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The 2011 Welsh Referendum Richard Wyn Jones (Cardiff University) Roger Scully (Aberystwyth University) Paper presented to Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association London, April 2011. Outline of Paper. Introduction Background to the Referendum The Campaign The Result Turnout

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The 2011 Welsh ReferendumRichard Wyn Jones (Cardiff University)Roger Scully (Aberystwyth University)Paper presented to Annual Conference of the Political Studies AssociationLondon, April 2011

outline of paper
Outline of Paper
  • Introduction
  • Background to the Referendum
  • The Campaign
  • The Result
  • Turnout
  • Yes .v. No
  • Conclusions & Implications
but first a word from our sponsors
But first, a word from our sponsors…
  • The 2011 Welsh Referendum Study (ESRC Grant RES-000-22-4496)
    • Survey-based study of voting in the referendum
    • Conducted via Internet with YouGov
    • Two-Wave panel study, with first wave conducted as ‘rolling’ study through period of the campaign
    • N of panel study = 2569
  • Further support from the McDougall Trust for interview-based study of local and national campaigning (ongoing)
wales 2011 the background 1
Wales 2011: the Background, 1
  • Previous devolution referendums: 1979, 1997
  • 1998 GOWA: Flawed Devolution Model
    • ‘Secondary’ legislative powers: responsibility without power?
    • ‘Body Corporate’ and other problematic aspects
  • 2004: Richard Commission Report
  • 2006 GOWA:
    • LCOs
    • Provision for Referendum on full transfer of primary legislative powers
wales 2011 the background 2
Wales 2011: the Background, 2
  • 2007: One Wales coalition agreement
  • 2008-09: All Wales Convention
  • BUT continuing caution…
    • ‘Shadow of 1979’: unwillingness to believe the survey evidence!
    • Labour parliamentary opposition
  • Final agreement on referendum: March 3rd 2011
the campaign general context
The Campaign: General Context
  • Greatly constrained by referendum not being on a ‘fundamental constitutional issue’
  • Difficult for campaigns to craft appealing messages to voters
  • Difficult to frame intelligible and legally accurate referendum question (Lord’s Prayer!)
  • Problems with PPERA:
    • No official campaigns
    • Constraints on spending (2011<1997!)
the yes campaign
The Yes Campaign
  • Support from all four party leaderships in NAW
  • Also widespread support from civil society
  • The ‘Establishment’ campaign
  • Paradox of Yes position: Main strength also main weakness – constrained precisely because it was so all-inclusive
    • Had to ‘wait for Labour’
    • Limited in what it could campaign against (not LCOs, not UK govt)
    • Main stake-holders had other priorities (particularly 2011 election)
the no campaign
The No campaign
  • Little mainstream support, meaning…
    • Little ability to raise resources: spending <£5k?
    • No prominent politicians active. Resulting inexperience obvious in:
      • Breakdown in message discipline by end (increasingly arguing for abolition)
      • Seem to have believed own propaganda (own polls)
      • Failure to produce promised campaign material
  • Local campaigns very weak
    • ‘Grassroots campaign’ largely without roots
  • Some of the spokesmen very weak
    • Welsh-speaking voices just plain embarrassing
why was the no side so weak
Why was the No side so weak?
  • Polls as self-fulfilling prophecy?
  • Party cues very strong. Labour (eventually) more united on devolution than ever
  • Habermas and Hain
    • Force of better argument.
      • Status quo so obviously flawed (cf. ‘scrutiny’)
      • Slippery slope-ism busted flush
    • Hain (2005) was right: flaws would lead to irresistible pressure for further devolution
  • Wales has changed
    • Death of ‘Assimilationist Unionism’ and growth of ‘Devolutionist Unionism’
wales 2011 the result 1
Wales 2011: the Result, 1

Yes: 517,132 (63.5%)

No: 297,380 (36.5%)

Turnout = 35.6%

wales 2011 the r e sult 2
Wales, 2011: the Result, 2

Perhaps least important aspect of result is that it vindicated work of the Institute of Welsh Politics!

