NHS strikes: Public blames Government and majority backs industrial action, poll reveals

Support in Wales for NHS workers taking to picket lines is strong, with 63% of those polled in favour of strike action. Credit: PA

The majority of people support NHS strikes - and believe the Government is to blame for health workers taking industrial action, a poll has revealed.

Support in Wales for NHS workers taking to picket lines is strong, with 63% of those polled in favour of strike action.

Of 1,042 people asked, 55% believe it is the Government that is to blame for health workers taking industrial action.

Nurses in all but one NHS employer in Wales have voted to go on strike for the first time in history, with staff warning of a "desperate situation".

We asked: To what extent would you support or oppose strike action taken by NHS staff?

Dr Jac Larner, from Cardiff University's Welsh Governance Centre, says the poll has revealed a big difference between support for strikes in different groups - and this is due to an “income spectrum”.

He told ITV Cymru Wales: “With people who are perceived to be earning more, there's less support for those people to go out on strike.

“But also when we asked about barristers and civil servants, a lot of people just didn't know. So it might be the case that if people were more aware of this kind of strike action, there may be more support, whereas almost everyone we asked was aware of strike action happening for NHS staff, for example."

More people (51%) were opposed to barristers striking than there were in favour (35%).

Which groups of workers do the public support the most?

NHS63% support - 30% oppose - 5% don't know

Postal workers54% support - 36% oppose - 10% don't know

Teachers50% support - 42% oppose - 8% don't know

Rail workers49% support - 41% oppose - 10% don't know

Civil servants48% oppose - 38% support - 14% don't know

Barristers51% oppose - 35% support - 14% don't know

Nurses in all but one NHS employer in Wales have voted to go on strike. Credit: PA

Who does the public think is to blame for strike action?

As well as variances in levels of support for strikers, respondents to the poll believe different people or organisations are to blame for workers taking to industrial action.

For example, the majority blamed the government for NHS workers striking (55%) and teachers striking (42%) and for civil servants (41%). The YouGov poll did not specify which government.

But the finger of blame pointed in many directions for rail workers: 31% blamed trade unions, 22% the government, 21% the rail companies and 16% didn't know. The remaining 8% blamed the workers themselves and 2% said none of these were to blame.

Dr Larner said: "There are some people who are blaming the trade unions, but in general, for nearly everyone we asked about blame for this kind of action fell squarely on the shoulders of the government and the companies, the employers."

The barristers' strike ended earlier this month after several weeks of delays and suspensions to court proceedings. Credit: PA Images

The YouGov poll, conducted for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, revealed support for the UK Government opposition, The Labour Party, has soared and reached a near-10 year high.

Dr Larner says it's reasonable to think support for the party in power can drop during industrial action.

"People support strike action when they think times are tough. They recognise that something's bad. And obviously, the person or people that they blamed for that are the prime minister and the government of the of the day - so the two are linked.

"If people perceive things to be not going particularly well, certainly in terms of the economy, both in Wales and across the UK, people are blaming the UK Government for that.

"That's who people think is responsible for the downturn in the economy and therefore, they are more likely to support the strike."

YouGov polled a representative sample of 1,042 Welsh voters, aged 16+, between November 25 - December 1 for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University.