Key issues influencing voters in Wales on 7 May will be the NHS, education and the economy

The key issues influencing how the public in Wales will vote in the general election on 7 May are the NHS / Health service, education and schools and the economy and creating jobs. The NHS dominates, despite health being a devolved area, and was chosen by nearly seven in ten adults in our exclusive poll (68%). Around half of those interviewed selected education (also a Welsh government responsibility) and the economy (at 51% and 50% respectively) as issues that will influence how they vote.

Four in ten Welsh adults said the issue of immigration will influence their voting in the general election, more than chose crime, housing and the welfare benefits system (each selected by around one in three adults). Immigration also emerged as a more important issue to the Welsh population overall than the environment (chosen by 28%), the UK’s relationship with the European Union (24%), transport (17%), devolution and more powers for Wales (16%) and the Welsh language (14%).

During the latest wave of the Beaufort Wales Omnibus survey, conducted across Wales in March 2015, 1,003 adults aged 18 and over were shown a list of issues and asked “Which of these issues will influence how you vote on May 7 in the General Election for the UK Parliament?” A full list of responses is given in Figure 1 below:

Education and schools were more likely to be singled out by the upper middle classes or ABs (that is, those in higher managerial, professional and administrative professions) and women, especially those aged 18-44; almost 6 in 10 (59%) of ABs, and 64% of women between 18 to 44 said that the issue of education will influence their choice of party at the general election, compared with just over half (51%) of the population overall.

Women were also more likely to be concerned about crime (selected by 41% of women compared to 29% of men), the welfare benefits system (40% c.f. 28%) and housing (38% c.f. 31%) than their male counterparts. In contrast, men were more likely to say they will be influenced by immigration (chosen by 43% of men compared with 37% of women), especially men aged 45 and over (48%).

Those aged 35-54 were most likely of all age groups to say their voting will be influenced by the economy and creating jobs, whereas people aged over 55 were most likely to mention the issues of the NHS, immigration and the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

Almost a third of Welsh speakers (32%) said the Welsh language will influence how they vote on 7 May (compared with 14% of the Welsh population overall). In addition, a higher proportion of Welsh speakers said their voting will be influenced by the issue of devolution and more powers for Wales than is the case overall (at 25% compared with 16%).

The Welsh public were also asked to identify which one of these issues would be the most important in terms of how they will vote in the general election. Over a third of adults in Wales (35%) said the NHS / Health service will be the most important issue affecting their voting choice. This is over double the proportion choosing any other issue: the economy and creating jobs was the most important issue for 15% of people, while education and schools and immigration were each the most important issue for 11% – see Figure 2:

Older people (those aged 55 and over) were much more likely to select the NHS as the most important issue in terms of their voting, with 50% of them doing so compared with 35% of the population overall. Those in the middle age range (that is, aged 35 to 54) were slightly more likely than other age groups to select the economy and creating jobs as the most important issue, while younger people (those aged 18 to 34) were more likely to choose education and schools. The NHS emerged as the single most important issue across all age groups, however.

Although devolution and more powers for Wales and the Welsh language were the most important issues in terms of how they will vote for just a small minority of people overall across Wales (2% and 1% respectively), both were more likely to be singled out by Welsh speakers - 5% of Welsh speakers chose each as the most important issue influencing their voting on 7 May.

Fiona McAllister, MD of Beaufort Research, said “The findings from our poll clearly demonstrate people’s priorities and concerns in Wales and emphasise how important core services such as the NHS and education are to the Welsh public. The fact that these are devolved areas and the responsibility of the Welsh Government, not the Westminster Government, does not diminish their importance at general elections.”

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