Roger Scully reveals new findings on how Wales intends to vote
This week sees publication of the third poll conducted by the Welsh Political Barometer – a unique collaboration between ITV Cymru Wales, the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, and the leading polling agency YouGov.
With the European election this Thursday, what did respondents to our poll say that they were likely to do? We asked them two important questions: how likely they were to vote, and which way they would vote if they did turn out.
Only slightly more than half (55) of our survey respondents said, on a 0-10 scale, they were 10/10 ‘definitely’ going to vote. This suggests that many voters are unlikely to participate in the election – as is normal in European elections. What is really interesting, however, is the pattern of which party’s voters are most likely to take part.
Looking at the voting preferences of all survey respondents for the European election, we got the following result (with changes on February’s Barometer poll in brackets):
- Labour 33% (-6)
- UKIP 23% (+5)
- Conservative 16% (-1)
- Plaid Cymru 15% (+3)
- Liberal Democrats 7% (no change)
- Others 8% (+1)
These results are interesting enough in themselves – showing UKIP continuing their rise (with their European vote intention now 10% higher than in December’s inaugural Barometer poll) and the Labour vote slipping rather alarmingly. But they get even more interesting when we look at whose voters are most likely to turn out. Plaid Cymru voters seem rather more certain to take part than supporters of the other main parties. Among those saying that they are definitely going to vote in the European election, we see the following levels of support:
- Labour 32%
- UKIP 22%
- Conservative 16%
- Plaid Cymru 17%
- Liberal Democrats 7%
- Others 5%
If this latter set of figures were replicated on election day, Labour, UKIP and Plaid Cymru would each win one MEP. The final one of Wales’ four seats in the European Parliament is, on these figures, literally a dead heat between Labour and the Conservatives! However, with only 600 Barometer respondents being definite voters, the poll has a margin of error of 4%: this suggests that while Labour and UKIP are both very likely to win one MEP, the final two seats are a three-cornered fight between Labour, the Tories and Plaid Cymru. Who will be left without a seat when the music stops?
What about voting intentions for the next general election and National Assembly election? Here the picture is once again of Labour seeing its support levels decline, while UKIP are the main beneficiaries.
First, Westminster: our poll got the following results for general election vote intention (with changes from the February Barometer poll in brackets):
- Labour 43% (-4)
- Conservative 22% (no change)
- Plaid Cymru 11% (no change)
- UKIP 13% (+4)
- Liberal Democrats 7% (no change)
- Others 4% (no change)
Although Labour is still well in the lead, it is worth noting that 43% is their lowest level of general election support in Wales found by YouGov since before the 2010 general election.
If the changes since 2010 implied by these figures were repeated uniformly across Wales, this would produce the following outcome in terms of seats:
- Labour: 31 seats (+5)
- Conservatives: 5 seats (-3)
- Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (-1)
- Plaid Cymru: 2 seats (-1)
The seats to change hands would all be won by Labour: Arfon from Plaid Cymru; Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan, and Cardiff North from the Conservatives; and Cardiff Central from the Liberal Democrats. Labour would also retain all of the 26 seats they won in 2010.
In short, the poll indicates that Labour is still on course to make ground in Wales at the next general election. But the party must be rather concerned at the extent to which its support level has fallen – two years ago Labour was consistently polling above 50% in Wales.
What about the National Assembly? For the constituency vote, the results of our new poll were (with changes from February’s Barometer poll in brackets):
- Labour 39% (-3)
- Conservative 20% (-1)
- Plaid Cymru 19% (no change)
- Liberal Democrats 8% (-1)
- UKIP 10% (+5)
- Others 3% (no change)
The only constituency seat projected to change hands from 2011 on the figures from this poll is Llanelli, being won by Plaid Cymru from Labour.
For the regional list vote, we saw the following results (with changes from the February Barometer poll again indicated):
- Labour 35% (-4)
- Conservative 19% (no change)
- Plaid Cymru 17% (no change)
- UKIP 14% (+4)
- Liberal Democrats 7% (-2)
- Others 8% (+2)
Again, on both votes here the main change overall is Labour losing ground while UKIP advances.
