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Devolution: What We Expected

Sorting through some old files the other day, I came across something that struck me as very interesting.

It was a marked-up copy of the 1997 Welsh and Scottish Referendum Study surveys. (Yes, perhaps I should get out more). These two surveys were conducted face-to-face in the immediate aftermath of the September devolution referendums. Conducted by Social and Community Planning Research (the forerunner of the National Centre for Social Research), the surveys contained numerous questions trying to uncover whether or not people had voted in the devolution referendums; if they had participated, which way they had voted; their perceptions of the referendum campaign; their knowledge of the devolution proposals; and the main factors that may have been behind their voting choices. The detailed surveys, and the raw SPSS data from the Welsh study, are available in the Data section of the Blog. They are a veritable gold-mine of information. (NB: Declaration of non-interest: I was not involved at all in the design and conduct of the studies).

What struck me as most interesting of all the information contained in the document I dug out were several banks of questions regarding the consequences that people in Scotland and Wales expected to follow from devolution. Bear in mind that these questions were asked when people knew what results the referendums had produced, but before they had any actual experience of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales.

Rather than comment on the findings at length, the rest of this post will simply reproduce the results from the various sets of questions. Where exactly equivalent questions were asked in the two studies, and because I think the comparisons are interesting, I’ll present the Scottish results alongside the Welsh ones.

I simply ask you to reflect upon the extent to which the various expectations that people had have actually been born out. Doubtless, at least some of you will have some thoughts on the matter…

 

Q. ‘Which of the following comes closest to your view about a [Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly]? A [Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly] would…’

Scotland Wales
Make it more likely that [Scotland/Wales] eventually leave the UK

Make it more likely that [Scotland/Wales] stay in the UK

Or would it make no difference?

Don’t Know

42%

32%

19%

7%

21%

28%

44%

6%

Give [Scotland/Wales] a stronger voice in the UK

Give [Scotland/Wales] a weaker voice in the UK

Or would it make no difference?

Don’t Know

70%

9%

17%

4%

50%

12%

33%

5%

Give [Scotland/Wales] a stronger voice in Europe

Give [Scotland/Wales] a weaker voice in Europe

Or would it make no difference?

Don’t Know

60%

11%

22%

7%

44%

10%

39%

7%

Give the [Scots/Welsh] more pride in their country

Give the [Scots/Welsh] less pride in their country

Or would it make no difference?

Don’t Know

77%

1%

20%

3%

54%

2%

39%

5%

Give ordinary people more say in how [Scotland/Wales] is governed

Less say

Or would it make no difference?

Don’t Know

79%

2%

17%

3%

54%

4%

36%

5%

Increase the standard of living in [Scotland/Wales]

Reduce the standard of living

Or would it make no difference

Don’t Know

50%

14%

26%

11%

29%

12%

51%

8%

Improve the standard of education in [Scotland/Wales]

Reduce the standard of education

Or would it make no difference

Don’t Know

71%

3%

19%

7%

50%

5%

37%

8%

 

Q. ‘Please say how much you agree or disagree with each of these statements. A Welsh Assembly would…’

 

Strongly Agree/Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree/Don’t Know Disagree/Strongly Disagree
Be dominated too much by the Labour party 41% 30% 29%
Simply mean more jobs for politicians 62% 17% 21%
Cost too much to set up and run 57% 20% 23%
Pay too much attention to South Wales 40% 20% 40%
Be dominated too much by Welsh speakers 31% 25% 43%
Q. ‘As a result of the [Parliament/Assembly]…’ Scotland Wales
‘Unemployment will become higher, lower or will it make no difference?’

Lot/Little higher

No difference/Don’t Know

Lot/little lower

18%

38%

44%

13%

61%

26%

‘Will taxes become higher, lower or will it make no difference?’

Lot/Little higher

No difference/Don’t Know

Lot/little lower

76%

21%

4%

41%

56%

2%

‘Will [Scotland’s/Wales’] economy become better, worse, or will it make no difference?’

Lot/Little better

No difference/Don’t Know

Lot/little worse

64%

24%

12%

41%

43%

16%

‘Will the standard of the health service become better, worse, or will it make no difference?’

Lot/Little better

No difference/Don’t Know

Lot/little worse

65%

29%

6%

46%

45%

9%

‘Will the quality of education become better, worse, or will it make no difference?’

Lot/Little better

No difference/Don’t Know

Lot/little worse

70%

26%

4%

49%

43%

8%

 

 

[EDIT, 9.18 am: For some reason the alignment of the tables in this post was incorrect. Two hours of fighting with WordPress has not rectified the problem. So, a PDF of the tables for this post is available here].

 

Comments

  • Darragh McCurragh

    “… raw SPSS data from the Welsh study …” That these data are still there is amazing. Most data eventually get lost when researchers move between institutions, retire, their faculty gets reorganized, their “chair” dissembled etc. etc. Digital data will be in unreadable formats or have become victim to “magnetic dissipation” etc. We will soon face a worse situation with digital data than we ever faced with paper, how ever counter-intuitive this may sound. As for WordPress and tables: there are table plugins in the plugin section of WordPress.org for those who run their own installation. But the “as-is”- WP editor will always prove headstrong and delete certain formatting if you use it without these modifications.

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