Last month, Wales became the first nation in the United Kingdom to introduce a default 20mph speed limit on ‘restricted roads’ in residential or built-up areas ‘where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists.’

Having committed to introducing such a change in its 2021 Senedd Election manifesto, the Labour-led Welsh Government has touted the environmental and health benefits of the reduced speed limit.

Last month, as the policy was being rolled out, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies found a plurality of Welsh voters supporting the change.

Since then, the introduction of the new speed limit has been harshly criticised by the Conservative opposition in the Senedd and even by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

More specifically, Conservative members of Cardiff Council recently failed in an attempt to reverse the introduction of the new speed limit in the Welsh capital, and more than 450,000 people signed a public petition calling on the Welsh Government to “rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law.”

Almost a month after the policy was implemented across Wales, our latest polling finds that Welsh voters have swung decisively against the new 20 mph speed limit, with a majority of voters now saying they oppose it.

In polling conducted last weekend for WalesOnline, 59% of Welsh voters, including 51% of those who voted Labour in the 2021 Senedd Election, say they oppose the introduction of the 20mph speed limit, up from 34% who said they opposed the new speed limit in mid-September.

Support for the new, reduced speed limit has correspondingly fallen from 46% to 29%.

More than half (56%) of Welsh voters say their opinion about the changes to the speed limit has changed since they were introduced last month. 

39% of all those polled say they are now more opposed to the lower speed limit than they were before the changes came into force, while 17% say they are now more supportive of the reduced speed limit than they were previously.

39% say their opinion has not changed either way. 

On the merits of a 30mph against a 20mph street or road, majorities of respondents believe a 30mph street or road is the one that is more pleasant to drive on (64%) and is more traffic efficient (55%).

49% also believe a street or road with a 30mph speed limit is the one that is better for the local economy, while 40% also believe it is the one that is safer for motorists.

Pluralities say a street or road with a 20mph speed limit is the one that is safer for both cyclists (40%) and pedestrians (41%), while a majority also believe a street with a lower speed limit is the one that is safer for children playing nearby (55%).

45% believe a street with a 20mph speed limit is the one that is more polluted than one that has a 30mph.

The link between speed and fatalities in road accidents is well established. But the link between introducing 20mph speed limits and actually reducing drivers’ speeds appears to depend on how the speed limit is implemented.

If the Welsh Government is to win back support for their reduction in speed limits, they must work more extensively with local councils to better implement this change. And ultimately, they must be able to show the data that proves the policy is working.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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