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Wales: the State of the Nation, 2012

01 May 2012

WGC State of the Nation Web = web

Two of Wales’ leading voting analysts have revealed the state of public attitudes to politics in Wales.

Professor Roger Scully and Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre have today presented findings from a major new survey of the Welsh electorate at an event in Cardiff Bay (1 May 2012).

Published two days before the local elections the survey findings look at areas concerning public attitudes to devolution, political parties’ prospects for the forthcoming elections, and where the public stands on the silk commission.

Laurence Janta-Lipinski, Research Manager for Political and Social Research at YouGov linked the findings to parallel studies in England and Scotland to ask how attitudes in Wales to constitutional change compare with those in England and Scotland.

Among the major findings are:

· Labour continue to run well ahead of all the other parties in support for Westminster, for the National Assembly, and for this week’s local elections:

o Voting intentions for a general election place Labour at 50% (up 14% on the May 2010 general election), the Conservatives on 23% (down 3%), Plaid Cymru on 12% (up 1%) and the Liberal Democrats on 7% (down 13%), with other parties collectively on 9%.

o Voting intentions on the constituency ballot for the National Assembly place Labour well in the lead on 48% (6% up on their performance last May), the Conservatives at 19% (down 6% on last year), Plaid Cymru on 18% (down 1%), and the Liberal Democrats on 7% (down 4% on 2011). Voting intentions for the regional list ballot give Labour 33% support (down 4% on May 2011), Plaid Cymru on 22% (up 4%), the Conservatives on 13% (down 10%) and the Liberal Democrats on 9% (up 1%), with a collection of other parties gathering 23% list support between them.

o Voting intentions for the local council elections were reported as being 48% for Labour (21% higher than the vote share won by Labour in the 2008 local government elections in Wales), 17% for the Conservatives (up 1% on 2008), 14% for Plaid Cymru (down 3%), and 7% for the Liberal Democrats (down 6%). Some 15% of respondents indicated that they would vote for independent or other candidates (down 13% on the proportion actually doing so in 2008).

· Carwyn Jones remains much the most popular political leader in Wales. However, Leanne Wood has made a fairly good early impression on the Welsh public, being more popular than all the other Welsh and UK party leaders. David Cameron remains very popular with Conservative voters, but is increasingly disliked by others in Wales. And Andrew RT Davies has yet to make a favourable impression. Not only does he remain anonymous to many voters; those who are aware of him are not very impressed. Indeed, even among Conservative supporters in this survey, more disliked than liked him.

o Carwyn Jones scored an average of 4.7 on a 0-10 popularity scale applied to all the main UK and Welsh party leaders. Leanne Wood averaged 3.9, Ed Miliband 3.8, Kirsty Williams 3.5, David Cameron 3.1, Andrew RT Davies 3.0, and Nick Clegg 2.7.

· There remains strong majority support in Wales for devolution; a clear majority also support the devolution of at least some powers over taxation. However, most voters do not support the idea of holding a referendum on the devolution of limited tax powers.

o On a question giving respondents several options as to how Wales should be governed, only 16% favoured a ‘no devolved government’ option. Some 5% favoured the National Assembly having ‘fewer powers’; 31% thought that ‘we should leave things as they are now’; 30% that the Assembly ‘should have more powers’; and 10% favoured ‘independence’. Another 9% selected the ‘Don’t Know’ option.

o Some 51% of survey respondents believed that the National Assembly should have ‘most influence over how Wales is run’, compared to only 26% believing that most influence should lie with the UK government at Westminster.

o On tax, some 24% of respondents agreed that ‘The Welsh Assembly should have the power to increase or reduce all taxes in Wales’; another 31% believed that ‘The Welsh Assembly should have the power to increase or reduce some, but not all, taxes in Wales, within limits agreed with the UK Government in Westminster’, while 34% agreed that ‘The Welsh Assembly should not have any powers to increase or reduce taxes in Wales’. Another 11% of respondents chose the ‘Don’t Know’ option.

o Some 80% of survey respondents thought that any future decision on Welsh independence should be taken via a referendum, rather than decided by politicians; 70% thought that a referendum would be needed for any decision over the abolition of the Monarchy, and 53% favoured a referendum for the devolution of powers over all taxes. However, only 41% thought that a referendum should be used to decide on whether or not the Assembly might be given limited powers to vary income tax (compared to 44% who thought that such an issue should be decided by politicians).

· There is widespread opposition to Scottish independence across Britain with similar levels of English (46%), Scottish (51%) and Welsh adults (50%) opposed.

· The Welsh (62%) are most in disagreement with the statement "If Scotland becomes an independent country, then so should Wales". In a show of solidarity, the Scots are the only region with more respondents agreeing (29%) than disagreeing (19%).

· Unsurprisingly, the English are most likely to see Scotland as benefitting more from the Union (52%) than England and Wales (9%), with Scots more likely to see England and Wales benefiting more (32%) than Scotland (21%). Sitting on the fence are the Welsh, with a plurality (46%) selecting the pragmatic option of both equally.

· Very few English, Scottish and Welsh adults would be pleased to see Wales gain independence; however, whilst the most selected option in England and Scotland was ambivalence (57% and 45% selected ‘neither pleased nor sorry’ respectively) a majority (57%) of Welsh respondents would indicated that they would feel sorry.

o The English would be just as sorry if either Scotland or Wales gained independence, with 39% on English adults saying they would feel sorry if Scotland left the union and 40% saying the same about Wales

· Few respondents across Britain think it likely that Wales will gain independence in the next 10 years but the story is different for Scotland. More respondents in both England and Scotland (both 47%) think it likely that Scotland will gain independence than think it unlikely (38% and 39% respectively).

· Looking at the issue of economic strength should Scotland and Wales gain independence, the English appear in a particularly bullish mood. Whereas more Scottish and Welsh respondents say all three nation’s economies would be weaker – than those saying stronger – the English take a markedly different view. Whilst the English agree that Scotland and Wales will suffer, more Englishmen and women think that their nation’s economy will be stronger than those believing it will be weaker.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Prof Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the WGC, observed that: "These findings are great news for Welsh Labour and suggest that they are on course to make sweeping gains in this week’s local elections. Whatever their problems elsewhere in Britain, and despite a rocky period in recent years, Wales retains its status as a Labour bastion."

Prof Roger Scully added, "Some of the most interesting findings of this survey concern public attitudes to future referendums on devolution. There is clear majority endorsement of the idea that referendums should be required for major constitutional changes, like abolition of the Monarchy, Welsh independence, or even the devolution of all taxation powers. But most people do not support having referendums for smaller-scale changes, including those that would give the National Assembly limited tax powers. Those insisting that any further steps in devolution would require referendums might want to bear in mind that the public don’t seem to agree with them".

Laurence Janta-Lipinski, of YouGov, also commented that "In many ways, the Welsh provide a balancing voice to the more extreme opinions on devolution aired in both Scotland and England. Support for the union appears strong across Britain however, limiting those in support of independence to a vocal minority".

The Survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,650 English adults, 959 Scottish adults and 1,039 Welsh adults. Fieldwork was undertaken in England between 24th - 25th April, Scotland between 23rd - 25th April and Wales between 12th and 16th April 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all English, Scottish and Welsh adults (aged 18+).

Related links:

Wales Governance Centre