Key arguments post-1999:

  • Devolution increasingly ‘settled will’ in Wales too
  • Support evened out over country
  • Appetite for more very apparent

But overshadowed by focus on close 1997 result and legacy of the ‘shadow of 1979’

turnout 1
Turnout, 1

35.6% hardly good. Low by most historic UK and international standards. But readily explicable:

  • No fundamental constitutional question at stake
  • Lack of official campaigns, and only one campaign functioning at local level
  • Lack of interest in UK media
  • Timing (winter + forthcoming election)
  • General reduction in turnout in UK and elsewhere
    • 3 UK GEs before 1997 av. turnout = 74.8%
    • 3 UK GEs before 2011 av. turnout = 62%
turnout 2 aggregate data
Turnout, 2 (aggregate data)
  • 17 % difference between highest and lowest figures across Wales
  • Turnout closely correlated with turnout in 1997 referendum and substantially so with 2010 GE
    • turnout strongly related to those factors that shape turnout in general and in particular devolution referendums
  • At aggregate level, turnout correlates with:
    • % Welsh-speakers in area
    • Rurality
    • % employed in professional/managerial roles
turnout 3 individual level data
Turnout, 3 (individual-level data)
  • Turnout only moderately predicted by most social characteristics: HH income, social class, national identity
  • Slightly stronger correlation with welsh language; very strong with age
  • Strong association with some political characteristics: Interest in politics, perceived duty to vote, perceived importance of referendum
  • But weak relationship with constitutional preference, or perceived performance of devolved institutions
yes v no homogenisation
Yes .v. No: Homogenisation
  • Yes side won in 21 of 22 Welsh local authorities
  • Overall ‘swing’ from 1997 for Yes: 13.2%
    • Av. swing in 1997 No areas = 16.8%
    • Av. Swing in 1997 Yes areas = 10.4%
    • 8 highest ‘swings’ to Yes all in areas that voted No in 1997
  • 4 largest Yes ‘swings’ all in North Wales
  • Gap between highest and lowest Yes % = 26.6%, compared to 34.5% in 1997
yes v no aggregate data
Yes .v. No (aggregate data)
  • Yes % closely correlated (r = .90) with % Yes in 1997 – but differences all  greater homogeneity
  • % Welsh identity and Welsh language in LA strongly related to % Yes vote; so also % Plaid vote
  • % middle class and % Conservative vote 2010 negatively related to % LA Yes vote
yes v no individual level data
Yes .v. No (individual-level data)
  • Yes vote lower amongst oldest age cohorts, middle-class voters
  • Correlation between Yes vote and both Welsh language and Welsh national identity
  • Yes vote uncorrelated with Interest in politics or perceived duty to vote
  • Very strong relationship between Yes voting and perceived importance of referendum, constitutional preference, and perceived performance of devolved institutions
conclusions 1
Conclusions, 1

What we can learn from Wales:

Don’t hold constitutionally frivolous referendums under flawed Referendum legislation in the middle of winter…

Further work to be done on modelling vote:

  • Impact of Party Cues
  • National Identities & Sentiments
  • Performance Politics
conclusions 2 implications
Conclusions, 2: Implications
  • Deeply-flawed referendum, but likely to have substantial consequences…
    • Demonstrates ‘settled will’, therefore legitimacy not provided by 1997 result now bestowed
    • Substantial pressure developing for devolution of further areas, changes to financial settlement, possible Welsh jurisdiction etc.
    • Coupled to reduction of MPs ensures that NAW will be main forum for Welsh democratic debate
    • Welsh relationship with UK state from now inter-governmental in character
    • Welsh MPs from now on very marginal figures in Wales and Westminster
and to find out more
And to find out more…

Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully, Wales Says Yes: the 2011 Welsh Referendum (University of Wales Press, 2012)