There has been a great deal of interest in the last week in a set of surveys conducted by the BBC with YouGov. Parallel surveys were run in England, Scotland and Wales in late-April/early-May.
Mark Easton, the BBC’s excellent Home Affairs editor, discussed what much of the evidence gathered said about the state and nature of English identity in this piece. And my friend Sir John Curtice discussed here some of what the evidence from the parallel surveys suggested about the differences between English and Scottish nationalism and national sentiments.
There is a lot in the surveys, and I look forward to exploring more of the details myself further. For now in this piece, and a following one, I’m going to look at some of the Welsh evidence gathered. In this blog post, and a later one, I will consider some of the evidence gathered about attitudes in Wales regarding which issues should be decided by which levels of government.
Here though, I want to look briefly at some other interesting questions that the BBC/YouGov poll asked about different levels of government. A first one was the following:
“How much influence do you think people in your area have on the decisions [X] make that affect the place where you live?”
This question was asked in turn about:
- The UK government
- The Welsh government
- Local government
Respondents were then invited to choose from the following answer options: A lot, A fair amount, Not very much, None at all; there was also a Don’t know option available. In the table below, for ease of presentation, I will combine the ‘lot’ and ‘fair amount’ responses, and also the ‘not very much’ and ‘none’ ones. Those wishing to see the more detailed results can find them at the YouGov link above.
We might expect people to think that they have more influence on a more local level of government that is closer to hand. This is indeed what YouGov found: here is a summary of the answers:
|Not very much/None||84%||73%||67%|
Looking at the details of the result, we can see modest differences by age, with young people rather less likely to respond negatively about all three levels of government. They’ll learn. Conservatives and 2016 Leave voters are a little more likely to be negative about the Welsh government. One might think that this simply reflects residual anti-devolution sentiments among these parts of the electorate. But Conservatives and Leavers are also more negative than others about local government. However, they are not so about the UK level of government.
The BBC/YouGov poll also had a second pair of very interesting questions that I’d like to briefly discuss here. These questions were phrased as follows:
“Politicians in [X] reflect the concerns of people in my part of the country”
This was asked about both ‘Westminster’ and ‘Cardiff’. Respondents were invited to choose from the following answers: Strong agree, Tend to agree, Tend to disagree, Strongly disagree, along with a Don’t know option. Again, for ease of presentation I will combine the Agree answers and the Disagree ones in the table below:
|Strong/Tend to agree||10%||30%|
|Strongly/Tend to disagree||79%||56%|
The results here could hardly be said to be good for either level. But they are also clearly less terrible for Cardiff. The findings are thus very much consistent with other evidence, discussed previously on this blog, which has shown that people in Wales do at least trust devolved-level politicians somewhat more than those at Westminster to be concerned with and focussed upon the problems of their communities.
When we look again at the details of the results to this question, we see some predictable differences. For instance, Conservatives and Leave voters are less negative about Westminster politicians than the supporters of other parties, and are more negative about politicians in Cardiff. But there are also some really interesting regional breakdowns. There are major differences across the different regions of Wales in terms of attitudes to Westminster. But when we look at attitudes towards ‘Cardiff’, we see notably more negative responses given by respondents outside the ‘Cardiff and South-Central’ region, with the highest levels of negativity shown by survey respondents from North Wales. This is again consistent with previous evidence, notably from the 2016 Welsh Election Study, which has shown considerable negative sentiment about devolved government in Wales being too ‘Cardiff-centric’, particularly in north Wales.
These two sets of questions have hardly produced a ringing endorsement of the political class by the Welsh public. But sentiments are most negative towards government and politicians at the UK level. This may in part reflect the specific wording of these questions; however, the findings discussed here are also consistent with other evidence. Overall, the body of evidence to which the new poll contributes does suggest that devolved political institutions are, if nothing else, viewed as closer to the Welsh people, and more connected with their concerns and problems, than UK-level institutions.
In a following blog-post, I will discuss what the YouGov survey suggested about whether people in Wales wish for the devolved political level to assume responsibility over more areas of public policy.