No, support for scrapping the Senedd isn’t on the rise

The Senedd in Cardiff. Picture by Ifan Morgan Jones.

Ifan Morgan Jones

Supporters of ‘abolishing’ the Senedd have become quite excited over the last two weeks after a YouGov poll projected that, with don’t knows removed, 33% would vote to get rid of the institution.

Some campaigners and sympathetic media outlets have claimed that this is proof that support for ditching Welsh devolution is on the rise.

However, this is largely an attempt to ‘fake it till you make it’ – i.e. to give the impression of momentum in the hope that it will generate a real poll bounce. There is no evidence in the polling, at least, to suggest that there has been any increase in support for abolition.

So what to make of the poll showing that 33% would back abolition?

This was the first time a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ referendum-style question on abolishing the Welsh parliament and government had been asked as part of the ITV/YouGov poll and therefore it can’t be claimed that it represents a rise or fall in support, as we have no other polling to compare it to.

All we have to compare it to are the results of the 1979 and 1997 referendums on establishing the Assembly and the 2011 referendum on more powers.

79.74% voted ‘no’ to the first, 49.70% ‘no’ to the second and 36.51% ‘no’ to the third. Therefore, if anything, a poll projecting that around 33% would vote to do away with the Senedd today suggests a continuation of the pattern of a gradual decline in opposition to devolution rather than an increase.

It’s also notable when looking at the figures that there is quite a large and obvious age gap in opposition to the Senedd.

Would vote ‘yes’ to abolishing the Assembly
18-24 year olds 14%
25-49 year olds 17%
50-64 year olds 27%
65+ year olds 38%

This could, of course, mean that people get more devo-sceptic as they get older. But a more reasonable interpretation might be that those who have grown up with devolution tend to be less opposed to it.

The 65+-year-olds are the last of the cohort who are old enough to have voted ‘no’ so overwhelmingly in ’79, while some of those 50-year-olds would have been in their 20s when devolution was voted for in 1997.

 

Multi-option

So is there any other polling out there that could show whether there has been a long-term rise or fall in support for abolishing the Senedd?

What we do have as evidence is the multi-option question which has been asked consistently for some years, going back to 2014.

However, you may notice there is quite an obvious inflection point in the middle of these statistics. At the start of 2019, support for independence and abolishing the Assembly seem to bump up slightly and support for more powers dip.

But rather than being the result of some political earthquake it’s likely that all we’re seeing here is a difference in methodology. The polls before April of last year were conducted as part of the St. David’s Day BBC/ICM poll and the ones after (in italics) by ITV/YouGov:

Independence More powers Status quo Fewer powers Abolition Don’t know / didn’t reply
Feb-14 5% 37% 28% 3% 23% 5%
Sep-14 3% 49% 26% 2% 12% 6%
Feb-15 6% 40% 33% 4% 13% 4%
Feb-16 6% 43% 30% 3% 13% 4%
Feb-17 6% 44% 29% 3% 13% 4%
Feb-18 7% 44% 28% 4% 12% 5%
Dec-18 8% 40% 23% 4% 18% 7%
Feb-19 7% 46% 27% 3% 13% 4%
Apr-19 12% 27% 25% 4% 15% 17%
May-19 11% 26% 25% 5% 17% 16%
Oct-19 11% 22% 27% 6% 17% 16%
Nov-19 11% 21% 27% 6% 17% 16%
Nov-19 10% 24% 26% 6% 15% 15%
Dec-19 8% 24% 27% 6% 17% 15%
Feb-20 14% 18% 24% 8% 17% 16%

It’s particularly noteworthy that there are far more ‘don’t knows’ in the YouGov polls. The wording of the questions asked are also different. Therefore these results while interesting on their own should probably be considered separately rather than as part of a continuum.

The fundamentals of Welsh politics didn’t change overnight between February and April 2019.

So what we’ve actually seen here is support for independence perhaps rising  – a little bit. While support for abolishing the institution has dipped in the ICM poll and wobbled back and forth around the 17-15% mark in the later YouGov polls.

What will be interesting is when the BBC publish this year’s ICM St. David’s Day poll next week and we can compare their 2020 figures ‘like for like’ with 2019.

Until then, there’s no real sound basis for claiming that there’s an upwards trend in support for abolishing the Senedd, just two methodologies by different polling companies consistently showing different numbers.

Sentiment

But some may ask, so what about the polling today? Those who wish to Abolish the Senedd will point to the EU Referendum in 2016. Leaving the EU wasn’t really on the agenda, they say, until they began campaigning for it.

But while the vote to leave the EU may feel as it if sneaked up on Remainers, it didn’t really. The earliest available Wales-only polling, in July 2013, suggested a majority of people in Wales would vote to Leave.

Across the UK, opinion polling showed Leave in the lead as early as 2010. In fact, contrary to the received wisdom, it was as the referendum approached that Remain pulled level, not the other way around.

Graph by T.Seppelt (CC BY-SA 4.0).

In other words, what UKIP and Nigel Farage did very successfully was to take advantage of already existing widespread anti-EU sentiment, present it as the people v the political establishment and pulled off a referendum to leave the EU.