Taking into account both the constituency and list results, this produces the following projected seat outcome for a National Assembly election (with aggregate changes from 2011 indicated in brackets):
- Labour: 29 (-1); 27 constituency AMs, 2 list AMs
- Conservative: 12 (-2); 6 constituency AMs, 6 list AMs
- Plaid Cymru: 10 (-1); 6 constituency AMs, 4 list AMs
- UKIP 8 (+8); all 8 would be list AMs
- Liberal Democrats: 1 (-4); 1 constituency AM
These projections indicate the possibility, on the results implied by the current poll, of UKIP becoming a significant force within the National Assembly, and largely doing so at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Our poll currently projects Kirsty Williams to be the only remaining Lib Dem AM – leader of a party of one.
As with the figures for a general election, these findings show that while Labour are still the party in the strongest position, that position has slipped noticeably. The last time that Labour was as low as 39% on the constituency vote in a poll in Wales was just after the 2010 UK general election, and Labour’s support level has slipped more than 10% since 2012. At the moment, and for the first time since the last Assembly election, Labour is on course slightly to lose ground at the next devolved election, rather than be challenging strongly for an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
Finally, another question asked by this month’s Barometer poll was about how people would vote in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. You might well expect that, given the rising tide in UKIP support, the poll would show a growth in Welsh Euro-scepticism and support for Britain leaving the EU. Actually we found the exact opposite! 44% of respondents said they would in favour of Britain remaining within the EU (3% more than in February’s Barometer poll), while 33% said they would vote to leave the EU – fully 5% down on February’s poll. Perhaps UKIP’s rise is provoking a counter-reaction among others in Wales?.
17 thoughts on “Polling trends show UKIP still on the rise”
One of the interesting comparisons is between Scotland, Wales and the UK regarding the level of UKIP support. I tried to find separate data for England but unsuccessfully.
The level of support for UKIP is roughly as follows:
Admittedly this is the most recent snapshot and there are variations between different polling organisations. But it does support the view that this is a trend that is having its greatest effect in England. Presumably the lower results in both Scotland and Wales suggest that support in England is a lot higher than the 33% for the UK as a whole.
Analysing the situation in Wales requires care. I had thought that UKIP may be providing a voice that is discontented with the degree and pace of constitutional change that has affected the UK over the past as well as, of course, the economic difficulties that the whole of Europe is facing.
But having just witnessed the debate on the Sharp End, there was no mention of discontent with devolution and Farage is on record as saying he is relaxed about it. I would tentatively suggest that it is the same message that is being heard in both England and Wales but the response is less vocal here. It is clearly still a significant level of support if UKIP retains its Welsh seat in Europe as looks likely. But it reinforces Jill Evans’ point of view, expressed a while back, that the difference is explained by the difference in centres of political gravity between the three nations.
I must admit that if UKIP were to take 8 seats in the Assembly, then that would represent a political earthquake in Wales and would certain challenge the above hypothesis quite seriously. That said, if it were to materialise, then it would be back to a Labour/Plaid, in other words a left of centre, coalition with an overall majority of 9 seats, in other words a different centre of political gravity.
I like this ComRes EU Regional poll better – it’s suggesting the MEPs in the EU Region known locally as Wales might be Llafur 2 UKIP 2… They have Llafur on 33% and UKIP on 31% with Plaid down on 14% – weighted for intention to vote since people who vote are the only ones who count.
I don’t buy lottery tickets and I like to take one election at a time…
There has been a general anti-Establishment mood among voters since the Expenses Scandal. Our party system has left it nowhere to go so far, but the otherwise pointless Euro elections and their PR system give the opportunity for the public to vent their frustration without consequences, and UKIP are the beneficiaries of this. If they are stronger in England than Wales and Scotland, it is in part because the Welsh and Scottish nationalists have always been conduits for anti-Establishment feelings here. If it is different in Wales this year, it is because Plaid are badly out of position.
It all comes down to turnout. If the supporters of the main parties decide to stay at home, UKIP could do much better than expected on a low poll. It is not entirely inconceivable – not likely but still definitely within the realm of possibility – that they could be the most popular party in Wales on Thursday.
