On Being a Complete Slacker

Posts on the blog will be sparse for the next couple of weeks, as I am taking some time off to re-charge the psephological batteries. It’s been a busy electoral year, while the next twelve months are unlikely to offer many quiet periods either. So please forgive my slothfulness.

To keep you going while I am away, I thought that at least some of you – and particularly those who are new to the blog – might be interested in my pointing out a few ‘greatest hits’: blog posts over the last year that have occasioned the greatest degree of reader interest. So, in no particular order…

  • A short time before the general election, I published a ‘Personal Plea‘ about how we should treat those who end up on the rough end of the voters’ verdict. I stand by every word: sure, people offering themselves as candidates should know what they are getting themselves into, and very few ask for or expect any sympathy. But I still think we should make every effort to treat them with some kindness and understanding.

 

  • Last summer I published this piece on what I called Plaid Cymru’s Strategic Dilemma. The dilemma being that while Plaid has stated a clear strategic electoral goal – challenging Labour dominance of the National Assembly – the path to them achieving or even advancing towards this goal remains far from clear. Challenging Labour hegemony requires Plaid to challenge Labour’s dominance of the south Wales constituency contests. Yet the most obvious path towards immediate electoral gains in 2016 for Plaid would involve targeting resources at seats elsewhere. So should Plaid go for more immediate and apparently achievable gains? Or should it prioritise its long-term objective – with the risk of making no ground at all in 2016?

 

  • More recently, I published a short piece presenting some sadly-neglected data from our 2011 Welsh Election Study. This considered the question ‘How Prejudiced is Wales?’, by looking at attitudes towards various minority groups. Overall, the data showed at least some hostility to many groups – although it also showed many people with positive attitudes to groups that have often been the target of antagonism. I also examined attitudes among supporters of the different parties, and concluded that “all the parties have a significant number of supporters who have some views that the party leaderships would probably be rather uncomfortable with”.

 

  • There was a – to me at least – surprising degree of interest in a post I did on the White Paper on Reforming Local Government. I focussed on the potential electoral implications of reducing the number of councils – and, presumably, councillors, in Wales. In particular, I suggested that the stated ambition of the Minister, Leighton Andrews, for “local Councils [that] are wholly representative of local communities” would be difficult to achieve as long as we continue to use a highly un-representative electoral system for local elections in Wales. I believe the Single Transferable Vote system, now used in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, is far superior to the system used now in Wales – one that, elsewhere, I once suggested is possibly the the Worst Electoral System in the World.

 

  • Support for Welsh Independence Doubles’ was my deliberately misleading title for a post discussing the findings of a BBC/ICM poll in early March. As I discussed in the body of the post, there can be a tendency to over-react to poll findings – as there was to a poll last September which produced an unusually low level of support, on one particular question form, for Welsh independence. A follow-up poll six months later showed support for independence at twice the level previously found. But this was, most likely, simply a reversion to the mean long-term level after an unusually low reading the previous time. Sometimes – quite a lot of the time, actually – the findings of survey research are a little less interesting than they might appear at first glance.

 

I hope that’s enough to keep you going for the next couple of weeks. I’ll be back in early September, when I’ll begin the new political term by running my annual series of pieces evaluating the Electoral State of the Parties in Wales.

The Public Legitimacy of the National Assembly

Although one or two people seem to find it hard to believe, running this blog is essentially a spare-time activity for me. My day-job at Cardiff University involves me teaching and trying to produce academic research that will be published in professional journals, books etc. Much of that research, of course, informs the material that I produce for this blog.

Recently I had an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Legislative Studies, the leading academic journal in the field of…well, what do you think a journal with that title would be about? It’s about parliaments, law-making, and all that sort of thing. The journal’s editor, Prof Philip Norton (also known as Lord Lorton of Louth – he sits in the Lords as a Conservative peer) has always taken a very positive approach to the study of the devolved chambers in the UK, and I was delighted that he accepted an article that I co-authored (with my good friend Prof Richard Wyn Jones) entitled The Public Legitimacy of the National Assembly for Wales.

