WELSH FEAR AND HOPE REPORT
An overview of the report:
1. The uneven impact of the pandemic has rewritten people’s relationship with the Senedd, and with Westminster
The vaccine effect has seen a bounce in Welsh people’s optimism for the future, and the vast majority are happy with how Welsh government have handled the pandemic, but the economic hit of the coronavirus outbreak has already hit many people hard, and there is a lot of fear for how this will play out in the coming months.
While many who have lost jobs, seen their hours dropped, or gotten into debt during the pandemic have maintained faith in political leaders, for others resentment and anger are brewing, and eating away at trust.
2. Welsh independence remains a minority view, but there is a clear appetite for a rebalance of power for the nation which could be tapped into
Overall, there is a consensus that Wales and the other devolved nations lose out to England (53% agree), and that the issues and concerns of people living in the small towns and rural areas of Wales are often ignored in favour of people in big cities (63%). But only 35% think that politicians in the Senedd care about people like them and the same proportion feel that Welsh people’s views are well represented by the Westminster government.
3. Pockets of hostility and patterns of social conservatism contradict beliefs of Wales as a welcoming place
Looking at social attitudes across Wales, there is some contradiction between a view of Wales as welcoming, open and tolerant and pockets of hostility and unease around issues like immigration and multiculturalism.
The most popular term used by participants to describe Wales today was Welcoming, chosen by a third of all respondents (33%). But 46% say they are worried about the arrival of new immigrants in their community and almost half of Welsh people believe that discrimination against white people has become as big a problem as discrimination against non-white people (48% agreed with this statement, 24% disagreed). Opposition to immigration emerges across welsh society, including among 18-24s who are less socially liberal than the same age cohort for UK as a whole.
4. Poverty and deprivation remain key challenges for communities in Wales, and many fear the impact of the coronavirus outbreak will make things worse
There is widespread concern among the Welsh population about poverty (65% say they are concerned), a lack of opportunities for children growing up today (69% say they are concerned) and the decline of the High street (68% say they are concerned). And many fear that these issues could get worse, as the economic impact of coronavirus threatens many jobs. Half the Welsh population say that they are concerned they or someone in their family may lose their job as a result of the pandemic.
5. A concentration of social and economic challenges in Welsh towns are undermining community resilience
Towns in Wales have been at the forefront of many of the economic challenges faced by the UK over the past decades, and have been more exposed than most.
Looking at social attitudes across Welsh towns, we can see some quite distinct trends. These relate to small and fairly isolated communities, with little ethnic diversity or population flux and significant deprivation, particularly when it comes to jobs and economic opportunities. These challenges can feed frustrations and resentments that the far right can exploit.
6. New Tribes
While our Fear and Hope reports have previously looked at attitudes across England, this report has developed a series of tribes specific for Wales. These ten groups offer a picture of social attitudes across Wales by splitting the Welsh population up by values, attitudes on key issues, as well as what drives them.
These ten identity tribes can broadly be placed into three groups. Social liberals, who value compassion and openness, are driven by fighting social inequality and believe immigration and multiculturalism bring richness to Wales. Social conservatives, who value security and pride, often reactive in the face of changes in British society and driven by protectionism. And ambivalents, who share some views of both sides, though are more likely to feel detached or disinterested.
While this paints a picture of a divided society in Wales, the different drivers and motivations of each of these groups also shows how polarisation in Welsh society is not simply groups being drawn towards two diametrically opposed ‘poles’. Core values, personal circumstance, political allegiance and current affairs all intersect to shape how people see the world around them.