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The EU Referendum: Afterthoughts and Consequences?

As part of new Welsh Political Barometer poll, we thought it would be interesting to ask our respondents about their attitudes to the recent EU Referendum.

First of all, we checked with our respondents how they had voted in the referendum. Our weighted sample is not an exact representation of the Welsh public; of those members of our sample who indicated that they had voted in the referendum the balance was 53% – 47% for Leave, which is fractionally more pro-leave than the actual result. But this is still very close to the actual outcome.

We then asked them a follow-up question:

 

“Imagine that there was another referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union tomorrow. How would you vote?”

 

This time we got the following response:

 

Remain: 46%

Leave: 41%

Would Not Vote: 8%

Don’t Know: 5%

 

If we take out the undecideds and those who wouldn’t vote, these results equate to 53% to 47% balance in favour of Remain.

In short, there is not much overall change. But that which has occurred is in the direction of growing support for the idea of the UK remaining in the EU – roughly a six percentage point swing in this direction since the referendum. The key words there, though, are “since the referendum”. Unless those supporting continued EU membership can find some way of over-turning or re-running the vote, their views may now count for very little.

When we look at the details of the results, we find that while nearly all those (fully 97%) of those who indicate that they voted Remain in the referendum still hold to this position, only 86% of those who voted for Leave do so. There appears to be a small cohort of voters who voted to Leave, but who may now be experienced what some in the media have termed ‘Bregret’.

More generally, looking at the details of the results, we see in Wales many of the patterns that were common elsewhere in the UK during the referendum. Support for Remain continues to be strongest among younger voters, among the more affluent, and among supporters of Labour and Plaid Cymru. Support for Leave is stronger amongst older voters, the less affluent, and supporters of the Conservatives and (especially, and unsurprisingly) UKIP.

Among the issues that has been placed onto the political agenda since the referendum, by some people at least, has been Welsh independence. There were, for instance, two public demonstrations in support of this over the weekend. We thought that it might therefore be a good idea to see whether such calls have resonated with the people of Wales.

There are various ways of trying to explore the attitudes of people in Wales towards independence. Independence has sometimes been included in survey questions as one option among several plausible constitutional options. Alternatively, one can ask more of a Yes/No question on independence itself. The latter type of question tends to produce higher levels of support for independence than a question which includes several options.

The question we asked was one last used in a Barometer poll shortly before the 2014 Scottish referendum:

 

“If there was a referendum tomorrow on Wales becoming an independent country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Wales be an independent country?”

 

Yes: 15%

No: 65%

Would Not Vote/Don’t Know: 20%

 

This is a clear majority against Welsh independence. If we take out the undecideds and those who suggest that they wouldn’t vote, the margin is 81% – 19% against independence. This is almost exactly the same as it was when the question was asked in September 2014. In short, there has been no rise at all in support for independence. Even a (narrow) majority of Plaid Cymru supporters are actually opposed to the idea.

However, rather than just leave things there, we decided to run a couple of additional questions. These questions asked our respondents about even more hypothetical situations; that probably means that their results should be interpreted with particular caution, as they required our respondents to make significant leaps of the imagination. But with those qualifiers entered, here is what we found.

First, we asked people “Suppose that Scotland voted to become an independent country and a referendum was then held in Wales about becoming an independent country. If this was the question, how would you vote? Should Wales be an independent country?”

Did this make a great difference? Not very much. Here were the results we obtained:

 

Yes: 19%

No: 61%

Would Not Vote/Don’t Know: 21%

 

If we take out the undecideds and those who suggest that they wouldn’t vote, the margin is now 76% – 24% against independence. This is still a very heavy majority against independence. About the only encouraging thing for supporters of independence here is that the equivalent majority was even higher (at 80% – 20%) in September 2014.

Finally, we asked a question which we haven’t run before, and which followed directly on from the EU Referendum:

 

“And please imagine a scenario where the rest of the UK left the European Union but Wales could remain a member of the European Union if it became an independent country. If a referendum was then held in Wales about becoming an independent country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Wales be an independent country?”

 

The results to this question were:

 

Yes: 28%

No: 53%

Would Not Vote/Don’t Know: 20%

 

So now we things appearing a little more evenly-balanced. But note that opposition to independence for Wales still leads by almost two to one: if we take out non-committed voters, then things balance out at 65% – 35% against independence. This is still a very clear margin, although now we do at least see a majority of Plaid Cymru voters supporting independence in this scenario; we also see a narrow plurality of Labour voters also endorsing independence here.