I previously published on the blog a post about one element of the article’s findings. This concerned the extent of ‘diffuse support’ enjoyed by the National Assembly. Just to remind you, I concluded from this that:

These results suggest that public support for the NAW is still rather conditional in nature. While lots of other evidence has shown that there is substantial support for the Assembly to exist, and to exercise a significant role in the government of Wales, in the event of the Assembly becoming associated with unpopular actions many Welsh people seem to find it quite possible to imagine life without it….For a significant proportion of the Welsh people, it seems, the NAW is an optional feature of how they are governed, rather than a fundamental, non-negotiable one.

 

The full article covers a rather broader range of matters related to public attitudes to the Assembly as an institution; however, I should warn you that there are at least some elements of ‘academese’ in it! I try to make posts to the blog reasonably brief and to write them in an accessible style; some of you who enjoy those might find this article a bit more of a slog.

However, for those of you I have not already put off entirely, the article is now available online. For those of you who have access via an institutional or individual subscription to the journal, the published version is available here. If you don’t have such access, a PDF version of the final manuscript submitted to the journal is available here.

Perfformio yn y ‘Steddfod

Fel y soniais yn fyr yn fy mhost diwethaf, yr wyf yn treulio llawer dydd Mercher yr wythnos ddiwethaf yn yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol ym Meifod. (Wel, dweud y gwir, treuliais tua phedair awr yno, a chwe awr yn gyrru o Gaerdydd i Meifod ac yn ôl!).

Fy mhrif bwrpas ar gyfer mynychu oedd i wneud cyflwyniad mewn sesiwn a drefnwyd gan y Ganolfan Llywodraethiant Cymru, ar yr Etholiad Cyffredinol 2015. Roedd y cyflwyniad oedd braidd yn debyg i’r un a wnes yn Saesneg yn Adeilad y Pierhead ym Mae Caerdydd, a gallwch wylio fe yma os dych chi’n moyn. Oedd y sesiwn wythnos diwethaf yn Gymraeg, wrth gwrs.

Nid oedd y sesiwn yn yr Eisteddfod ffilmiwyd - sydd efallai ffodus ar gyfer y harddwch yr iaith GymraegFodd bynnag, i’r rhai nad oedd yno ac a hoffai i ymgynghori â’r sleidiau wyf yn ei ddefnyddio, gallwch ddod o hyd nhw i gyd yma. Mwynhewch!

We Are a Toddler

It occurred to me yesterday – somewhere during my six hours of driving to and from the National Eisteddfod – that Elections in Wales passed its second birthday sometime last month. Penblywdd hapus i ni / Happy Birthday to us.

I hope that you have found something of what we have published over the last two years to be of interest or use. The numbers of people viewing the site, which have continued to increase, to an extent that is well beyond anything I could have imagined when I launched the blog, suggests that we’re getting something right, whatever exactly that is.

As party and electoral politics resolutely refuse to become boring, I expect there to be plenty to discuss and analyse over the next couple of years. So I hope you can stick around.

Local Campaigning at the 2011 National Assembly Election

As next year’s Assembly election looms ever larger, one of the things that the parties will be – or, at least, certainly should be – focussing on is their local campaigning effort. It’s fair to say that local campaigning used to be seen by most political scientists as pretty unimportant within elections – a quaint but essentially meaningless ritual to keep the party workers occupied. A substantial body of research has now shown pretty conclusively that local campaigning can and often does make a substantial electoral difference.

The bulk of this research, however, and particularly in the UK has concentrated on state-wide elections to the ‘national’ legislature. Very little work has looked at campaigning in the context of sub-state level elections, such as those to the National Assembly for Wales. This is a pity – not least because the two-ballot, semi-proportional system we use for National Assembly elections makes the calculations around local campaigning rather interesting. To what extent should, and do, parties focus on key marginal constituencies when there are also regional list seats to be won?

