Running this blog in my spare time, sometimes significant events pass by without my being able to comment on them. Apologies. One recent one was a YouGov poll conducted in Wales during late October. This featured some questions commissioned by Cymdeithas yr Iaith (the Welsh Language Society) and YesCymru.
Cymdeithas asked two questions about the Welsh language and education in Wales. The first was:
“In principle, do you think Schools in Wales should or should not aim to teach all pupils to communicate effectively in Welsh as well as English?”
Some 56% of all respondents answered that they should, while 33% said that they should not, with the remaining 11% undecided. Interestingly, not only did a sizeable majority (72%) of Welsh speakers opt for a ‘Should’ answer; so also did a majority (though much narrower, at 52%) of non-speakers of the language.
A second Cymdeithas question asked:
“Generally speaking, would you support or oppose English-language schools teaching some subjects in Welsh?”
Here the balance of opinion was tighter, and negative. Some 42% of all respondents were supportive of this idea, but 48% opposed, with the remaining 10% saying Don’t Know. On this second question there was a similar degree of difference between Welsh-speaking and non-speaking respondents as with the first question: some 60% of Welsh speakers supported the idea (with 33% opposed), while only 39% of non-speakers supported it (with 51% against).
Overall, these findings seem broadly in line with a few others I have seen on the Welsh language in various polls over the years. There is clear majority sympathy for the language, support for the principle that the language should be passed on to all young people in Wales, and most people endorse at least some measures to support it. But that support is neither universal nor unconditional.
The YesCymru question concerned devolution in Wales. However, it used a rather different format from the questions asked in most polls. Instead of asking people to indicate their broad ‘constitutional preference’ from several options, or asking their views about the devolution of specific policy areas, Yes Cymru posed the following question:
‘Q. Which of the following comes closest to your view?’
with the following simple list of answer options being given:
– The powers devolved to Wales should be the same powers as Scotland
– The powers devolved to Wales should not be the same powers as Scotland
– Don’t Know
YouGov found 51% of all respondents choosing the first option, and 30% the second, with the remaining 19% as Don’t Knows. If we leave out the latter group then it is a 63%-37% split.
I think it’s useful that YesCymru asked a rather different type of question to the standard ones. People have occasionally asked my views on the ‘correct’ way to enquire into what people in Wales think about how we should be governed; my usual answer is there isn’t an obviously correct way. We benefit from having the subject approached from a number of angles.
Nonetheless, while the question format differs, the findings from this particular question can, I think, be viewed as broadly in line with those from the BBC-ICM poll conducted straight after the referendum. Several questions in that poll had suggested significant support for further devolution to Wales.
Looking at the detailed breakdowns of the responses to the YesCymru question, we see only quite small differences among Welsh speakers and non-speakers, or between men and women. There are slightly greater differences among age groups, and in the expected direction: older respondents were least likely to support parity for Wales with Scotland, just as they are generally most sceptical about devolution.
Among the parties, Plaid Cymru supporters – quelle surprise – are most strongly in favour of parity for Wales with Scotland. It’s also unsurprising that Conservatives are the least favourable. More notable is that a clear majority of Labour supporters support parity with Scotland; that Liberal Democrats, contrary perhaps to the long tradition of Home Rule Liberalism, tend to oppose the idea; while UKIP supporters, again perhaps surprisingly, lean slightly in favour.
A final point on this poll. Voting intention, for both Westminster and the National Assembly, was asked by YouGov. I assume this was because YouGov’s clients wished to examine the breakdowns for their questions among supporters of the different parties: to see, for instance, what proportion of Labour supporters endorsed ‘English-language schools teaching some subjects in Welsh’. However, the figures published by YouGov from this poll do not include the final, weighted vote intention numbers for each party; nor do they list the level of support for ‘Other’ parties, such as the Greens. Unfortunately, these subtleties seemed to elude at least one blogger, who posted supposed percentage support levels for each party – figures which were almost certainly incorrect.
If you look at the most recent Welsh Political Barometer findings – see the Opinion Polls section of the blog for details – then you will see that the weighted numbers on vote intention in recent YouGov polls in Wales have generally been fairly close to the un-weighted numbers. (This is good – weighting is a ‘second best’ solution for making a sample representative of the population. You’d always rather get a representative sample in the first place than have to resort to heavy weighting of an unrepresentative one). So the un-weighted figures reported from this poll are probably in the correct ‘ballpark’, as our American friends might put it. But without the full, weighted numbers from YouGov being published (which I don’t believe is going to happen), we can’t know this for sure.
For the little that it is worth, the un-weighted numbers reported seem to suggest that Labour support in Wales is continuing to ebb slowly downwards; that Conservative support is holding fairly steady; that the Liberal Democrats are making little or no recovery; that Plaid’s figures may be moving slightly upwards (although much of the fieldwork was conducted during or immediately after the Plaid conference, which may have given them a short-term ‘bounce’); and that UKIP continue to be showing quite strongly in Wales. But I wouldn’t want to put it any more strongly than that.
For the next full Welsh poll with published figures on voting intentions, we will probably have to wait until next month’s Welsh Political Barometer.