The overall message appears to be that while Brexit might re-open the discussion on Welsh independence, there is little sign that the Leave vote in the EU referendum has yet inclined growing numbers of people to vote Leave in a referendum on Welsh independence from the UK.

Comments

  • Alice

    I am surprised that Welsh people, especially the Plaid Cymru supporters don’t believe Wales can thrive if it becomes an independent country. I guess being caught as small fish by a big well known ship makes the fish feel safer than swimming freely in the ocean.

    • Keith Folwell

      I read this earlier today seeking more information on the survey methodology, after coming across reports on news sites.

      I returned to check some figures; you previously reported that the survey was conducted among 1,010 Welsh citizens and that it was a “weighted sample” (whatever that is…)

      I note these details seem to have been removed, and wondered why….

      Could I also ask where and when the full results of this survey will be published, including detailed methodology?

      Many thanks

      • Roger Scully

        No, Keith – those details were in the previous post, where I reported the Vote Intention numbers for Westminster and the Assembly.

        A ‘weighted sample’ simply means that YouGov (who produce the data) use a statistical method called weighting to try and achieve the most representative sample possible.

        I have discussed YouGov’s methodology before in various places on the blog. There is LOTS more detail on it at their website.

        Full results are available in the Opinion Polls section of the blog (just scroll down until you see the link for July Welsh Political Barometer poll).

        • Keith Folwell

          Roger, thanks very much. I’m still guessing that by “weighted sample” you mean a random sample which was then reweighted to the proportions voting in the actual referendum on 23 June. But was the sample a simple random sample of Welsh adults or was it stratified in some way? I couldn’t find anything about this survey or the methodology adopted on the YouGov site

          I’m trying to work out the confidence intervals on the percentages reported, and I probably have enough information in “July Welsh Political Barometer Poll”, so thanks again for pointing me to that.

          • Keith Folwell

            Thank you very much again.

            I did eventually find the report on the YouGov website, but only after you had given me the full title so that I knew what to search for. Their report initially looks similar to the one you pointed me to on the cardiff.ac.uk site, and indeed I almost dismissed it as a duplicate – but it does have the addition of an outline of the sampling and grossing methodologies on the final page, which confirms that a stratified random sample was used (later weighted to population estimates).

            For your information (and to keep the interest of others reading this), the question I was asked was “How accurate is a figure of 53% expressing a desire to remain in the EU?”. I was able to determine that the quoted figure would have a 95% confidence interval of a little over +/- 3 percentage points – that is, the lower bound could well be below 50%.*

            Of course, I assume that 53% is a rounded figure. I could get a more accurate calculation of the confidence interval if I knew the numbers rather than the rounded percentages – but for that, I will approach my own contacts at YouGov, and thank you again for the help and insight you have provided.

            ___________________________________________________________
            * Briefly, and for the benefit of other readers, a 95% confidence interval is a measure of the accuracy of a survey result. It suggests that in this case, if you ran the same survey 100 times, you would expect to get an answer of between 49.7% and 56.3% in favour of “Remain” in 95 of those surveys, and an answer outside those limits in the other 5 surveys.

  • Jelke Bethlehem

    To be able to assess these results, you should mention the gross sample size, the net sample size (and thus the response rate).

  • Paul

    Interesting figures, certainly something to keep polling to see how the figures look in months and years to come.

    The issue of course is hypothetical and until a few days ago Welsh independence either in or out of the EU had never been discussed and even now the public are hearing the headline not the detail, so I’m not sure how much credibility can be given to this figures given the public morning that our traditional political classes are giving to the referendum result.

    Personally I remain to be convinced about Welsh independence and also the fact that Wales which has voted out of the UK, would then willingly vote out of the UK only to re-join the EU – I genuinely can’t get my head around that concept! And I say that as someone who voted to remain.

    Nothing of course has either been mentioned about the practicalities of England being out of the EU and out of the freedom of movment area, yet Wales being in them? What are the practicalities of getting a train from Cardiff to Wrexham? Cross Boarder health services, would Wales need to adopt the Euro? The list literally goes on and on.

    I notice Plaid are already spinning on social media that 35% of the Welsh population want an independent Wales within the EU, surly a use of statistics that would make a Lib Dem blush!

    I would like to ask serious question to observers of Welsh politics – what they think a referendum campaign on Welsh independence (either within or outside the EU) would be like? Will it be polite and well mannered, will the public reflect on all the evidence, or will they like in the EU (and AV) referendum be guided by headlines rather than rhetoric?

  • Graham Bouchet

    Thanks v much for the info. We really do need more discussion of Welsh Affairs.

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