One small step towards developing a much more complete knowledge about local campaigning in devolved elections has now been made, with an article published in the UK Political Studies Association’s journal Politics. I was one of the co-authors, alongside my friends Prof Ron Johnston of the University of Bristol, Prof Charles Pattie of the University of Sheffield, and Dr David Cutts of the University of Bath.

I’m not going to try and summarise an entire article in one blog post. However, among our key empirical findings were:

  • Parties focused their campaigning on targeted constituencies: those where they were trying to defend, or those where they had a good chance of removing the incumbent party
  • Within targeted constituencies, they focused their efforts on those likely to vote for them (because either their databases from past elections or/and their more recent canvassing returns identified such individuals, or/and their experience of where their supporters are concentrated suggested which areas should be the focus of their attention)
  • Those who supported a party in the constituency contests and were contacted by it were also more likely to support it at the regional contests too.

 

We also think our findings reinforce the importance of local efforts to ‘get-out-the-vote’, something which has been a major finding in research in the USA. Voters generally appreciate not being taken for granted, and respond positively to being informed personally about the election and having their support solicited. Those contacted responded by voting for the party that got in touch with them in much greater numbers than those not contacted. The more effort it expended in getting-out-the-vote, the better each party’s performance.

The article is available online, to those of you who have access via an institutional or individual subscription to the journal, here. To those without such access, a near-final version of the paper, in PDF format, is available here. Happy reading.

First Evidence on the 2015 Ground Campaigns in Wales

As I mentioned on the blog last week, I’m going to be having all sorts of fun over the coming weeks and months with the British Election Study (BES) data. One of the first things that I have used it for is to begin looking for systematic evidence on the parties’ ground campaigns in Wales. I’ll present a few bits of that evidence here.

First of all, how successful were each of the parties at contacting voters? The table below displays the proportion of the nearly 1600 respondents to the BES post-election online survey in Wales who reported having been contacted by each of the main parties during the final four weeks of the campaign. The majority of respondents claimed to have been contacted by at least one party. (This overall percentage of respondents reporting contact is likely to be slightly over-stated, due to the now well-attested tendency of on-line surveys to be somewhat biased towards more politically interested and engaged citizens. More important than the absolute figures reported in this table, and those further below, are probably the differences between the parties.)

Voter Contact Rates During the Campaign

Contacted by…%
Labour44%
Conservatives34%
Plaid Cymru28%
Lib-Dems24%
UKIP21%
Greens10%
Other party2%
Not contacted by any party42%

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); number of respondents = 1556. Percentages sum to well over 100 because many respondents reported contact by more than one party during the campaign.

 

The main message from this table is that Labour appear to have been some way ahead of their rivals on voter contacts in Wales. The Conservatives were the second most active party, followed respectively by Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, with the Greens some distance behind all the other parties. (I should perhaps add that the previous wave of the survey, conducted during the campaign period itself, produced very similar results. So that boosts our confidence in the robustness of the data here).

The parties did not, however, all campaign in quite the same ways. The next table displays details on the types of contact made by each of the parties. The data show some significant commonalities between the parties – in particular that contact through direct mail or leaflets was by far the most common method for all of them. Indeed, very similar proportions of respondents reported contact by this method from all of the parties. Labour, though, stand out in terms of the much greater volume of in-person contacts made with people at their homes: #LabourDoorstep was clearly much more than just an internet meme. At the other end of the spectrum, UKIP and the Greens appear to have done far less doorstep canvassing – perhaps because they lacked the organisation and human resources for such an effort. It is also notable that the three traditional UK parties made much the most use of email to contact voters, with the Conservatives putting particular efforts into this method. The Liberal Democrats appear to have placed a greater emphasis than other parties on telephone canvassing – perhaps reflecting not only a paucity of grassroots campaigners in much of Wales but also that three of their four target seats were large, rural constituencies with dispersed populations.

