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What Matters To Us

In addition to all our usual questions, our new Welsh Political Barometer poll sought to investigate the issues that most matter to people, and which might be most influential in deciding their votes in this year’s National Assembly for Wales election.

We did so by asking them two questions. The first was as follows:

“Which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing the country at this time? Please tick up to three.”

Respondents were then given a fairly long list to choose from, as well as two further options: ‘None of these’ and ‘Don’t Know’.

We then followed up that question with a slightly different one:

“And which two or three of the following will be the most important issues for you in the upcoming Welsh Assembly election?”

Respondents were again given the chance of choosing up to three issues, and were presented with the same lengthy list of options. The table below summarises the percentages choosing various issues as one of their three selections for both of these two questions:

 

Issue Issues Facing Country Issues in NAW Election
Immigration and Asylum 61 39
Health 47 54
The economy 39 32
Education 12 20
Welfare benefits 19 24
Housing 17 15
Increased powers for Wales 6 14
Europe 23 12
Pensions 9 10
The environment 10 8
Transport 3 7
Tax 7 6
Crime 8 6
Family life and childcare 4 5
None of these 1 1
Don’t Know 3 8

 

These figure show, perhaps most obviously of all, the continued high public salience of concerns around immigration and asylum. Such concerns are almost certainly related to the strong support evident for UKIP in our poll: fully 95% of those indicating that they intended to vote UKIP, both for Westminster and on the constituency vote in the National Assembly, nominated this category as one of their three issues ‘facing the country’. But such concerns are spread more widely: this was the leading such issue for Conservative voters as well, and second highest rated among Labour supporters.

Another interesting feature of the results concerns the issues that are rated most important for the Assembly election. They clearly do not only relate to matters that are actually devolved. Immigration and Asylum against scores quite highly here, while other non-devolved matters like Welfare benefits, Pensions and Crime are also mentioned by a significant number of respondents. This suggests something of a dilemma for the political parties: do they stick only to talking about subjects that the Assembly election can actually have some direct influence over, and in doing so run the risk of seeming to avoid matters that are actually of great concern to many people? Or do they talk about such issues – but then run the risk of failing to deliver after the election, given that they will not have any control over them?

Among the other issues highlighted for the Assembly election, health, the economy and education are the three most highly-rated in importance. These issues are likely to be much of the policy battleground of the Assembly election campaign: with Labour defending its record in each of these areas and their opponents charging Labour with under-delivering. One thing that is notable about the details of our poll’s results is that these are issues that are regarded as high priorities by large numbers of supporters of all of the parties – with the interesting exception of education for UKIP supporters (only 8% of their supporters for either Westminster or the National Assembly nominated education as one of the three most important issues in the Assembly election). All the parties will need to have convincing things to say about these issues in the run up to May 5th.

In some respects, though, the supporters of the different parties differ. ‘Increased powers for Wales’ is a major priority for Plaid Cymru supporters, and particularly that ‘hard core’ support that sticks with them for Westminster as well as the devolved election. But this issue is not a main priority to those likely to vote for other parties in May. Similarly, ‘Europe’ is mentioned as a major issue in the Assembly by fully 39% of UKIP supporters, but by much lower numbers of supporters of all other parties. These examples illustrate a general dilemma for the parties: how much do they talk about the issues that help to mobilise their ‘core vote’, and how much should they try to focus of matters of more general interest? In a low turnout election, as the National Assembly context is likely to be, there is always a strong argument for making sure you get your existing support mobilised. But doing so may limit your ability to appeal to a wider cross-section of the population. Whichever party resolves this dilemma most successfully may well be the one that ends up winning the Assembly election.

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