In the case of abolishing our Welsh parliament and government, there is no evidence that such pre-existing sentiment exists to a significant enough degree to win a referendum to abolish the institution.

This does not mean of course that supporters of abolishing the Senedd are wasting their time or that those who support devolution can rest on their oars.

A year ago no one was really discussing independence as a political option for Wales, yet there is evidence that sustained campaigning has managed to shift the polls – a little bit.

There is no doubt that if the Abolish the Assembly campaign managed to pick up a head of steam they could also make headway in the polls over the next decade or so.

But given that the bulk of their support seems to be concentrated among the current crop of 65+-year-olds, perhaps time for them is of the essence.

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Andy WilliamsJohn YoungRobJohnny GambleAlwyn ap Huw, Ysw. Recent comment authors
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stuart stanton
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stuart stanton

could we have a different category for those of us who are ‘over 65’ but not halfway to Adolf Hitler?

John Ellis
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John Ellis

You make a valid point; I’m 75 this year and one of the most disspiriting aspects of the last five years is the degree to which so many of my contemporaries who, like me, had our formation in the liberating 1960s seem to have morphed in older age into 21st century Alf Garnetts.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

**** That Was The Week That Was ****
I propose J. Ellis for a weekly NC satirical column. Let’s see, erm “Bunters World” ?
Or, better, what did Gaynor write? “Bunter’s Bus”.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

You do me too much honour …. 😉
And the thought of inhabiting ‘Bunter’s World’ is a tad too dystopian for my taste. Would you really want to condemn me to that in my declining years?!

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

… and Bunter might not be around for long despite that Tory majority. It’s still a party waiting to split and when it does UK politics will undergo another shakeout.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Yes, but, and this a big BUT! It would not be him alone, rather than everyone on the bus, Pritti as the conductress, Javid being booted off, others hanging on, and adverts each week on the side?? Okay maybe it’s too too naughty of me to land you , but but ………… flat tyres……carbon emissions…..accidentally running over Jeremy’s foot………..Ifan trying to get advertising space on the back?

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

If that party splits, and Labour too, you’ll get something resembling a sack of cats scratching away at each other. Good fun to watch but a period of chaos for the country. Maybe worth enduring if we get sanity at the end of it all.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Yes, best just to wait and work for more in Wales to join the indy movement.

vicky moller
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vicky moller

wish that were true, I fear, from doorstep type of conversations that regarding assembly as waste of space, paying people to fail Wales and enjoy their bubble is a dynamic view with legs.

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

I’m guessing that your doorstep visits/conversations were carefully designed to whip up such responses – what’s wrong with your lives, half truths and easy solution type of conversation!! Let’s change the Welsh government – now that is a dynamic view with legs!

Theresa Green
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Theresa Green

A case of older and wiser?

John Ellis
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John Ellis

If you knew the people I know – and whom I had in mind in my previous post -, believe me, you wouldn’t seriously entertain that thought!

CapM
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CapM

“A case of older and wiser? ”
No.
In the same way that other opinions disproportionally popular with the over 65s such as the denial of climate change and aversions to gender, race and other equalities of rights are also not an indication of the wisdom one acquires along with a bus pass.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

No, a case of mental constipation on the part of people whose understanding of the political, social and economic condition of Cymru has never been of the highest calibre. Many of these, including some of those not born Welsh, will be likely to change their minds when they see what the next five years has in store for us. Everyone knows that devolution was never intended by Blair to work for Wales, but it’s the nearest thing to representative democracy that we, as a colony, have got, and the majority of Welsh people will not give it up lightly. The… Read more »

John Young
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John Young

This is a letter I sent to the Evening Post yesterday questioning why anyone sees abolishing the Assembly as a good idea. ******************************************************************************************************************************************************* Welsh votes count for almost nothing. It doesn’t matter how we vote, the Westminster government will be decided by voters in England. With just 40 MP’s Wales is represented in Westminster by just 6% of MP’s. If the boundary commission proposals are implemented and the 40 is reduced to 29 we’ll have just 4.5%. In Assembly elections voters in Wales have TOTAL control over who runs the Welsh parliament. I’m no fan of Labour but the fact… Read more »

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Couldn’t agree more with all of that; it sums up the basic argument superbly. Let’s hope the ‘Post’ prints it!

Trouble is, print journals like readers’ letters to be really brief; you might find that if it appears it’s been carelessly condensed, losing some of your argument in the process …

Ernie The Smallholder
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Ernie The Smallholder

The trouble is that most printed newspapers only print articles by their selected writers to promote their owners and managements own egos. Most are unreliable as the only news source.
The problem is the BBC and other such stations that are supposed to be impartial give these newspapers (mostly extreme right wing) too much importance.
Yes, get your general news from the BBC alongside Al Jazeera and RT.com and Welsh local news from Nation Cymru.

John Young
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John Young

Actually, to be fair to the EP they regularly print letters of mine. They have, on occasion, removed bits (or simply shortened it to fit the space they have) but the thrust of the point is still there. I’ll try to remember to post here again to let you know if it is printed.