 

Types of Voter Contact during the Campaign by Party (%)

Labour Cons.Lib-DemsPlaidUKIPGreens
Phone669420
Letter/Leaflet868790939494
At home3015131662
In street968664
Email182215899
Other435533

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); percentages in table are of those respondents who reported being contacted during the campaign by a party (as per the previous table).

 

All very interesting so far. But I was also interested to see how much of this activity was actually going on in the places where the parties needed it to occur? To assess this, I divide the forty Welsh constituencies, for each of the four established main parties in Wales, into three categories: Safe, Competitive, and Hopeless. (How the seats were categorised for each party is detailed here). What proportion of BES respondents living in each category of seat were contacted by each party? The data, presented in the next table, tell a fascinating story. Labour did contact far more Welsh voters than any other party – but many of them, it appears, were in the wrong places. A substantial proportion of the voter contacts it made were in seats it was never going to win, while many others were in seats it was not at all likely to lose.

 

Contact Rate for Main Parties in Types of Seat

HopelessSafeCompetitive
Labour44%40%53%
Conservative27%43%56%
Lib-Dems19%n/a64%
Plaid Cymru25%44%50%

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave).

 

All the other three parties, but particularly the Conservatives and to an even greater extent the Liberal Democrats, were more effective at targeting their voter contact efforts in the marginal constituencies – those where they either faced a tough defence or had realistic hopes of capturing a seat. Astonishingly, the BES data suggests that though it had a much higher overall rate of voter contact than the other parties, Labour actually contacted fewer voters in their key seats than either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats did in theirs, and barely more than Plaid Cymru.

Some words of caution would be wise in interpreting this final table. Respondents were only asked about contacts from the parties in the final four weeks of the campaign, while campaigning in some of the key marginal seats had been going on for months, if not years. It’s also true to say that the data here only reflects a simple binary: where you contacted, or not, by a party? It provides us with no information about the number of contacts that some key voters in key seats might have received. Third, Labour had vigorous young candidates in some seats – such as Brecon & Radnor, and Ceredigion – who seem to have fough energetic local campaigns in seats that would surely not have been Labour targets. This might skew Labour’s figures in the above table somewhat.

Nonetheless, the evidence here does suggest the possibility of some significant flaws, if not in the planning then at least in the execution, of Labour’s ground campaign in Wales. It will be interesting to explore this further.

Some New Evidence on Attitudes to the EU

In a recent blog post I discussed the evidence from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll on how people thought they would vote in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; I also showed how the findings from that poll compared with previous ones. The Barometer polls have been asking a consistently-worded question on EU referendum voting intentions for over 18 months now. They have tended to show support for remaining in the EU ahead of support for leaving the EU, although the gap between the two has usually been fairly small. But a significant number of people typically indicate that they have not yet made up their minds as to how they would vote in such a referendum.

Over the last week a couple of new pieces of relevant evidence on this issue have emerged. The first was a poll conducted by Beaufort Research for the Western Mail. (One question was included in Beaufort’s regular Welsh Omnibus survey. Some 1,018 respondents were sampled, face-to-face, during June. I’m grateful to Martin Shipton for supplying me with the full details of the results). What is particularly interesting about this poll is that not only does it give us evidence from a different pollster, using a different survey method, from the Barometer polls. In addition, a different question format was used. While that makes direct comparisons with the Barometer findings difficult, I think that difficulty is more than compensated for by the interest of the different question format.

Beaufort put the following question to people:

“The UK Government intends to hold a referendum by 2017 on whether the UK should stay in the European Union (EU) or leave. Before the referendum, the Government will seek to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU. Which one of the following options best reflects how you intend to vote in the referendum?”

Respondents were then given several response options from which to select:

  • I will vote for the UK to stay in the European Union regardless of any renegotiation
  • If I am satisfied with the renegotiation, I will vote for the UK to stay in the European Union
  • I will vote for the UK to leave the European Union regardless of any renegotiation
  • If I am not satisfied with the renegotiation, I will vote for the UK to leave the European Union
  • I will not vote
  • Don’t Know

One might criticise the precise wording of these options. In particular, the two ‘renegotiation’ options are not really mutually exclusive; one could well imagine someone simultaneously agreeing with both – “If I’m satisfied I’ll vote to stay in, if not I’ll vote to leave”. Nonetheless I think it’s interesting to explore opinions on the EU referendum in this subtly different way from the binary Yes/No choice of referendum voting options.