If so, it has nothing to do with public support for UKIP policies. UKIP are simply to most convenient way for the public to express their discontent with the main parties.
UKIP’s success is most unlikely to extend to the Assembly elections. A properly organised and financed party might do very well on an aggressively anti-Assembly platform in those elections, but UKIP does not appear interested in being that party, and there is no one Wales willing and able to organise and finance one.
Almost a year ago, Plaid MEP Jill Evans tried to argue on this site that England’s and Wales’s political cultures were diverging (“While England shifts right Wales goes left”, ClickOnWales, May 29 2013, http://www.clickonwales.org/2013/05/while-england-shifts-right-wales-goes-left/). I criticised her dodgy evidence and was attacked for displaying “an imperialist mindset” and denying Welsh national distinctiveness. Now, with UKIP’s rise mirroring that in England (albeit from a lower starting point) and with the party polling ahead of Plaid at a European and Westminster level and coming up fast on everyone else in Assembly voting intentions, there can’t be much doubt that Welsh voters are behaving more, not less, like their English counterparts.
The challenge I have with all this is that UKIP are not a credible political party with no MPs, no SNPs, no AMs and a handful of MEP seats and a few members of the House of Lords and yet here we are all badgering on about them as if they are either the new Messiah in politics or the Devil depending on opinion. They are neither. They do not even have a clear stated policy on Immigration. On Immigration of all things! The policies they do have are not worked out and are fiscally very right wing and socially completely unclear. They pretend that they are not a one issue party – to get us out of the European Union [ and replace it with individual trade agreements] which is ludicrous. So to me a vote for UKIP is a vote for the unknown.
When is a difference not a difference? Do two things need to be completely different to be ‘different’ and for that difference to be important or of academic interest?
If you in fact accept that there are still important and interesting differences, and are only arguing that there is some sort of process of convergence taking place in the background (which presumably over time will result in no differences or no differences of any consequence)*, doesn’t a whole host of other factors at least complicate that picture a little, and even contradict it some might argue? Are you entirely sure that the traffic is all one way?
For example, is an increase in the UKIP vote a viable indicator for the evolving nature of the ‘political culture’ of the 80% who didn’t vote for them? Could that rise be an indicator of a growing polarisation in Welsh politics rather than a convergence with England? What comfort do we take for our theory of convergence that even when 65% of the Welsh electorate are voting for the ‘British’ parties (Labour, Cons and Libs), they are actually voting for parties that increasingly support greater political and economic distinction between England and Wales? Are we sure ‘what’ they are voting for? In a non-devolved election like the Euros for example are Labour voters in Wales voting in support of, or in spite of, Ed Milliband? Is Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour the ‘point de capiton’ in Lacan’s ideological terms or New Labour and Ed Balls? What analytical benefit does study of ‘behaviour’ bring us without concurrent analysis of the context and out-comes? To what extent do individuals ever constitute or determine a political culture anyway? Do not economic and power elites ultimately determine the political direction of a country? What is the direction of travel of that power elite in Wales? What is its political culture?
Having asked and answered questions of this sort, you may still conclude that you see a convergence of Welsh political culture with England rather than a divergence. You are entitled to your view of course, I just wonder whether you hold it more in hope than in expectation?
* I hold that geographical convergence of political cultures is improbable in a state where economic imbalances, different patterns of urbanization/rurality, different levels of immigration, different languages and cultures, etc., etc. exist on a geographic basis.
Still waiting for a Liberal Democrat leaflet. Does the party still exist in Wales?
“Plaid Cymru voters seem rather more certain to take part than supporters of the other main parties”
Touché! The words ‘fanatical’, ‘fervent’ and ‘obsessive’ spring to mind!
Isn’t it amazing what they will call you ‘anti-Welsh’ for… Just ask Sam Warburton! It seems stating the truth (as in your case) will also herald such cries. The parallels with certain historical totalitarian regimes does not go unnoticed!
I don’t support any party and im not sure ill even vote on Thursday but while there lots of hypothesis about why UKIP is doing well, there is a more scientific answer the IPPR Think Tank commissioned an opinion poll a while back that showed those who vote UKIP see it as reflecting English nationalism and they identify far more as English than British.
