As I discussed recently on the blog, the UK political context has been looking increasingly difficult for the Labour party. This may well pose challenges for Welsh Labour in next May’s devolved elections. In 2011 their highly successful campaign focussed less on the party’s own record in government than it did on defining Labour as the best party to ‘stand up for Wales’ against the Conservative-led coalition in London. A similar political pitch may be rather more difficult to sustain this time around. Welsh Labour may therefore need to depend more on their own record in government than they did in the last National Assembly election.
With such considerations in mind, our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll included three questions about public reactions to the performance of the Welsh Government. We asked respondents to the Barometer poll the following:
“Since the last Assembly election in 2011, do you think the Welsh Government has done a good or bad job with each of the following?”
Respondents were then prompted to respond on each of three different policy areas:
- The NHS in Wales
- Schools in Wales
- The Welsh economy
These questions were all run, in an identical form, in a previous Barometer poll (in February 2014); this allows us to compare any changes in attitudes in Wales over that period. YouGov were also kind enough to run very closely equivalent questions to a sample of respondents in England at the same time as our Barometer poll; this allows us to directly compare perceptions of government performance in Wales with those in England.
(The exact question asked in England was “Over the last five years do you think the Government has done a good or bad job with each of the following?”; this was asked about ‘The NHS’, ‘Schools’ and ‘the economy’).
So what did we find? I’ll lay out the results in two tables. This first one simply summarises the findings of our latest poll from respondents in Wales. (All figures in this and following tables poll are percentages)
|Neither good nor bad||21||28||35|
|NET: Good – Bad||-21||-1||-4|
There is quite a lot of information in that table. But once you absorb it all the results do seem to look rather poor for the Welsh Government. The clear majority of our respondents do not seem to be very impressed by their record in any one of what are probably the three most important areas of their responsibility. Indeed, in all three cases the net balance of opinion is negative. And for the NHS in Wales, opinions appear to be quite strongly negative.
But how positive should we realistically expect public ratings to be? After all, throughout the world people are rarely showering compliments on their governments. So perhaps we should hardly expect the Welsh to do so either.
To try to gain some greater perspective on the results in the above table, below I present a second table of figures. In this latter effort I offer an outline of the above results, but also provide two points of comparison: with opinions in England and with opinions in Wales in our February 2014 survey. Have public evaluations of government performance in Wales improved at all in the last 21 months? And how do they compare with evaluations in England of the performance of the UK Government?
|Wales Dec 2015||England Dec 2015||Wales Feb 2014|
NET: Good – Bad
NET: Good – Bad
NET: Good – Bad
The figures in this second table, I would suggest, place a somewhat more positive light on current ratings of the Welsh Government’s performance. To be sure, public evaluations of the government’s record on the Welsh NHS are not very good, and they even appear to have declined slightly since early last year. But public evaluations are still notably better than those of the UK government’s management of the NHS in England.
On Schools, current evaluations are slightly negative; however they have improved markedly since February last year. And in this area, as with the NHS, public evaluations of government performance appear to be better in Wales than in England.
The area in which the Welsh Government’s record is evaluated the worst relative to that of the UK Government in England is clearly the economy. Here things have changed only marginally for the better since our previous poll asking this question. And evaluations of the Welsh Government lag quite some way behind those in England of the UK Government.
The results from these questions about the policy record of the Welsh Government do not initially appear to be very good. But, overall, I would suggest that they are maybe not quite as bad as they appear. In general, people in Wales do not appear to be wonderfully impressed by the performance of the Welsh Government in some key policy areas. But in at least one major policy area, Education, there has been an apparent improvement of perceptions. And the crucial point is surely that must evaluate the performance of the Welsh Government against some reasonable comparison benchmark. Most people in most democracies (and, as best as we are able to judge, most non-democracies as well) are not wonderfully impressed by the record of their governments. Wales is certainly no different in that respect. But as our findings from England show us, on the NHS and Schools at least, there is plenty of dissatisfaction there as well.