Polling on a Bill of Rights

Research project with Dr Anne Smith and Prof Colin Harvey


New public polling commissioned in collaboration by Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and the Human Rights Consortium has found significant cross-community support for the inclusion of a range of rights in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The polling provides evidence that societal factors such as Brexit, conversations concerning the future of Northern Ireland and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have increased support for a Bill of Rights with more than four in five (83%) feeling that following the Covid-19 pandemic, the right to an adequate standard of physical and mental health should be protected in law through a Bill of Rights.

Nearly four in five (78%) believe that it is important that there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that any rights contained in the Bill of Rights should be enforceable by law, and given the wider context and contributing factors of the current political climate, around a third feel that their experiences of Brexit (33%), the Covid-19 pandemic (34%) and conversations concerning a border poll and the future of Northern Ireland (36%) have increased their belief that their rights would be better protected through a specific Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

This research explores public attitudes towards what a Bill of Rights should contain and has found that a significant majority consider it important to include the following:

  • the right to education (88%)
  • the right to an adequate standard of mental and physical health (88%)
  • the right to adequate accommodation (84%)
  • the right to an adequate standard of living (84%)
  • the right to food (86%)
  • the right to work (83%)
  • the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (87%)

This new evidence comes at the conclusion of a project with Dr Anne Smith, Ulster University, and Professor Colin Harvey, Queen’s University Belfast, funded by Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, that has provided a draft model Bill of Rights as well as a range of research outputs.

The universities have collaborated with the Human Rights Consortium to deliver this public opinion polling as the final part of the research project.


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