So UKIP’s strength in Wales whilst certainly containing a element of protest vote against the rotten political establishment could be interpreted as UKIP’s brand of English Nationalism being more appealing to Welsh votes than Plaid Cymru’s Welsh Nationalism. There are caveats of course such as 25% of the welsh population was born in England and Labour, Lib Dems and Tories have small n, nationalists in their ranks that attract welsh nationalist votes but we whatever happens after Thursday Welsh politics is finally getting interesting again.
A lot of questions, not all of which, with respect, appear strictly relevant. Those nestled in your second block of questions (to what extent is support for UKIP a leading indicator of wider behaviour and what can we read into support for the parties at different elections) are the most germane and interesting. On the first, it was Jill Evans rather than me who posited the idea that growing support for UKIP in England – in contrast to Wales – indicated a divergence in political culture. I merely pointed out that since her premise was false the conclusion could not safely be accepted.
The second was an area we discussed following Jill Evans’s piece, with me suggesting that voters treated the Assembly elections as a second order contest, i.e they vote in those elections based on their preferences in the first order elections (for Westminster). That’s a generalisation of course, but I suspect it’s a phenomenon that’s even more marked in the European Parliament elections. In Wales, I’d suggest it supports the theory I’ve put forward of how voters are behaving in Wales. The dominant factors shaping the Welsh electorate’s behaviour don’t appear to be distinctively Welsh, but recognisably British and are consistent with voting behaviour found in parts of England with similar socio-economic and/or geographical features.
Part of the problem here is that the creation of the Welsh Assembly marked such an important shift in the way Wales is governed that a lot of people over-interpreted its cultural and political impact, while others still merely will those impacts to be greater than they are. In some instances, the institutional imperative is to emphasise the distinctiveness and play down the commonalities (the organisation behind this site is a case in point; a think tank dedicated to “Welsh Affairs” is by its nature signed up to the proposition that the differences matter more than the similarities). It is, as Wyn Roberts once complained, as if the overwhelming narrative of Wales since 1999 has been “to make devolution the climax of our achievement”.
Yet for all of that, Welsh life (as I now perceive it from England) is not shaped just by Welsh events or Welsh culture. It continues to be subject to all the wider forces – global, European, British. The fact that Welsh voters are behaving much like their comparable English counterparts shouldn’t, in this context, be even an especially controversial observation – and yet it is taken to be some sort of heretical denial of Welsh national identity. If you continue to see the Welsh Assembly as a handmaid to a starkly different (and presumably ultimately separate) polity you are likely to interpret such claims like that. If instead you regard devolution for what it is – a better, more local system of government – it might look a bit different.
The one stat that has been forgotten throughout the whole of this election campaign is that 9.1% of all MEPs elected under UKIP’s banner to date have subsequently been convicted and sent to prison for, well financial malpractice of a scale large enough to deserve jailing. Does any other party in Europe enjoy a higher imprisonment rate?
It also suggests that their relationship with Europe as a honeypot is a lot more affectionate than it is meant. Now this is of course no guide to the future, but as every financial intermediary will tell you, a track record is what matters.
Well done to Victoria for pointing out the elephant in the room- with over 500,000 people in Wales born in England is there any wonder how UKIP, the English National Party, have more support than Plaid in the European elections?
Well Ben S I think you are missing the point…..
what about the other 2.5 million of us?? What is Plaid’s excuse for being of absolutely no relevance to us? The (somewhat stereotyping and racist) way you just put it, UKIP have picked up more support from 500,000 English born than Plaid can manage to pick up from 2.5 million Welsh born. It’s both pitiful and embarrasing when you think about it!
“We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” JFK 1961
Duplicity has never been a problem for UKIP. UKIP in Wales is a bonkers proposition – a party looking to impose views of a British cultural identity opposes almost all immigration. Will UKIP be putting up candidates in Tuscany the Dordogne or maybe the costs del sol next– areas where they may very well have strong support. How can you supposedly purport to represent indigenous views using a non-indigenous population base.