These were the answers that people gave:

Stay in regardless of renegotiation26%
Stay in if satisfied with renegotiation20%
Leave regardless of renegotiation13%
Leave if not satisfied with renegotiation11%
Will not vote11%
Don’t Know / Refused18%

 

The evidence from this question is consistent with that from the Barometer polls in suggesting that those campaigning to remain in the EU will, in Wales at least, start the referendum with something of an advantage. Around a quarter of all respondents seem committed to supporting continued UK membership of the EU no matter what, compared to only half that number who are equally committed to supporting a British exit. This hardly suggests that the referendum is in the bag. But it does seem clear which side will have the easier task before it, particularly if Prime Minister Cameron is able to reach some sort of agreement on his renegotiation of the terms of British membership.

Of course it will not only be Wales voting in the EU referendum. I was therefore interested to see the latest data release from the British Election Study (BES) a few days ago: this was the immediately post-election wave of the large, multi-wave online survey that they have been running. (Details on the questionnaire, and the full data-set to download, are all freely available here). There is lots in this BES data-set that I will be having fun with over the next weeks and months. But one question in the post-election survey was about EU referendum voting intentions. The BES used the same question as we do in the Barometer polls: “If there was a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how would you vote?”

There have been, and surely will be in the future, plenty of Britain-wide polls asking about EU referendum voting intentions. However, few surveys carry large enough samples to enable realistic cross-national comparisons. The BES survey did: it had over 1,500 respondents in Wales, more than 2,500 in Scotland, and over 25,000 in England. (The BES does not cover Northern Ireland, which has long had its own, separate election study). What I was particularly interested to see was whether there was any difference in the pattern of voting intentions between respondents in England, Scotland and Wales.

Here was what the BES found:

 

 EnglandScotlandWales
Remain45%58%50%
Leave35%28%33%
Wouldn’t Vote3%2%3%
Don’t Know16%13%16%

 

Differences between the nations are not vast; nonetheless, they do exist. Our confidence that these are not fluke differences resulting from random sampling variation is boosted by the fact that they are consistent with the pattern found by other, separate studies (for example, see http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/2014/04/30/attitudes-to-europe-two-interesting-tables/). On EU referendum voting, and indeed on some measures of attitudes towards the EU, England tends to be the most inclined of the three British nations towards Euro-scepticism. Scotland is the most EU enthusiastic. Wales tends to occupy the middle position, while being a little closer to England. The differences are subtle – we are not talking about a situation where England is rampantly EU-phobic while Scotland is almost unanimous in Euro-enthusiasm. Instead, the picture is one of gradations of difference, but differences nonetheless.

Overall, however, the BES findings are consistent with findings of other studies which have shown the ‘Remain’ camp having the advantage at present across Britain as a whole. The referendum would need to get significantly closer before it became likely that it might produce a result where some nations voted Yes to remaining in the EU while others voted No.

How Prejudiced is Wales?

The other day I was looking back through some old survey data. (Some of us just know how to party, OK?). It was the 2011 Welsh Election Study (WES) that I was looking at, and I was reminded of some questions that we ran in that study. These were a series of questions regarding various groups in society, including some obvious and high-profile minority groups. Some four-and-a-bit years on I can’t recall the exact motivation behind these questions, or who suggested them; but they were presumably an attempt to explore various forms of prejudice within Welsh society.

