In addition to the standard questions on voting intentions, the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll also asked a substantial number of questions about various matters related to the EU and Brexit.
A first one was how people might vote in the event of the UK taking part in the May European Parliament elections. We asked people how they would vote if these elections do happen (as currently appears increasingly unlikely) ; once those saying Don’t Know or that they would not vote are eliminated, these are the levels of support for the parties that we found:
Plaid Cymru: 15%
Brexit Party: 10%
Change UK: 8%
Liberal Democrats: 6%
These figures are immediately, and obviously, bad for the Conservatives. While Labour’s support for the European elections is only three percentage points lower than for the general election, the Conservatives ship a full ten points. Such figures in an actual European election would mean that the Labour party would win two of Wales’ four European Parliament seats, with one going to each of the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru.
Having said that, we should recall what happened in 2014: then, an initially very strong position for Labour weakened as the vote got closer. In the end, Labour only just edged out UKIP for first place in votes across Wales. And speaking of UKIP, we should also observe that if the combined share indicated in this poll for them and the new Brexit party were to coalesce around the most effective challenger, that would easily be enough to win a seat in Wales.
The new poll also repeated a pair of questions about another Brexit referendum that have been repeated in most Barometer polls over the last couple of years or more. First, we asked people whether they would support or oppose another referendum “to confirm or reverse Britain’s decision to leave the EU”. The previous Barometer poll, in February, had shown a tiny lead for ‘support’ – in contrast to most polls over the last couple of years which had tended to show the balance of opinion on this to be against the idea. Our new poll shows only modest change since February, but it is enough change to once more tip the balance marginally against a second vote:
Support having a second referendum: 41% (-4% since February)
Oppose having a second referendum: 46% (+2)
Dn’t Know: 13% (+2)
These are answers to one specific question; other polls, using different questions, have suggested something a little different. But we can, I think, conclude from these answers that – notwithstanding recent large protest marches and petitions – there has been no major recent upsurge in Wales of support for a further referendum on Brexit.
But what if there was to be another vote? A great deal might depend on the question asked, and the alternatives given to voters. Our poll repeated the question we have asked consistently since summer 2016, offering people the basic Remain versus Leave choice. Here is what they said this time (with changes from February once again shown in brackets):
Remain: 46% (-1)
Leave: 39% (no change)
Would not vote: 7% (+1)
Don’t Know/Refused: 8% (no change)
The poll thus shows a continued small lead for Remain, as has been the case in all recent Welsh polling. Once we take out all those refusing to give a preference, the number round to a 54% to 46% advantage for Remain.
In addition to these long-standing questions, the new Barometer poll repeated some questions we had asked in February about the current situation. When asked whether they supported or opposed the deal agreed with the EU, we had the following responses (with changes from February again in brackets):
Support: 24% (+2)
Oppose: 43% (no change)
Don’t Know: 33% (-1)
So the Prime Minister’s deal remains unpopular among the public as a whole – although it does get the support of a plurality (44 percent) of 2016 Leave voters.
We also then offered respondents some of binary choices: to see, if they had to choose between two options, which they would prefer.
When it came to choosing between accepting the current deal or leaving the EU without a deal, the deal won out by 59 percent to 41 percent. In those circumstances, 84 percent of 2016 Remain voters prefer the deal, whereas a majority – 68 percent – of Leave voters prefer a No Deal scenario.
If the choice, however, were to be between accepting the deal or a second referendum, then there is now a narrow majority – 52 percent to 48 percent – in favour of another vote. And in those circumstances, most Remain voters now want another vote, while 2016 Leave voters now swap sides and become the main supporters of the deal.
If the choice is between a second referendum and a No Deal exit, however, the gap in favour of a second vote only widens slightly, to 53 percent against 47 percent. Now the Remain/Leave lines are stark: 87 percent of 2016 Remain voters wanting another ballot, while 82 percent of those who voted Leave favouring a No Deal exit.
Finally, our new Barometer poll asked a couple of questions that we had not featured in previous polls. A first one asked people about who they blamed most for ‘the current state of the Brexit negotiations’. These were the response we got:
Theresa May and the UK Government: 39%
MPs in parliament: 39%
The EU and other European governments: 8%
Other/Don’t Know: 13%
This is fascinating. The public do not appear inclined to ‘blame Brussels’ for the Brexit process going badly; however, they differ somewhat on who exactly to blame at home. And here again we see stark Remain/Leave differences. Those who voted Remain three years ago tend to blame the UK government; most Leavers seem to put most blame with parliament. But few blame others – only 12 percent of Leavers even put principle responsibility at the door of the EU and other European governments.
Our final question asked people how worried, if at all, they would be about a No Deal scenario. This is how people responded:
Not worried: 40%
Don’t Know: 12%
But once more, these aggregate numbers disguise deep divisions. Fully 83 percent of 2016 Remain voters say that they are ‘worried’, whereas some 73 percent of Leave voters are ‘not worried’.
Overall, this series of questions about the EU portray a Welsh electorate that continues, like most of the UK, to be deeply divided about Brexit. These divisions are both broad and deep. The differences between remainers and leavers show no signs of diminishing. But one thing does seem fairly clear: if we do end up having European elections, I would not want to be a Conservative candidate in those elections.