Changing Social Attitudes? An Analysis of Ireland, North and South

The last twenty-five years have seen considerable social and political change in Ireland, both North and South. This includes declining religiosity, rising standards of living, though relatively high inequality, the Good Friday agreement and power sharing, the Great Recession, recent referenda on marriage equality and abortion, and increasing ethnic diversity. Against the backdrop of these societal transformations, this project will examine how people’s feelings towards others in society, their societies as a whole, and their futures may have shifted over the last two decades in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will draw on multiple repeated cross-sectional data sources, including the Eurobarometer, European Social Survey, Northern Ireland Life and Times survey, and European Values Study. It will focus on people’s trust in other people and their society’s institutions; their political efficacy, satisfaction with democracy, and optimism for their future; as well as their attitudes towards income inequality and social economic equality. This research, under the Department of Taoiseach Shared Island research programme explores several key questions, including: (1) How do current social attitudes compare, North and South, and how have social attitudes changed in the first two decades of the 21st century? Are the attitudes within jurisdictions converging or diverging, and on which kinds of attitudes? (2) To what extent is attitude-change driven by cohort effects, whereby younger cohorts have more positive or negative attitudes towards society and their future, and do these processes differ in the two jurisdictions? (3) Do attitudes differ between different social groups (e.g., more or less educated); are there lags in changes for particular groups; have any gaps in attitudes/values emerged (or grown larger over time); or have any gaps shrunk (or closed) over time? By analysing the views of both populations, this report will highlight similarities and differences between the two jurisdictions and assist in understanding social dynamics in Ireland, North and South.