The question form was as follows:

“Now using a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means feel very unfavourable and 10 means very favourable, how do you feel about…”

with this question then applied to each of the following groups:

- Gay and lesbian people

- Muslim people

- Black people

- Asian people

- White people

- People who speak Welsh

- People from England who come to live in Wales

- People from Eastern Europe who come to live in Wales

 

It is worth mentioning at this stage, I think, that these are questions which work particularly well on an internet survey (as WES was). There is significant evidence, particularly from studies conducted in the United States, that people are more willing to admit to prejudicial or socially undesirable attitudes in the relative anonymity of an internet-based survey than when they are interacting directly with another human being (as happens in telephone or face-to-face surveys).

It may also be worth mentioning that, as far as I am aware, no-one has done anything in terms of publishing or analysis with the results from these questions. The data are all freely available here, so perhaps I can prompt someone into exploring it further?

In the remainder of this post I’ll just give an outline of what we found. First, in the following table, I’ll try to summarise the overall WES findings by giving four statistics for each group for which we asked this question. These four statistics will be:

  • The percentage of WES respondents giving 0 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximum degree of unfavourability to members of that group)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving between 0 and 4 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the unfavourable side of the 0-10 scale)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving 10 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximum degree of favourability to members of that group)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving between 6 and 10 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the favourable side of the 0-10 scale)

 

Group0/100-4/1010/106-10/10
Gay and Lesbian people5.215.021.258.1
Muslim people11.532.512.941.2
Black people2.110.720.861.8
Asian people5.121.515.751.3
White people0.42.233.175.2
People who speak Welsh2.110.725.864.9
People from England in Wales2.610.823.764.0
People from Eastern Europe in Wales8.632.210.740.8

 

So what can we make of this overall patterns of responses? I guess if you are a ‘glass half-full’ person then you would be encouraged to see that there were more people expressing favourable than unfavourable attitudes towards every single group mentioned here. On the other hand, there are significant levels of un-favourability shown here towards a number of different groups in society. More than one in seven respondents had unfavourable attitudes towards gay and lesbian people; and nearly one in three had similarly negative views regarding Muslims and people from Eastern Europe. This evidence does not suggest that Wales is quite as tolerant a place as some of us might sometimes like to think it is.

While I was playing around with this data, I thought it would also be interesting to look at the breakdowns by supporters of the different parties. I was particularly interested in level of hostility towards the different groups among supporters of any of the parties. So below is another table of figures, where I have looked at attitudes amongst those who identify with each of the four main parties (or, rather, what were the four main parties in Wales back in 2011. The past is a foreign country – they did politics differently then).

For each party, in relation to each group, there are two figures. The first number is the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that particular social group at 0 out of 10 on the favourability scale. The second, larger number will be the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that group at somewhere between 0 and 4 out of 10 on the scale.

GroupLabour Cons.LibDemsPlaid
Gay and Lesbian people4.6

13.5

9.0

23.2

2.1

10.5

4.0

13.6

Muslim people11.9

31.2

17.2

46.7

6.3

21.2

6.2

25.8

Black people1.5

9.4

3.4

13.4

1.1

9.0

0.0

9.0

Asian people5.9

22.5

6.3

29.8

2.1

13.1

1.7

17.6

White people0.0

1.7

1.1

1.7

0.5

2.6

0.0

1.1

People who speak Welsh1.0

7.6

4.0

21.4

0.5

4.7

1.1

2.2

People from England in Wales2.4

10.3

2.3

6.1

0.5

6.9

5.6

31.0

People from Eastern Europe in Wales8.4

30.7

12.9

43.0

2.6

22.8

4.5

23.0

 

There are a few oddities in the results, such as the tiny number of Plaid Cymru supporters who are apparently deeply hostile to Welsh speakers. (Or, perhaps more likely, got the scale the wrong way around). Overall, it would appear that Liberal Democrat identifiers are, on average, the most tolerant. (‘Supporters of Liberal Party in Liberalism Sensation’). But I think that the key message from this data should be that all the parties have a significant number of supporters who have some views that the party leaderships would probably be rather uncomfortable with. And much of this data from 2011 perhaps helps us to understand why UKIP’s message on immigration has found a receptive audience in parts of the Welsh electorate in subsequent years.

