Indycurious and curiouser: New poll shows support for Welsh independence on the rise

Picture by Ifan Morgan Jones / Llinos Dafydd. (CC BY 2.0)

Dafydd Trystan

Former First Minister Carwyn Jones garnered significant press coverage recently with his statement that the chaos in UK politics was driving curiosity about Welsh independence.

Now, Carwyn, was quick to point out that he hadn’t been persuaded of the case for independence, but neither did he have an ideological commitment to the UK state (particularly in its current form).

It was a pretty remarkable intervention from a former Labour First Minister, and was quickly dismissed by Andrew RT Davies who asserted that there was very little evidence of this growing curiosity.

Thankfully we have some new polling evidence to consult to consider the extent of indycuriosity and whether this has changed over time. I wrote in mid-2017 of polling showing some interest in Welsh independence.

Recently a new YouGov poll has been undertaken, following a similar pattern, and I report the headline numbers here:

On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is very strongly against and 10 is very strongly in favour, how do you feel about Welsh independence? 2017 /

2019

0 – Very strongly against 31% /

28%

1 5% /

2%

2 7% /

6%

3 6% /

6%

4 4% /

5%

5 18% /

17%

6 5% /

7%

7 6% /

6%

8 6% /

5%

9 2% /

4%

10 – Very strongly in favour 10% /

14%

(Respondents replying Don’t Know are removed from the table above)

Here we can compare the average (mean) scores from both years – in 2017 the polling showed a mean score of 3.8 – by 2019 this had grown to 4.4. This continues to demonstrate that somewhat more of the Welsh population have a negative view of Welsh independence than a positive one – but the direction of travel is clear – many more electors are willing to consider the possibility.

We can demonstrate this further by categorizing the data into three groups – Against (0-3), In Favour (7-10) and the middle – indycurious – ground (4-6). Here we find 42% against (down from 48%) in 2017 with almost 30% in favour and almost 30% in the indycurious bracket.

The partisan shifts are even more interesting – Labour voters mean score has shifted from a relatively skeptical 4.1 to a most definitely indycurious 5.5.  Now we have to remember that Labour voters are a subsample of the poll and therefore the margin of error is obviously greater – but – when we allocate Labour supporters to the three groups we find

Against 28%
Indycurious 32%
In Favour 40%

Rather unsurprisingly, Conservative voters remain hostile to Independence with a mean score 2.9 – so if Andrew RT Davies spends his time speaking to Conservatives alone he may not have picked up on the shift amongst the Welsh electorate more generally.

The 2019 poll also asked a second question – on how people’s view might shift if the UK were to leave the European Union. At first glance the data here shows little change. The mean figure for the electorate at 4.2 suggests that leaving the European Union would not shift fundamentally people’s views on Welsh independence.

But a rather more nuanced picture emerges when one considers the partisan impacts of this change in circumstances. In this case, the small levels of support for independence amongst Brexit Party supporters and Conservatives fall further, yet there is a marked increase in indycuriosity amongst pro-Remain Liberal Democrat voters.

To conclude, therefore – it does seem that Carwyn Jones’ comments are supported by the available evidence – the Welsh electorate is becoming indycurious and curiouser, and that shift is most pronounced amongst Labour voters.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,133 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 15th May 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Welsh adults (aged 18+).

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