The BBC/ICM Poll: Constitutional Preferences

One question, which has been repeated from similar BBC/ICM polls over the last few years, enquired about constitutional preferences. Respondents were presented with several options as to how Wales might be governed and asked ‘Which of these statements comes closest to your view?’ Fortunately, the BBC have retained a consistent question wording (as well as the same polling methodology and company conducting the work) on this question for several years. We can therefore legitimately look at changes in the figures over time – we are comparing like with like.

The results for 2018 (with changes on the identical question in last year’s poll in brackets) were as follows:


Wales should become independent, separate from the UK: 7% (+1)

The Welsh Assembly should have more powers than it currently has: 44% (no change)

The powers the Welsh Assembly currently has are sufficient and should remain as it is now: 28% (-1)

The Welsh Assembly should have fewer powers than it currently has: 4% (+1)

The Welsh Assembly should be abolished and Wales governed directly from Westminster: 12% (-1)

None of these: 1%

Don’t Know: 4% (+1)


In short, we see remarkably little change on the results from a year ago. All the political tumult of the last twelve months – including a general election, and the ongoing saga of Brexit – have apparently made virtually no difference to how the people of Wales wish to be governed. All the changes in the figures we see are tiny, and easily accountable for by sampling variation from one poll to the next.


The bigger picture is that, very much in line with the results of just about every survey that has asked this type of question for more than a decade and a half, there is clear majority support for devolution in Wales. Public appetite either for independence or for the abolition of devolution continues to be very limited. Most people in Wales seem to want some self-government but to remain within the UK. But among those people, and again in line with the bulk of the evidence in recent years, the BBC/ICM survey finds that more support some enhancement of devolution.

As mentioned above, this was the latest BBC/ICM poll to ask about constitutional preferences in Wales using this methodology. The following table shows the pattern of responses in all these polls:

  September 2014 March 2015 March 2016 March 2017 March 2018
Independence 3% 6% 6% 6% 7%
More Powers 49% 40% 43% 44% 44%
Remain as present 26% 33% 30% 29% 28%
Fewer powers 2% 4% 3% 3% 4%
Abolish Assembly 12% 13% 13% 13% 12%
None/Don’t Know 3% 4% 4% 4% 5%


In short, other than in the first of these polls, which was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum and which showed both unusually low levels of support for independence and an unusually high level of support for ‘More Powers’, there has been very change in these polls over time. Whatever else is changing in politics, how the Welsh wish to be governed does not seem to be changing. Substantial devolution within the UK remains clearly the most popular option.


  • J.Jones

    ” We can therefore legitimately look at changes in the figures over time – we are comparing like with like.”

    Wouldn’t it also be wise to compare the last YouGov poll which asked the constitutional question? That had quite different results I recall. The problem with the same company, ICM, doing the same poll and asking the same question of the same pool of people is that any error in methodology or ICM base for the poll is set in stone. As I have pointed out before; some things defy logic. If 44% of people want more devolution of powers and actually get more devolution of powers, why does that 44% not subsequently reduce?
    I’ll put out a few more percentages for you:- 16%, 20%, 68%, 64% 64%.
    16% is the percentage of Welsh adults that told the 2011 census that they were “Able to speak Welsh”.
    20% is the percentage of a large,13,000. balanced sample in the Welsh national survey 2016-17 that said they could speak “a few words of Welsh or more”. This is an ONS certified survey.
    68% is the percentage of adults who answered the ICM/BBC St David’s day poll in 2015 and said they could speak at least a few words of Welsh.
    In 2016 ICM had a 64% Welsh speaking sample and in 2017 a 64% Welsh sample….all after weighting adjustment for factors other than Welsh speaking ability.
    Is the 2018 sample similarly biased?
    Repeatedly, analysis of willingness to answer polls in Wales shows a bias towards Welsh speakers. Serious surveys correct for it. ICM does not.

  • Ben Screen

    Another poll that J Jones doesn’t like. It shows he’s in a small minority. Excellently written yet again Roger.

  • J.Jones

    Perhaps you would like to make a substantive comment Ben…Is a sample including more than 3 times as many Welsh speakers as authoritative studies likely to be biased?

    I realise that when you, a dedicated Welsh speaking Nationalist, and Roger Scully, Welsh speaking dedicated Welsh nationalist, write to each other you are re-enforcing your personal echo chamber but it would be nice if some academic integrity reared its head in Cardiff University. Hope springs eternal.

  • Penddu

    Jeff, leaving your well known anti-devolution views to one side – a simple explanation why 44% say they want more power in one poll and then don’t subsequently change their response to enough power….is that we still don’t have enough power! We certainly do not have a settled system yet.

  • Ben Screen

    Your rants don’t invite substantive comment and I wouldn’t diminish myself by attempting to give you one. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus ‘J’

  • Richard Harris

    “What do we want? More!” More what? More “powers” because “more” is intrinsically good and “less” is well, not quite so good. It’s the “Oliver Twist” school of politics. Please Sir, give me more of more. Do not ask what has been done with powers/porridge previously, how devolution has become the organic rolled oats sustenance of the “some”, because that question is very definitely off the Welsh menu. When you demand more, you aspire to greatness. Or at least, to a very good breakfast in select company.

