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Welsh attitudes towards EU membership revealed

27 February 2015

European Union flag

Despite more than a decade of substantial European Union funding, only 17% of people in Wales think the country benefits from the UK's membership of the EU, according to new research by the University's Wales Governance Centre.

Conducted as part of the regular Welsh Political Barometer Poll, the findings were presented to the Welsh Conservative Party conference which took place in Cardiff on 27 February.

When asked "If they think Wales benefits from EU membership more or less than the rest of the UK", only 17% of participants thought that Wales benefitted more than the rest of the UK from EU membership. While 30% of people thought that Wales benefits less from EU membership than elsewhere in Britain, 37% thought Wales benefitted "about the same" as other parts of the country.

Graph showing polling results 3

When asked whether they would support or oppose holding a referendum on Britain's relationship with Europe, 59% were in favour of having a say on the UK's membership of the EU, with only 22% against having a say, and 19% saying they Don't Know.

Graph showing polling results 2

The poll also asked how people would vote in such a referendum, and the opinion was much tighter. If a referendum was held, 44% of people in Wales would be in favour remaining in the EU, while 36% would be in favour of leaving. The remaining 20% were either unsure or did not indicate how they would vote.

Graph showing polling results 1

Commenting on the data, Professor Roger Scully, said: "Wales sits slightly uneasily in the middle on the EU, between an England tending towards scepticism and a Scotland that polls normally show is rather more positive about Europe. 

"Something that must concern supporters of the EU is that a great many people in Wales do not seem to have much sense of any benefits that Wales draws from being part of an EU member-country. Years of EU funding for Wales have not, apparently, had much of an impression on many of the Welsh people." 

The polling formed the basis of a fringe discussion at Welsh Conservative conference, entitled "What the Welsh Public Thinks about the EU."  To consider the findings, Roger Scully was joined by Welsh Conservatives David Melding, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, David Davies, MP for Monmouth, and Conservative MEP for Wales Dr Kay Swinburne.

The poll for Cardiff University was conducted by YouGov. The poll had a sample of 1036 Welsh adults was carried out between 19 and 21 January 2015