled Northern Ireland since the Brexit referendum.

"The survey offers a unique insight into how the local population is responding to the realisation that things won't and can't be the same again. The differing expectations and concerns reflected in this data will no doubt prove testing for our democratic institutions as well as for our politicians in the months and years to come," she said.

Key points of the survey:

  • The Good Friday Agreement is seen as the best basis for governing Northern Ireland with only 6% expressing absolute opposition to it.
  • There has been an increase in reporting of nationalist identities (from 19% in 2020 to 26% in 2021).
  • Nearly half of respondents (48%) believe that the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be to remain part of the UK (down from 54% in 2020).
  • One third (34%) state they would vote for a united Ireland tomorrow.
  • 63% of respondents believe that a united Ireland is more likely after Brexit (a rise of five percentage points on 2020).
  • The proportion who think the Northern Ireland Protocol is "on balance a good thing" has more than doubled to 33% (15% in 2020), while 33% think it a "mixed bag" and 21% think it "on balance a bad thing".
  • Only 29% support an ending of Troubles-related investigations and prosecutions.
  • There is majority support for progress in full implementation of the 1998 Agreement with 62% wanting to see a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and 59% wanting to see the re-establishment of the Civic Forum.