The Guardian this morning has a poll which shows agreement, by 61% to 34%, with the proposition: "a local council mostly run by councillors from political parties that have a local majority" than adopt "a directly elected mayor" to run things in their area.
Does this mean that the Government will face the embarrassment next week of a switch to directly elected mayors being rejected in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield next week?
Not necessarily. First of all the poll has been conducted nationally not just in cities – let alone the cities holding the referendums. Also, as the Guardian report rightly acknowledges, a lot depends on the wording of the question. Where there is a directly elected mayor there are still local councillors who still, to a considerable extent run things. They are appointed to Cabinet posts. They make decisions on committees for such matters as planning and licensing. Indeed one of the problems in Doncaster has been that if the mayor is at odds with the councillors it rather gums up the works.
A YouGov poll a couple of weeks ago asked:
This May many British cities will vote on whether or not to have directly elected mayors. These mayors would replace council leaders, but will be elected directly by the public, rather than by local councillors. There are already elected mayors in some towns and cities, such as London, Middlesborough, Hartlepool, Watford and Doncaster.
Generally speaking, do you support or oppose the introduction of directly-elected mayors?
That found support of 56% and opposition of 17%.
A Manchester Evening News poll found that in Manchester there was a small majority against. But it doesn't say who conducted the poll.