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Lord Ashcroft’s Poll: Attitudes to Europe

 

I wrote on Monday about the Welsh general election voting intention figures within Lord Ashcroft’s recently published poll. But the poll’s main focus was attitudes in Britain towards the EU. I’ll now highlight a few of these findings, comparing Wales with the rest of Britain.

Among questions asked by the Ashcroft poll were a series of paired statements: here, respondents were asked ‘which of the statements is closest to your view?’, although they were also given a Don’t Know option. The pairs were:

  • The benefits to Britain of being a member of the EU are greater than the costs
  • The costs to Britain of being a member of the EU are greater than the costs

 

  • Britain gets at least as much out of being a member of the EU as other member countries do
  • Other countries seem to get more out of being in the EU than Britain does

 

  • Being part of the EU gives Britain more influence when dealing with other countries like China and the USA
  • Being part of the EU means Britain has less influence when dealing with other countries like China and the USA


  • If Britain were to leave the EU, this would risk damaging trade between Britain and other EU countries
  • If Britain were to leave the EU, we would be able to do just as much trade with other EU countries as we do now

 

  • Being part of the European Union gives Britain more opportunities to trade with countries outside Europe
  • Being part of the European Union restricts Britain’s ability to trade with countries outside Europe

For each pair, therefore, a statement positive about the EU and Britain’s membership is followed by a negative counterpart. In the table below, I list the percentage of positive and negative answers, along with the Don’t Knows, for each pair, with results given for Wales, Scotland and Britain as a whole.

(A technical note on this table and the others below. Not having access to the raw data, I am unable to extract the English respondents and weight them appropriately for an England-wide sample; and before anyone asks, no you can’t do this by just adding up and averaging the results reported for the individual English regions! So the GB figures include Scotland and Wales, but will obviously be dominated by English responses.) 

Survey Item

Wales

Scotland

GB

Costs/Benefits:

Positive

Negative

DK

 

28%

50%

23%

 

37%

42%

22%

 

31%

49%

20%

Get out of EU membership

Positive

Negative

DK

 

21%

62%

17%

 

30%

52%

18%

 

23%

62%

16%

Influence

Positive

Negative

DK

 

37%

33%

30%

 

47%

25%

28%

 

40%

31%

29%

EU Trade

Positive

Negative

DK

 

41%

43%

16%

 

51%

35%

14%

 

43%

42%

15%

Trade outside Europe

Positive

Negative

DK

 

35%

36%

29%

 

43%

31%

27%

 

37%

35%

28%

 The table shows a clear tendency for Scotland to be more positive about the EU than Britain as a whole. But, perhaps surprisingly to some, we see the opposite tendency in Wales. The differences are all slight, but they are all consistently in the same direction, with Welsh respondents displaying greater levels of Euro-scepticism/hostility.

A further Ashcroft question comes close to a referendum-style In/Out one: “All things considered, do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?” The answers here were:

 

Wales

Scotland

GB

Yes

No

DK

38%

44%

18%

51%

31%

18%

41%

41%

18%

We see here the identical pattern to the previous table. Britain as a whole is split evenly on EU membership. In Scotland there is a clear, indeed 20% point, gap in favour of retaining EU membership. (Some Yes campaigners in the current Scottish referendum have raised concerns about any a future UK referendum on EU membership, notably the possibility of clear Scottish vote for continued membership being out-weighed by No votes from elsewhere. These figures suggest that such a concern is far from unreasonable.) But in Wales there is a clear, although narrow, balance in favour of leaving the EU.

Finally, the poll asks respondents for 0-10 ratings about ‘how positive’ they feel about various actors and institutions. (The poll also asks about various countries, but I won’t be discussing those results here). Average ratings out of 10 for the following were:

 

Wales

Scotland

GB

Parliament at Westminster

4.41

4.12

4.61

European Parliament

3.41

3.74

3.50

My local council

4.56

4.73

4.79

The European Union

3.84

4.36

4.00

Once again, we see Welsh respondents being least enthusiastic about Europe, scoring both the European Parliament and the EU as a whole lower than respondents elsewhere. (The Welsh are also the least supportive of their local councils, although that is perhaps unsurprising given recent negative publicity and proposals for radical reform of those councils). Scottish respondents, once again, are the most enthusiastic (or perhaps one should say least unenthusiastic!), actually evincing slightly warmer feelings about the EU than about Westminster.

It is no great surprise that the Welsh appear a little more Euro-sceptic than the Scots. What stands out from these results, however, is that respondents in Wales seem more Euro-sceptic than just about anyone in Britain. This may reflect the particular sample (and its weighting) in Wales: this was a poll which produced the highest-ever UKIP general election voting intention figure, alongside a fairly good one for the Conservatives. The weighted sample may simply be a little top-heavy with Euro-sceptic respondents. But it would be unwise to assume that, and simply dismiss the findings. Even if all sensible caution about this poll is taken on board, it nonetheless suggests that the anti-EU message is currently finding a fair reception across much of Wales.

Comments

  • J Jones

    In the previous ITV/Yougov poll Conservatives voting Tory in the constituencies were most likely to switch to UKIP in the EU elections (18%) second most likely to switch were Plaid voters (17%). It seems to me that Nationalism and isolationist tendencies go together. There was some research done on National Identity and attitudes to immigration; those identifying as “British” were more tolerant of immigration than those identifying as “Welsh” or “English”. Scots however were also tolerant of immigration.

    Similarly when it comes to Modern Foreign Languages, people in Wales were the least likely to have learned a MFL and the lowest levels of MFLs taken at GCSE (apart from the poor valley areas) is in the Nationalist voting areas of Ynys Mon and Gwynedd (12% and 14% in 2013). Estyn, looking at the low take up of MFLs in Welsh Medium schools, cited attitudes towards MFLs amongst adults as a factor.

    Overall Wales is not inclined to be well disposed towards other European countries it seems.

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