Explaining the 'quiet earthquake': voting behaviour in the first election to the National Assembly for Wales

D Trystan, R Scully*, R Wyn Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines voting behaviour in the inaugural election to the National Assembly for Wales (NAW), held in May 1999. We address two questions: (i) why did the election produce a 'quiet earthquake' in Welsh electoral politics, with the nationalist Plaid Cymru denying the Labour party their expected majority in the Assembly?; and (ii) what broader lessons does this case-study offer for the study of elections in the UK under devolution? Drawing on data from the Welsh National Assembly Election Study, we find that while some features of second-order election theories, such as lower turnout and a lower vote share for the governing party were manifest, contrary to the predictions of such theories the surge in electoral support for Plaid was largely prompted by Welsh-specific factors rather than UK-wide ones. The findings are argued to indicate limits to the applicability of second-order approaches to the study of devolved elections in the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-650
Number of pages16
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue number4
Early online date25 Dec 2002
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • Devolution
  • Multi-level voting
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Second order voting
  • Voting behaviour


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