Welsh Political Barometer details available

The full details of the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll are now online for you to look over – click on the Opinion Polls header near the top of the home page, and scroll down to the bottom. (It’s the June 2015 Barometer poll you’ll be looking for).

One question that was included in the poll, results for which have now been published, was one that ITV-Wales decided to run on attitudes towards Welsh-language education at English-medium schools in Wales. The specific question was:

“Until when, if at all, do you think it should be compulsory for children in English speaking schools in Wales to learn Welsh?”

The results have attracted a bit of media comment today, as the largest single group of people (some 33%) chose the option “It should not be compulsory for children to learn Welsh at all”. But I think the results are perhaps open to a rather more nuanced interpretation than most people will probably give them. Many people react negatively to any suggestion of compulsion in anything, yet a clear majority of Barometer respondents actually favoured Welsh being compulsory at least until the end of Primary School.

Anyway, no doubt lots of people will have views on this, and will find forums in which to express them! I hope you find the details of the poll interesting.

Referendum Voting Intentions in Wales: the latest evidence

Among the other matters covered in the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, we have continued to ask people about voting intentions in two referendums that Wales may well be facing in the next few years: on partial income tax devolution to the National Assembly, and on British membership of the European Union.

In our final pre-election poll, both of these questions had produced unusually large leads (for, respectively, those opposing income tax devolution and those in favour of Britain remaining within the EU). What did our new poll find?

On income tax, we once again asked the question “If there was a referendum tomorrow on giving the National Assembly for Wales powers to raise or to lower the levels of income tax in Wales, how would you vote?”

We found that 34% of Welsh Political Barometer respondents indicated that they would vote in favour of the National Assembly gaining some powers over income tax in Wales, while 42% of the sample indicated that they would vote against. Some 5% suggested that they would not vote, while fully 20% chose the Don’t Know option.

The table below shows the full run of all published polls on an income tax referendum (at least all those with which I am familiar; if you know of any others, please do inform me). As can be seen, the ‘No’ side has led in every poll bar one since February 2014, while the slight decline in the No lead since our last poll is probably just a reversion towards the mean after an unusually large lead last time. An income tax referendum would clearly be a difficult one to win – which may well be one reason why it is unlikely to occur.

 

Poll% Yes% No% DK/ NR% ‘No’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 2013393427-5
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20133538263
Western Mail/Beaufort, December 2013323038-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201431422811
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 20143339286
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20143441257
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 201432422610
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20143839241
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20143738251
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20153739242
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 2015373627-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20153740223
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 201531432612
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June 20153442258

 

Looking in more detail at the party breakdowns of the responses, it is interesting that Conservative supporters are the most hostile to the idea of income tax devolution. This is interesting not least because a number of leading Welsh Tories have expressed support for the idea. Clearly this would be an important factor in any such referendum, if it occurred: could Conservative party leaders in Wales persuade their own voters to back something that they are currently highly cautious about?

What about the European Union? Here we again asked our standard question “If there was a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how would you vote?” Of our sample, some 44% indicated that they would vote for Britain to remain in the EU, while 37% stated that they would vote to leave. Some 3% said that they would not vote and 16% chose the Don’t Know answer.

The table below again shows the complete run of all such referendum questions in Wales of which I am aware. We can see that, as with income tax, there has been a drop in the lead since the last poll. But, once more, this appears to be simply a reversion to the mean after an unusually large lead last time. The typical pattern has been of a small lead for ‘remain’. Though the size of this lead suggests that it is by no means impossible that Wales might vote to leave the EU as and when we actually have the referendum, at present the balance of opinion appears to be somewhat in the other direction.

 

Poll% Remain% Leave% DK/ NV% ‘remain’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 20134235227
Western Mail/Beaufort, June 2013293735-8
WGC/YouGov, July 2013394021-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 2013384022-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201444332311
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20144138223
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 20144136245
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20144337206
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20144239193
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20154436208
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 20154336227
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20154438186
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 201547332114
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 20154437197