Referendum Yes sustaining lead in latest poll

John Osmond examines the latest results from the 2010 Welsh Election Survey

There is encouraging news for Yes campaigners in the forthcoming referendum on further legislative powers for the National Assembly in data released today by the 2010 Welsh Election Survey, conducted by YouGov for the Welsh Governance Centre at Cardiff University and the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth University.

Asked the question, “If there were to be a referendum tomorrow on giving the National Assembly increased law-making powers”, 50.1 per cent responded Yes, 32.1 per cent No and 17.8 per cent were Don’t Knows or would not vote.

This confirms a steady lead for the Yes side of around 20 per cent that was established soon after the All Wales Convention reported on the prospects for a Yes vote last November. In the two years leading up to the Convention’s report, following the May 2007 Assembly election eight separate polls found the gap between the two sides to be much closer at around 10 per cent.  Since the Convention report six polls have shown the Yes lead widening.

Of course, it is not possible to judge whether the shift has been due to the publicity around the Convention’s findings, though at the launch of today’s findings, in Cardiff Bay, Welsh Governance Director Richard Wyn Jones, said he thought there might have been some influence. “What recent polling shows is a consistency to the Yes lead which should give great heart to those who favour a positive vote in the referendum,” he said.

The poll also found that 52.7 per cent agreed that “Having a National Assembly for Wales has improved the way Wales is governed” compared with 19.8 per cent who disagreed and 28.4 per cent who were Don’t Knows.

The 2010 Welsh Election Survey of 1,475 respondents, carried out in the few days following the general election on 6 May, but before the formation of the coalition government a week later, also explored voting intentions for the Assembly election in May 2011, shown in the following table:

National Assembly Voting Intentions May 2011 (%)

Constituency Region
Labour 35.8 28.4
Conservative 19.3 16.4
Lib Dems 15.7 20.9
Plaid 17.3 17.7
Others 11.9 16.6

These statistics come with a health warning since they may be skewed by the closeness of the poll to the UK election campaign and its focus on UK-wide issues and the race for Number 10.  However, in broad terms the statistics are good news for Labour which, on this basis, should sustain its present position in the National Assembly, and also for the Liberal democrats whose strong showing in the regional list, if maintained, would be rewarded with extra seats at the expense of both Conservatives and Plaid. The polling analysts at the Welsh Governance Centre and Institute of Welsh Politics reckon that this pattern of voting would result in Labour having 28 seats following next May’s vote, Conservatives 10, Plaid Cymru 10, Liberal Democrats 12 and others nil. However, they also said they do not anticipate this result actually occurring.

In evidence they pointed to other findings in their survey, which showed that voters overwhelmingly blame the UK government for failings in policy areas such as the NHS, education, standard of living and law and order, rather than the National Assembly.

This suggests that come the Assembly elections in a year’s time we can expect both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to suffer at the hands of the electorate, given that they will likely still be in coalition in Westminster. One question posed by Richard Wyn Jones was, “Is it conceivable for the Liberal Democrats to go into coalition with Labour following next year’s Assembly election given that they are in coalition with the Conservatives in London?”

John Osmond is Director of the IWA

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