The border is no longer an issue for most people in Northern Ireland, including many who vote for nationalist parties, a new poll has found.

According to the Belfast Telegraph's latest poll just 3.8% of people in the Northern Ireland-wide LucidTalk study want to see the border removed now.

The voters' disinterest in change provides a sharp contrast to the main political parties' emphasis on the need for a united Ireland or the defense of the border, regardless of their political views.

The poll also showed that less than a quarter of the population are prepared to vote for Irish unity even as a longer-term aspiration 20 years in the future.

Years of political deadlock and conflict have had a deep effect. The latest research has revealed there is widespread disillusionment with politics generally, especially among the young, women and the middle classes.

Nearly half of voters, 44%, said they wouldn't vote or didn't express a party preference if an Assembly election were held tomorrow, which would give Northern Ireland the lowest turnout in the UK, matching the record low turnout in the 2011 Assembly election which was seen as a wake-up call for the political classes.

Bill White of LucidTalk told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘These figures must be taken with caution because in individual constituencies you are dealing with a twelfth of the total number of respondents so the margin of error rises.’

Voter apathy remains a significant issue, said White. ‘It is noticeable that younger people seem more disengaged from politics than older age groups as 52% of the 18-24 age-groups said they wouldn't vote, compared with 40% of the 45-64 age group, and 38% of the 65 plus age group.’

White’s colleague Gerry Lynch added: ‘These non-voters are much more likely to be women than men. While only 36% of men don't express a party reference, 51% of women – over half – don't vote.’

The proportion of non-voters is also dramatically higher among the young - 51% of under 25s and 46% of 25 - 44s, as opposed to 38% of over 65s.

Lynch said: ‘It is often assumed there is a dramatic difference in turnout between Catholics and Protestants. We find that the margin is now only 3% – 41% of Protestants don't vote, versus 38% of Catholics.

‘The large section of the population which does not willingly identify with either religious tradition is much more likely to give Northern Ireland politics a miss – 47% in this poll,’ Lynch added.