‘Fictitious’ politician one of Wales’ most recognised MEPs

17 November 2016

Welsh Ballot Box

A completely fictitious person, ‘Elwyn Davies’ is apparently the second-most widely recognised of Wales’ representatives in the European Parliament.

This extraordinary result is one of the findings to have emerged from the 2016 Welsh Election Study (WES), a major study of voting, political attitudes and political knowledge, led by researchers at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

Respondents to a survey implemented earlier this year by the Welsh Election Study examined voter recognition of their elected representatives. They were asked the following question:

“Wales is represented by four Members in the European Parliament. Which, if any, of the following people are among Wales’ four representatives in the European Parliament?”

Respondents were given only 30 seconds to answer, to prevent them Googling the answer.

They were presented with the following options:

  • NAME OF ONE ACTUAL MEP
  • NAME OF A SECOND ACTUAL MEP
  • David Sherwood
  • Elwyn Davies
  • Lynn Goodwin
  • Jenny Green

Which two MEPs each survey respondent saw listed was randomised, as was the order of the names listed.

The following table shows what percentage of the WES sample saw a name and actually selected it as being, they believed, the name of one of Wales’ MEPs. The first four names listed are those of our actual MEPs, the following four were the false names included in the survey:

Name Recognition for Individual MEPs/False Names

Name

% Selected

Derek Vaughan

9%

Nathan Gill

16%

Kay Swinburne

6%

Jill Evans

11%

David Sherwood

5%

Elwyn Davies

12%

Lynn Goodwin

5%

Jenny Green

5%

Commenting on these findings, Professor Roger Scully, Acting Director of the Wales Governance Centre, and Principal Investigator for the 2016 Welsh Election Study, said: “It’s difficult to know what to say about some of these results. It is, I think, probably unsurprising that Nathan Gill came top, given the higher profile that his role in the Assembly election was giving him.

“But none of the other Welsh MEPs were selected by a greater proportion of the WES respondents than that legendary figure in Welsh politics ‘Elwyn Davies’ – whose contributions to our national political life I feel I need not elaborate upon. Even Jill Evans, who had been an MEP for Wales for almost 17 years at the time this survey was implemented, had her name selected by fewer people than chose the mysteriously popular Mr Davies. For Kay Swinburne, Conservative MEP for Wales since 2009, the picture is even worse: her name was picked out barely more than any of the false names listed.

“I spent much of the early part of my academic career studying the European Parliament; one of the things that my research impressed on me was that most MEPs are very hard working individuals. Yet the efforts of Wales’ four current representatives in the EU’s elected chamber do not appear to have had much impact on the public. Barely one-fifth of our entire sample were able to correctly choose the name of an actual MEP from those presented before them. And some of those apparently correct answers may even have been guesses, as almost as many respondents picked names that turned out to be false.

Roger Scully - Square

“We will, of course, very likely be losing our MEPs when the UK leaves the European Union. But on these results, it seems fair to say that most of the Welsh public are unlikely to notice.”

Professor Roger Scully, Acting Director of the Wales Governance Centre

More information is available on the Elections in Wales blog here.

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