Wales and Brexit: Some New-ish Evidence18 October 2016
The last Welsh Political Barometer poll was conducted in mid-September. But results from a few of the questions run in the poll have only now been published. These were three questions on attitudes to Brexit, which ITV-Wales decided to hold back for publication as part of their Sharp End special on the EU and Brexit this week.
(I should perhaps say in passing that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with ITV Wales wanting to hold back these questions for later publication. They put up the vast majority of the money for the Barometer polls, so they can publish the findings whenever they damned well want to, as far as I am concerned!).
The answers to the three questions are all interesting: not only because of the overall results across the whole sample, and what they tell us about attitudes to Brexit in Wales, but also because of the substantial differences we observe in the findings between those who voted Remain and those who voted Leave in the June referendum. In the tables below, I’ll therefore present three sets of figures: the balance of opinion across the whole sample, as well as separate figures for Remainers and for Leavers.
The first of the three questions asked was about the possibility of having another EU referendum.
“Would you support or oppose holding a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union to confirm or reverse Britain’s decision to leave the EU?”
As we can see, the overall balance of opinion clearly leans against having a second vote. But perhaps even more striking is the stark difference of perspective between those who voted on different sides in the referendum. The clear majority of Remainers would like a chance to reverse the June decision; Leavers are even more strongly against this idea. Outside of a divided society like Northern Ireland it is rare to see such stark differences between two groups on a political question like this.
The following question asked people about how they would vote in the event of a second referendum. The more assiduous readers of this blog may recall that when we polled about this issue in July, there was some (modest) evidence of ‘Bregret’: that is, there did appear to have been a small swing back to ‘Remain’ since the actual referendum in June. Our new poll suggests that such sentiment (which was never, in any case, overwhelming) has since largely evaporated:
“If there was another referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union tomorrow, how would you vote?”
|Would not vote||8%||2%||2%|
The differences between Remainers and Leavers here are again stark, but perhaps less surprising: after all, they only voted on this issue a few months ago. The main thing to note here, I think, is simply the reversal of any ‘Bregret’: the balance of opinion in Wales appears to be right back where it was in June, with a narrow balance in favour of Leave.
The final question that remained unpublished from the Barometer poll in September was one concerning the sort of deal that the UK ought to be seeking to strike with the EU. There are many potential ways of asking about this issue; the question used in the Barometer poll was a fairly simple one, concerning what should be the principal priority for the UK in such negotiations:
“Now that Britain has voted to leave it will need to negotiate the future relationship it has with the European Union. With this in mind, which of the following comes closest to your view?”
The following options were then presented to survey respondents:
- The priority should be for Britain to have full control of their borders even if that means it is no longer able to trade freely with the EU
- The priority should be for Britain to trade freely with the EU even if that means it does not have full control over its borders
- Neither of these should be the priority
- Don’t Know
And the following table summarises responses:
There seem to me to be two main things to note here. The first is the clear balance of opinion in favour of prioritising border controls over free trade. Perhaps if the question had been phrased a little differently we might have produced a different result, but on this wording at least the balance of opinion is fairly clear. The other notable feature of the result is the, once again stark, difference between Remainers and Leavers – and the really overwhelming balance of opinion among Leavers. This result reinforces plenty of other evidence on this point: many of those who voted Leave feel really strongly about immigration and border controls. Many Remainers, who tend to feel differently about the issue, perhaps struggle to understand the depth of sentiment here.
Overall, the evidence from these questions is now very slightly dated. It is possible that, particularly after the announcements made at the Conservative party conference and the publicity surrounding them, opinions may have changed on some matters. But in general attitudes don’t appear to be shifting very much on the issue of Brexit, so this is likely still very relevant evidence. There is no great change in views evident since the June referendum. And the two sides on the issue continue to be starkly divided. There is no emerging consensus on Brexit. It divided Wales, and the UK, almost down the middle in June. And the evidence indicates that Brexit continues to divide people.
Non-partisan thoughts on elections, voting and political representation from Roger Awan-Scully of Cardiff University.