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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 06:53 GMT
Poll suggests Welsh support for euro
Welsh dragon, EU and euro graphic
By BBC Wales's Political Consultant Denis Balsom

A new poll published by BBC Wales is the first to report a majority of opinion in favour of joining the European common currency, the euro.

Asked how they would vote in a referendum on the euro, 41% of Welsh respondents said 'Yes' to join the common currency, 40% would vote 'No', 4% would not vote and 15% replied 'Don't know'.

For full breakdown of results click here.

When the 'Don't knows' are excluded, this split of opinion would produce a referendum result in Wales of 51% : 49% in favour of the euro.

To date most polls in Britain have shown significant majorities against membership of the common currency.

If the poll accurately reflects the division of opinion in Wales, it means that a significant number of Labour voters are now supporting British membership of the common currency.

Euro vote
Association with Tony Blair increased confidence

While Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru party policy broadly supports membership of the common currency, Conservative Party policy remains opposed.

Given the profile of party support in Wales from the last election - where Labour secured almost 50% of the vote - a projected referendum result in favour of the euro must draw heavily from Labour voters.

The poll also repeated the referendum question, explicitly linking the name of Tony Blair with support for British member ship of the Euro.

This positive association with the prime minister increased the proportion claiming that they would vote 'Yes' to 52 : 48.

Recent elections and referendums in Britain have been characterised by low participation.

While the general election last June saw a turnout of less than 60%, only 28% took part in the European Parliament elections in 1999.

Euro coin
Half the pubic consider themselves well informed

The BBC Wales poll suggests that 49% of people in Wales would be 'certain to vote' in a Euro referendum and a further 12% would be 'very likely to vote'.

Combined, this indicates a potential participation rate at a referendum in Wales of 61%.

This contrasts with 50.3% for the devolution referendum in 1997 and 66% at the EEC referendum in Wales in 1975.

Support for the euro is even stronger amongst those most likely to vote in a referendum, 55% would vote 'Yes' to 45% voting' No'.

However, less than half of the Welsh public considered themselves to be well, or fairly well informed about the common currency.

Manufacturing industry

Of those who felt that they were well informed, 56% said they would vote 'Yes' in a referendum and 44% 'No'.

Asked to assess the impact of membership of the common currency upon various sectors of industry in Britain, respondents anticipated the greatest benefit would be felt in the tourist industry.

It was also felt that manufacturing industry to also gain, which is of particular concern in Wales.

The expected impact upon the City and the financial services sector and on agriculture however, was less clear cut.

Almost half of the sample felt that if Britain were to join the euro it would make no material difference to them personally.

Growing familiarity

Of those who anticipated an impact on their personal circumstances however, the pessimists, fearing that they would be worse off, outnumbered to optimists, believing they would be better off, by 2 to 1.

The introduction of euro notes and coins on 1 January in those countries of the euro zone, means people from Wales will soon have first-hand contact with the currency when travelling, when on holiday or, for many, through aspects of their daily work.

The survey found almost seven out of 10 respondents claiming that they, personally, expected to use the euro within the next 12 months.

A growing familiarity with the new currency, plus, perhaps, a sense of Britain being out of step with other European Union countries, is likely to play a big part in people reaching their decision should a referendum on membership of the euro be called in Britain.

NB : NOP interviewed by telephone a representative sample in Wales of 750 adults between 3 - 8 January 2002.

The margin of error on a sample of this size, is plus or minus 4%.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Miles Fletcher
"More people thought the Euro would be good for business than those who thought it would suffer"
See also:

08 Jan 02 | Business
Euro used for 75% of payments
11 Jan 02 | Europe
Sceptics warm to the euro
09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Euro peer pressure mounts on Blair
02 Jan 02 | Wales
Traders primed for euros
14 Jan 02 | Wales
Euro poll: Full figures
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