Saturday, February 28, 2015

Schools Census 2014/2015

Today's school children are tomorrows voters. The strong correlation between voting trends and religious affiliation advocates the use of current demographic data to determine future voting patterns.
The Schools Census 2014/2015 published by the Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) provides a breakdown of the religion of school children in nursery, primary, post primary and special schools in the North of Ireland.
As the Schools Census is published annually a trend has emerged of an increasing proportion of Catholics and Others (No Religion/Not Recorded) and a year on year reduction in the proportion of Protestants. Page 27 of this years report shows that these trends are continuing. Catholics now make up 51.3% (+0.2%) of pupils. The Protestant percentage has declined to 38.8% (-0.4%) while the Others have increased to 9.9% (+0.2%).

The figures above are similar to figures in table DC2116NI of the 2011 Census in that they are based on the stated 'Religion'. The 2011 Census also produced table DC2117NI which determines the 'Community Background' of the population. Basically a proportion of 'Others' in table DC2116NI have been allocated to the two main blocks to produce table DC2117NI.

This can be replicated in the Schools Census. Primary school children are generally aged between 5 to 11 years and secondary school children are aged between 12 and 18. At the time of the 2011 Census todays 5 to 11 year olds were aged 1 to 7 and todays 12 to 18 year olds were aged 8 to 14.

The allocation of 'Others' in table DC2116NI (Religion) to produce table DC2117NI (Community Background) shows the following allocation for todays school children:
  • School children aged 1-7: 20.3% to Catholic. 20.2% to Protestant.
  • School children aged 8-14: 22.0% to Catholic. 23.8% to Protestant.
Using these figures to reallocate 'Others' in the Schools Census to provide a truer reflection of the community background of students, we find that Catholics make up 53.4%, Protestants 40.9% and Others 5.7%

Leaving aside the 5.7% 'Others' not identified as belonging to either the Catholic or Protestant community backgrounds, the religious split in the schools is 57% Catholic and 43% Protestant.

So in a week where we find that extreme elements of Unionism are so worried about changing demographics that they are using land funds to prevent Catholics from buying homes, we can determine that the trend towards a 60:40 demographic make up of the North's population shows no sign of abating. If the correlation between voting trends and religious affiliation remains strong, inevitably Nationalism's day will come.


  1. It's another crushing data point. What makes it more significant is that not only does it show a degree of acceleration, but it also indicates a difference contributed to only both two year groups in the main: those entwring the system and those leaving it at the older end. Therefore it signifies things are only going to keep changing barring something really dramatic.

  2. As you know, the official NISRA population projections identify a future N population of just over 2million.
    - so going by above, that will make a future " over a million Catholics" ie replacing Paisley's often stated "1 million Protestants" (which appears to be morphing into "800,000 Protestants".

  3. What's interesting about having a block of 1 million is that if one third of them vote it would be enough for a Nationalist First Minister.

  4. What is more interesting is that unionism has been buying land to prop itself up Knut style not just recently but for decades. It is failing to stem the tide. I would forget about using the others as they would include a number of uncle tom taigs

  5. Do you expect % of Catholics to decline in future, in line with mainland UK for example? Personally I do not expect the % of Catholic voters to ever get to 50%.

  6. I don't expect the percentage of Catholics to decline as the cohort of of people having children is majority catholic. Its bound to become stable at some stage though.

    As regards a Nationalist voting majority (over 50%) you are right in that it is some way off. However a Nationalist plurality can be expected at some stage in the 2020s.

  7. @Anonymous March 2, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    Anonymous you say "Personally I do not expect the % of Catholic voters to ever get to 50%". It's a common enough point of view and one perhaps born of experience living in the North. The figures however tell a very different story.

    Using the various statistics available from official sources, at some point in 2016 there will be more Catholics in the North than Protestants.

    That includes newborns who will need 18 years of growing up time to vote. Add 18 to 2016 and the result is 2034 for a Catholic voting majority.

    Enda did a fine post on 2nd June 2013 called Census Comparison which has two graphs which show the religious breakdown in 2001 and 2011.

    Already the religious crossing point has advanced 4 more years. Lets see where we will be in another 19...

  8. It will take less than 18 years for a Catholic majority to become a Catholic electorate majority. That's one side. On the other, 2/3s of deaths each year are likely to be non Catholic.

  9. dazzler,

    You're right it will take a bit less than 18 years.

    Enda's post of 2nd June 2013 that I recommended notes that between 2001 and 2011 the age tipping point moved from people under 24 to people under 36. A change of 12 years instead of the expected 10. The reason being higher Protestant mortality rates.

    If that rate is replicated the Catholic electoral majority will come about in 2030 or 2031.

    That the Catholic electoral majority is coming and in the not too distant future is not really in doubt. What is more interesting is what they will be voting for.

    I often wonder is there being raised a generation of post-nationalist Catholics?

  10. I would guess a Catholic majority in 2017 and a Catholic electoral majority in the mid 2020s.

    The issue is, will the correlation between religion and politics remain strong? Since the turn of the century turnout in Catholic majority constituencies has been in free fall. In recent elections we have seen an increase in turnout in Protestant constituencies.

    Is the rise in the Unionist vote due to the fall out from the removal of the UJ from Belfast City Hall and therefore short term?

    What has brought about Nationalist voter apathy?

  11. I think that one of the factors in nationalist voter apathy is that in most constituencies in elections be it local, Assembly, Westminster or European the results are a foregone conclusion.

    Take the last Euros. The media had a great time discussing Alex Attwood's or another's chances of taking the third seat (note even the media could not be so shameless as to pretend that first and second place were not guaranteed for SF and the DUP). It was a complete non-story, the UUP were always going to keep the seat. The numbers were not there for two nationalist wins in a three seater where about 55+% of the electorate are unionist.

    By Christ you'd not have know that from the papers. Tina McKenzie of NI21 (since resigned for politics (like she was ever in politics to begin with)) was in the Bel Tel every day banging the drum of "new politics". "New politics" being a sort of shorthand for make it up as you go along and have no position on anything or two contradictory positions on everything. Tina pulled in 1.7% of the vote.

    Anna Lo (whom I like) and her weird yellow posters (which I did not like) got a good talking about on The Sunday Politics but alas just 7% of votes.

    We are fed a steady stream of such media electoral nonsense but people are cute. They know the score. Basically all of the time, in every constituency, in every election, the winners are predictable and your vote does not matter. It follows then that a percentage will not bother voting. Why would they?

    Seriously, what was the last electoral shock here? Peter Robinson losing east Belfast to Naomi Long. Why? It certainly wasn't politics or voter apathy that done him in. It was Spotlight (good media for once) highlighting his wife's goings on combined with a first past the post electoral system. 10,000 unionist votes went to third and fourth candidates.

    In the same election, unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor nearly unseated SF's Michelle Gildernew. Because there was something to play for Gildernew's vote went up by 7.5% (though overall turnout was down). I am assured that this was not due to Gildernew's constituency work.

    As a proof of my theory that people vote only when it matters, it will be interesting to observe North Belfast. The only really marginal seat we have.

  12. It seems from looking at the data that a strong majority of people who claim no religion go to 'Protestant' schools. In the census it was the same - the highest numbers of others etc were in areas like North Down and Castlereagh. Obviously the demographics are changing but maybe not to the degree some people think?


    There's a new year of data for you add to your blog if you're interested.