What exactly is the end game for UKIP – is it a few clever, but dangerous individuals having their day and some fun, is leaving the EU and banning most immigration the end goal or is a plan to generally unsettle the whole establishment?.
I wonder how the Farage project will develop, using the project management joke format that abounds on the internet.
3. Panic and hysteria
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and honor for the nonparticipants
We are currently in the stages of enthusiasm – will panic and hysteria kick in, if we actually leave Europe and when it all goes wrong, who is going to blamed and rewarded?
Firstly, please do not interpret my challenging of your statements as support for anyone else’s. I didn’t say as much and wouldn’t do so, since I haven’t even read the piece you refer to by Jill Evans. I challenge your assumptions on their own merit and according to my own reasoning. You will also note that whilst I did challenge your ‘conclusions’ I did not offer my own, so it is a little premature of you to infer some ‘over-estimation’ of one type or another or an alignment with a real or imagined counter argument to your own. For what it is worth, and out of respect for you, I will do that presently and you can then criticise to your heart’s content.
My (convoluted) point was that you are trying to substantiate a rather grand statement of general socio-political theory (‘Welsh political culture is converging with English political culture’) on the basis of limited and isolated evidence. A statement of such proportions requires rather more elaboration in my opinion. The questions were (haphazardly) spat out simply as examples of areas one would need to consider if one were to answer the question more fully (but apologies for the untidiness). However, if you find them ‘irrelevant’, I’m afraid, perhaps, our coordinates of critical reference are too far apart to fruitfully continue any discussion. Some of them in my opinion are absolutely crucial if you wish to discuss ‘political culture’ seriously.
However, you seem in your last post to have shifted away from a statement about ‘political culture’ to ‘voter behaviour’ only. These are different things, and since I have no evidence to the contrary, I’ll accept your citing of behavioural analyses as read, though perhaps you could provide a source for the opinion surveys as I would be genuinely interested in reading them? Having read them, though, I imagine I will come back to the same question as always: if Welsh voters behave no differently to English voters why are there free prescriptions in Wales, ‘free schools’ in England, different GCSE regimes about to be launched, etc., etc.? If anything, there is a prospect of greater divergence of political outcome than of convergence, isn’t there? Surely political outcomes in a given area have a causal relationship with political cultures? Could it be that political cultures are a bit more complex than superficial voting patterns suggest? And that any analysis of changes in political culture would need to lift the lid on a whole range of other factors?
My own explanation of the political culture of Wales vis-à-vis England (in as much as you can grapple with that subject in a few sentences) is that :
– The Welsh ‘political culture’ is both vertically (through hierarchies of societal power for example) and horizontally (across a spectrum of fields and interests) diverse and independently variable. It is a dynamic paradigm, if you like, on several dimensions.
– It is already the same as England in some quadrants of that paradigm (and has been for a long time)
– Where it isn’t currently the same it is perhaps converging in others (e.g. those that are influenced by global socio-economic, consumer and technological trends and driven by UK/global power interventions)
– It is different to England in other quadrants of the paradigm (and has been for a long time)
– It is diverging in quadrants that were previously the same and diverging further in quadrants that were already different (e.g. those largely influenced by local factors and driven by local power units)
– Not all levels of the power hierarchy have equal influence on political outcomes
– Fields and interests across the political spectrum vary in their absolute and relative ‘importance’ to everyday life
Wales’s political culture is and continues to be different (at the margins) to England but in different ways to the past (the paradigm is dynamic). However, the distribution of those differences in hierarchical and subject matter terms does result in disproportionate divergence of political outcomes vis-à-vis England (that was possible before devolution – local government, separate Westminster acts, Welsh Office executive action – but is greatly enhanced by it).
The extent to which you believe much greater convergence or greater divergence is likely in the future depends on your view of the paradigm in which Wales sits. If you don’t believe that it has changed that much then not much will change in the future. If there has been a significant paradigm shift in one direction or another, greater divergence is a logical outcome. In that respect I agree with your statement that a lot of the ‘predictive’ thinking depends on how much you think the Welsh paradigm has been changed by devolution, changes that have already been embedded by devolution but whose effects have not been seen yet, and imminent changes that are likely to happen in, say, the next 5 years.