John Young
Guest
John Young

FYI, the letter WAS published in full yesterday.

Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

John, you’re crediting the kind of people who would vote for the abolition of the Assembly, (and who probably equally rationally voted to leave the EU) with powers of logic. I think you’re line of argument nails it, but I suspect that all those who grumble about the Assembly just want something to kick against. It doesn’t matter to them if they abolish the Assembly and are then worse represented as this is irrelevant. They don’t feel represented anyway, and are probably too idle, or lack faith in their own abilities to lobby their representatives in order to address the… Read more »

Rob
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Rob

The problem is though, any kind of independent media that is funded by the state is going to be dismissed as propaganda

James
Guest
James

The Senedd is a jumped up county council and a total waste of money. Scrap it and use the tens of millions saved per year for hospitals / making wales carbon neutral / M4 relief road.

Charlie Medson
Guest
Charlie Medson

If we scrap it we can be sure that the “tens of millions saved per year” will be spent on vanity projects like HS2 that have absolutely no benefit to Wales whatsoever.

John Young
Guest
John Young

Here’s an idea James. In my post above I argue that Wales has virtually no representation in Westminster. And yet we are lumbered with 5% of the cost of running Westminster.

So why don’t we instead scrap our membership of that jumped up Community Council (because that’s about the level of our representation in the place) and instead put all the money saved that way into our hospitals etc etc.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

The abolition of this ‘jumped up county council’ at this stage of the devolution process would leave Wales nothing more than a jumped up county, (‘jumped up’ insofar as it would more accurately be viewed as an impoverished sub-district of the West of Britain). ‘Wylit, Wylit, Lywelyn. Wylit gwaed pe gwelit hyn’

Rob
Guest
Rob

What would you replace it with? A secretary of state for Wales appointed by Westminster. Someone unelectable to the people of Wales & who may not agree with your spending ideas?

Andy Williams
Guest

Totally agree, we’ve been down that road under Thatcher.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

What would you put in its place, Pete — sorry, ‘James’ — to ensure that the Welsh people have a chance to elect a government that would act in Cymru’s interests?

Johnny Gamble
Guest
Johnny Gamble

James my friend, I admit that I am not a fan of the Senedd the way it is right now. You mention funding for hospitals. We were told that lie during the 1979 devolution referendum campaign that if we voted No there would be more money for Hospitals and Schools etc. We voted No and for the next 18 years our Health Service, Education Services plus many other things were run into the ground. I don’t know how old you are but remember John Redwood returning money to wasteminster that was meant for Wales.

Andy Williams
Guest

How much money currently being spent on the renovation of the Palace of Westminster? Who scrapped electrification to Swansea? Who withdrew support for the Swansea lagoon? Shall I go on.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Much of that percentage of 50-64 and 65+ age groups are the UKIP/Brexit types looking for another “cause”, diehard Unionist Labour and empire loyalist Tories. Many of them are found among the “late in life” migrants who come here to grab cheaper housing then moan like buggery about “bloody Welsh” and “things ain’t like they used to be back home”, while the “hostiles” who have lived here all their lives think that eventually the Cynulliad/Senedd will take away their petty privileges whatever they may be ! All in their minds but nevertheless a set of problems we have to overcome.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Is there anything that could be done to raise the profile of the Opposition leader, like entitle to their own press conference? The problem is very few people in Wales have heard of Paul Davies even though he’s a potential alternative Mark Drakeford as First Minister.

I’m not a tory but I would rather media portrayed him as an opponent to the Welsh Labour Government than tory MPs in London!!!

Huw J Davies
Guest
Huw J Davies

I certainly recognise the 75+ response! I live in a ‘traditional’ Labour area and it was apparent from the almost apoplectic reaction of many over 60s in 1997 that they would never be happy with devolution. Kinnock and co. may have changed their public views but many old Welsh Labour folk are still stuck in the last century! A shame someone never coined the word ‘devoaners’! Many of them still cling to a significant schadenfreude as far as ‘that thing down the bay’ goes and would abolish the Assembly tomorrow if they could. I am just enormously encouraged by the… Read more »

Rob
Guest
Rob

And that’s the biggest problem of all. Labour voters who support abolition. Either they are unaware or conveniently forget that we have had over 20 years of uninterrupted rule by THEIR PARTY!!

Alwyn ap Huw, Ysw.
Guest
Alwyn ap Huw, Ysw.

As a matter of interest is there any data about how many “abolitionists” support independence? I wouldn’t tell YouGov if they asked, but, Yes in reality, I want to abolish our devolved government in favour of an independent government!

I don’t have the technical knowledge, but there are others in the Welsh National movement who do. We could set up bots and trolls to “answer” every “abolish” tweet etc with a post saying “Abolish the Assembly. Wales needs Independence” etc

Andy Williams
Guest

I won’t be happy until this abolish figure is zero. Those of us who support the Senedd, must be vigilant. I put my faith in the 16 and 17 year olds, who will be voting in the 2021 election. Something, they can’t do in a Westminster election