The latest Welsh Political Barometer poll has once again included questions about the defining political issue of the moment – Brexit. Our poll included some questions that have been asked consistently over a long period of time, and others which were new and which reflect the current state of affairs.
One question that has been consistently asked since autumn 2016 has been one on attitudes towards a second 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?”
We once again repeated this question in our new poll. This is the pattern of responses that we obtained (with changes from the previous poll, in July, given in brackets):
Support a second referendum: 41% (+1)
Oppose a second referendum: 49% (+4)
Don’t Know: 10% (-5)
Overall, our latest poll shows a small move against the idea of a second referendum. For all the talk, and protests in favour, of a ‘People’s Vote’, there has been little change in public attitudes – at least as they have been consistently measured by this question. The balance of opinion in Wales remains marginally against the idea of another vote.
What about the question of how people would vote in any second referendum? Since June 2016, Barometer polls have consistently asked the following question about this:
“If there was another referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union tomorrow, how would you vote?”
Polls since the original referendum have consistently shown the balance in Wales between Remain and Leave in this hypothetical second referendum to be very close. That is once again what our new poll has found – here are the figures (with changes from July’s Barometer poll once more in brackets):
Would vote to Remain: 45% (+1)
Would vote to Leave: 41% (+2)
Would not vote: 6% (no change)
Don’t Know: 7% (+1)
So things continue to be very close between Remain and Leave, and there is no advance on the five-point Remain lead in the July poll – which had equalled the largest Remain lead in any Welsh poll since the referendum. All the difficulties associated with Brexit are emphatically not leading to a surge in public opposition to the UK leaving the EU.
Our latest poll, however, also tried a number of new questions. A first one asked the following:
“Imagine there was a three-way referendum on Brexit, with the options of Britain remaining in the European Union, leaving the European Union with the deal Theresa May has proposed, or leaving the European Union without a deal. People would be able to vote for their first and second preference. Which would you vote for as your first preference?”
This is the pattern of first preferences across the whole sample of respondents:
Leave with deal: 17%
Leave without deal: 25%
Would not vote: 5%
Don’t Know: 11%
It is striking that the position of the Prime Minister is the least popular of the three options. And when we look only at Conservative supporters, there is little more support for Theresa May’s position: among those respondents indicating that they would vote Conservative in a general election, only 28% backed the ‘Leave with deal’ option, compared to fully 51% who favoured Leaving the EU without any deal.
Once the second preferences of those support the Prime Minister’s proposed deal have been taken into account, and leaving out those who chose Don’t Know, we arrive at the following outcome:
Leave without deal: 46%
Our new poll also asked people to envisage a referendum in the situation where no deal is reached on Brexit – and they were then given the binary choice between Remain or Leaving without a deal. The pattern of responses on this question was as follows:
Leave without deal: 40%
Would not vote: 6%
Don’t Know: 9%
If we omit the Would Not Vote and Don’t Know respondents, this gives us an overall outcome of 54 percent for Remain and 46 percent for Leave.
Finally, our poll replicated two questions that have been run in some previous studies, including a recent one for Cardiff and Edinburgh universities conducted among respondents in England. These prompted respondents with some quite pointed questions about potential negative consequences that might follow elsewhere in the UK from Brexit. The first of these questions was about Northern Ireland:
“Some have suggested that leaving the European Union might present challenges to the UK. One of these includes the unravelling of the peace process in Northern Ireland. If this happens would you say that…”
Respondents were then presented with two options. The percentage who chose each one was as follows:
It was worth it to take back control: 42%
Leaving the EU was not worth jeopardising the peace process: 58%
The second such question was about Scotland: “Some have suggested that leaving the European Union might present challenges to the UK. One of these includes a second independence referendum in which a majority of Scots vote to leave the UK. If this happens would you say that…” with respondents given two very similar options to the Northern Ireland question. The overall pattern of responses here was:
It was worth it to take back control: 51%
Leaving the EU was not worth risking a Yes vote in a second referendum: 49%
We should exercise some caution in interpreting the responses to these questions. They ask quite a lot of respondents – a hypothetical situation that requires a fairly substantial leap of the imagination. And on the second question it is not quite clear how, for instance, we might best interpret the responses of Plaid Cymru supporters and others who might rather like the idea of Brexit prompting Scottish independence! But particularly notable for both these questions are the responses from Conservative supporters. Clear majorities of those supporting the Conservative and Unionist Party say that such damage to the union would be worth it to secure Brexit (some 72 percent for the Northern Ireland question and 90 percent for the Scotland question). This underlies the strength of feeling behind Brexit, and the extent to which the Conservatives have become the party of Leave. There is little doubt regarding which of the UK’s two unions they care about more.