  • John R Walker

    So 44% want more powers for the WG and 40% don’t know what powers the WG already has! Further evidence that people should have to pass a basic exam before they’re allowed to vote!

    But this ignorance is an effect not a cause – the cause is having an unnecessary and confusing extra layer of governance that most people don’t really have time or inclination to follow. It should never have been allowed to happen and it’s still not too late to eliminate the problem…

    It is aggravated by the way the political class and the pro-regionalisation media portray politics. In Wales when they say ‘government’ they often mean the WG without actually being specific about it so it is hardly surprising that a significant proportion of the population are not sophisticated enough to understand which government they are talking about. As far as I’m concerned we have 3 governments too many. Worse, we may yet have 4 governments too many if England gets one as well.

    That’s the same response as last year… That’s how it’s done isn’t it? This pointless navel gazing might be amusing if whatever it’s called this week wasn’t screwing up nearly everything it touches already… It should have been called the Disassembly!

  • J.Jones

    Just looking at the ICM figures we have this break-down:- Weighted; 126 people are fluent Welsh speakers. That’s 12.6% against 11% in the Welsh language use survey so 110 people, (minus 16 with that particular set of opinions.)
    At the other end of the scale we have those people who don’t speak Welsh at all; 334 people. That’s 33.4% against 80% in the Welsh National survey. So 800 people… an extra 446 people who are inclined to vote/think in a particular way.

    So to look again at the cross breaks; 2% of fluent Welsh speakers want to abolish the Assembly.
    7% of those with conversational Welsh would abolish the Assembly.
    12% of those with a few words of Welsh would abolish the Assembly but…
    18% of those with no ability to speak Welsh would abolish the Assembly.

    When it come to more powers/Independence:-
    Fluent Welsh speakers… 77% think there should be more powers or Independence
    Conversational Welsh speakers…65%
    Speak a few words of Welsh….47%
    No Welsh speaking ability…43%.

    When it comes to voting intention the difference is much less marked but the constitutional question shows sharp divisions according to Welsh language ability.
    Over and over again Roger highlights this plurality who support his own view of devolution/independence but he will not make even a cursory effort to try to explain the language imbalance. Saying that various ways of polling/surveying give different percentages of people able to speak Welsh is not a good enough answer. The Welsh National survey is relatively close to the 2011 census (4-5 points higher). The ICM/BBC poll consistently has an extra 50% above the census and 45% above the ONS certified National Survey for Wales.

  • Al Daniels

    I don’t like the poll, therefore it can’t be true! Every poll since 2010?

    The words ‘straw’ and ‘clutching’ come to mind.

    Just to clarify, like most people, I don’t speak Welsh, am not a nationalist and support further devolution.

  • J.Jones

    It’s worth revisiting this poll from early September 2017 you can see the write up from ITV Wales here:-


    So in September 2017 the ITV/YouGov/Cardiff university poll found that 28% wanted more Assembly powers and 6% wanted Independence.
    In March 2018, 7 months later, a poll by ICM asking the same questions on the Welsh constitutional settlement finds that 44% want more powers and 7% want independence.
    Does anybody believe that we are looking at a change in National opinion? No, we are looking at very different pools of people being polled by ICM and YouGov.
    A University should be dedicated to exploring the TRUE situation not pushing corroborating evidence for a particular Professor’s political position while ignoring academic rigour.

  • Penddu

    And in an actual vote (was it 2016?) 65% of voters confirmed they wanted more powers, and which is reflected repeatedly in various opinion polls.

  • Al Daniels

    The evidence you provide misses the forest for the trees Jeff Jones.

    It further proves my point that the most popular constitutional option is further powers for the Assembly.

    Thanks for further highlighting my point as both samples of people show the same thing.

    Just accept that devolution is not only here to stay, over the next few years it is going to be strengthened. Just look at the age groups under 65 and their views on devolution.

    There is no conspiracy

  • J. Jones

    Really Al Daniels:-

    “It further proves my point that the most popular constitutional option is further powers for the Assembly.

    Thanks for further highlighting my point as both samples of people show the same thing.”

    The ICM St David’s day poll shows 44% for further devolution and 7% for independence…a majority for further devolution 51%.
    The YOUGov/ITV/Cardiff University poll shows 28% for further devolution and 6% for independence…no majority for further devolution; 34%
    Both sample do not show the same thing.

  • D Jones

    I find the avoidance of J.Jones’ point as to why the amount of Welsh speakers sampled is approaching 50% inflated (in relation to societal reality) quite worrying. Responses along the lines of “Just accept that devolution is not only here to stay” and “Another poll that J Jones doesn’t like. It shows he’s in a small minority” are typical of close minded nationalists incapable of critical analysis or debate. If these are students/staff at the Welsh (nationalist) Governance Centre then standards have clearly dropped since my time at Cardiff University

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