Degradation of polymeric insulation due to surface electrical discharge activity will become a more serious issue, as these materials find more widespread use. In order to improve their resistance to degradation, tests need to be performed under controlled conditions in order to rank different materials. Whilst electrical discharge activity can be simulated in the laboratory this is difficult to localize and characterize. An alternative is to use a laser to impart a known amount of energy at a known rate to a sample surface. In this investigation, the resistance of various material formulations to laser induced surface damage was tested and the materials ranked. The results are discussed in terms of the material composition and final application.