I’m genuinely agnostic about that, but my agnosticism naturally leads to caution regarding your very assertive claims for convergence.
@ comeoffit- (I wonder why you can’t post with your real name like the rest of us?) Plaid run local authorities, have been in coalition government in Cardiff twice, have been either the 2nd or 3rd biggest party in the Assembly since its inception, have MPs (yes, plural) and members of the House of Lords and one MEP member as well as actual heartlands. What does UKIP have? And you have the tunnelled vision tenacity to say Plaid are irrelevant?
My point was that, as has been pointed out by research (link- http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/articles/new-research-finds-ukip-is-becoming-patriotic-party-of-england-10914.html), UKIP is a party for English Nationalism (sometimes the synonym British Nationalism is used) and it is rather a coincidence that a so called rise in popularity for the nasty little party has happened in Wales with a population which overwhelmingly votes left? The English element plays a role.
I am not denying Euroscepticism is soley an English matter, but most people in Wales would stay in the EU given the chance to be asked, rather that the Welsh voice being drowned out by the Farage mania of the Great British BBC.
Let me start with some apologies. First, sorry for creating the impression that the tail end of my last reply assumed your support for a given position. I’m afraid it was just sloppy use of the second person pronoun. Second, apologies for suggesting you and I had discussed this topic before in the comments section of the Jill Evans piece. I did have a discussion with a Phil Davies (see http://www.clickonwales.org/2013/05/while-england-shifts-right-wales-goes-left/) but it seems that wasn’t you. Finally, I didn’t mean to be rude in suggesting some of your questions were irrelevant. I suspect how central you and I find those questions goes the guts of the slight cross-purpose at which we are discussing this subject.
You suggest that “political culture” and “voter behaviour” are two different concepts, while I have used them interchangeably. In my defence, I’ve always used them interchangeably rather than having “shifted away” as you suggest. My argument is that Welsh voters are either behaving more like English voters or, at the absolute minimum, are not behaving less differently, as was suggested. The polling figures quoted in this article suggest this, as do those I cited in my comments to the Jill Evans piece.
Jill Evans’s original piece implied that the voter behaviour shaped the political culture. I kept to those terms of reference in large part because I find it a plausible proposition. Levels of support for the major political parties is a key measure of Welsh public opinion about politics and Welsh public opinion about politics is a good approximation of political culture. So I think it’s reasonable to conflate the terms.
Levels of support obviously can’t tell us everything about public opinion. They are a blunt measure that leaves room for precisely the speculation about motives in which we’ve indulged here. Their very bluntness is the reason why people like Roger Scully exist to try and interpret what they mean and why qualitative as well as quantitative research is carried out. I also accept that there’s an interesting (if perhaps slightly recondite) argument to be had about the precise relationship between voting behaviour and political culture as well as the more sociological perspective that you appear to endorse. I’m not arguing against those latter claims, they’re just not what I’m arguing here.
One major caveat is that England is also a diverse, or perhaps polarised, place in terms of voting intentions; so to talk of English voters is perhaps difficult. Indeed, there are large swathes of England where the voting patterns are much more consistent with Welsh voter behaviour than in other parts of England. That has largely been my point all along, i.e that Welsh voting behaviour is consistent with voting behaviour in those parts of England with similar socio-economic and/or geographical features.
You ask why, if that is so, there are a number of public policy divergences between England and Wales. I suggest that is a consequence of devolution and the fact that, unlike in similar parts of England, policies can be more closely tailored to the prevalent circumstances. If English regional devolution had taken place, along similar lines as Welsh devolution we might today find policy convergence between those regions and Wales to match the voter behaviour convergence.
Of course it didn’t, and that the fact that Wales was offered devolution while the English regions weren’t (the north east of England was offered a much weaker form and turned it down) demonstrates that there are differences that manifest themselves in the political culture between the two. I’ve never denied that, incidentally; all I’ve said is that despite it and the view that devolution would accelerate those differences, the opposite appears to be happening as measured by voting behaviour.
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