Many people in Wales were surprised by the announcement last month, by the Secretary of State Alun Cairns, that the second bridge across the River Severn was to be renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge to mark the 70th birthday of the current Prince. This announcement came rather out of the blue; there had been no public consultation on the matter.
Since the announcement there has been plenty of discussion about the matter. Plenty of people have indicated that they are unhappy about the re-naming; Mr Cairns, however, claimed that the “wider, silent majority is absolutely with us” on the idea. It was not entirely clear at the time what was the Secretary of State’s evidential basis for this statement.
However, the news website Nation.Cymru have helped fill this void by adding a question to a recent YouGov poll on the matter. Their question was phrased as follows:
It has been announced that the Second Severn Crossing between Wales and England will be renamed “The Prince of Wales Bridge” in order to mark the 70th birthday of Charles, Prince of Wales. To what extent do you support or oppose this name change?
Nation.Cymru is an entity with some political agenda. Their website describes the website as “a news service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales. It is an attempt to answer the central question: ‘How can we become a better nation?’” However, the question that they ran on this poll appears to me to fair and balanced. It has a plain descriptive beginning, and then a standard ‘support or oppose’ question at the end of it. I can find little to criticise in this question wording.
So what responses did this question elicit? Here is the overall pattern across the whole sample of 1,054 adults in Wales:
|Tend to support||10%|
|No strong feelings either way||47%|
|Tend to oppose||11%|
There is more detail on the results available at Nation.Cymru here.
Clearly there are lots of people who struggle to feel strongly about this issue. Fully half of the entire sample chose either the ‘No strong feelings’ option or the ‘Don’t know’ one. This issue is clearly not setting everyone ablaze with strong opinions! But of those who did have a view, the balance of opinion is clearly negative. Some 17 percent of the sample indicated that they favoured the bridge re-naming, whereas exactly twice as many, 34 percent, were opposed.
Of course, the Secretary of State may have been looking to a narrower audience than the Welsh people as a whole – such as supporters of his own party. Unfortunately, because the Nation.Cymru question was not run on a Welsh Political Barometer poll, we have no information about the current or past political support of the respondents. The main breakdowns that we have for the responses to this question are demographic ones. These tell us that the bridge re-naming is a little more popular among older age groups than younger ones (though not much more so), but no more or less popular with female than male respondents. Nor are there significant differences between social class categories – although the re-naming is notably more popular (or, at least, less unpopular) with retired and unemployed people.
Overall, the message form this data appears to be that lots of people in Wales don’t really care much about having this bridge re-named. But those who do care tend to be opposed to the idea. Contra Alun Cairns, the wider, silent majority does not appear to be in favour of his actions.
The poll, by YouGov, was conducted between 25th April and 1st May 2018. It had a sample of 1,054 adults in Wales, and was conducted via the internet.