Labour’s support in decline

Roger Scully breaks down the results of the latest Wales Barometer Poll.

This week sees publication of the fifth 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.

The poll provides us with a valuable opportunity to assess the state of the parties: as the political season resumes after the summer break, the main parties all approach their autumn conferences, and we look forward to a general election next May.

The poll asked our usual questions about voting intentions for next May’s general election, as well for both votes in the National Assembly election. So, what were the findings for Westminster? We got the following results for general election vote intention (with changes from the July Barometer poll in brackets):

  • Labour 38% (-3)

  • Conservative 23% (-2)

  • Plaid Cymru 11% (no change)

  • UKIP 17% (+3)

  • Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

  • Others 6% (+1)

Although Labour remains some way in the lead, this is yet another poll that shows its support continuing to ebb. This 38% score is Labour’s lowest in any published Welsh poll since the 2010 general election.

The Conservatives’ modest decline sees them revert to the level of support they have typically enjoyed in Welsh polls over the last few years, after an unusually high score in July’s Barometer. They remain only a few percentage points short of their performance in the 2010 general election. The contrast with their coalition partners continues to be stark: although they have actually improved a notch since last time, at 6%, Lib-Dem support is more than 14 points below their vote share in 2010. Plaid Cymru continue to hold steady, at a support level pretty much identical with how they did in 2010: although not terrible news, they will probably be disappointed with a lack of progress here. Meanwhile – perhaps boosted by the news of Douglas Carswell’s defection, which came shortly before the fieldwork for this poll was conducted – UKIP continue to advance in their support levels for Westminster.

If the changes since the 2010 general election implied by these figures were repeated uniformly across Wales, this would produce the following outcome in terms of seats (with changes from the 2010 election outcome indicated in brackets):

  • Labour: 28 seats (+2)

  • Conservatives: 8 seats (no change)

  • Plaid Cymru: 3 seats (no change)

  • Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (-2)

Only three seats are projected by this poll to change hands: Labour would capture Cardiff Central from the Liberal Democrats and Cardiff North from the Conservatives, while the Conservatives would take Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats.

What about the National Assembly? For the constituency vote, the results of our new poll were (with changes from May’s Barometer poll in brackets):

  • Labour 36% (-1)

  • Conservative 21% (no change)

  • Plaid Cymru 19% (-1)

  • Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

  • UKIP 12% (-1)

  • Others 6% (+2)

Here too, we see Labour’s support continuing to edge downwards. Although the change since last time is well within the sampling ‘margin of error’, 36% is their lowest support level with YouGov for the Assembly constituency vote since May 2010. The change since July is tiny, but it continues a series of polls that have seen Labour’s support slip considerably over the last 18 months or so. The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru are holding steady; so also are the Lib-Dems though at a much lower level of support. The surprise, perhaps is that UKIP’s rise in support for Westminster is not mirrored here by any advance in their support base for the National Assembly; if anything, they have slipped back.

Applying the changes since the 2011 Assembly election implied by these figures uniformly across Wales, only one constituency seat projected to change hands from 2011 on the figures from this poll: that is Llanelli, being won by Plaid Cymru from Labour.

For the regional list vote, we saw the following results (with changes from the May Barometer poll again indicated):

  • Labour 31% (-3)

  • Conservative 21% (no change)

  • UKIP 17% (+1)

  • Plaid Cymru 16% (-2)

  • Greens 7% (+3)

  • Liberal Democrats 5% (no change)

  • Others 3% (no change)

Once again we see Labour’s support level continuing to erode, as it has consistently over recent polls. Most of the other parties hold more or less steady, within the margin of error – although these figures will again surely be rather disappointing to Plaid Cymru. Perhaps the most interesting feature of these findings is the rise in support for the Greens, who have now moved ahead of the Liberal Democrats on the list vote, relegating the latter to a somewhat ignominious sixth place.

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: 11 (-3); 6 constituency AMs, 5 list AMs

  • Plaid Cymru: 10 (-1); 6 constituency AMs, 4 list AMs

  • UKIP 9 (+9); all 9 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 and the Conservatives. As with the last Barometer poll in May, our new poll projects Kirsty Williams in Brecon & Radnor to be the only remaining Lib Dem AM.

Overall, this poll confirms the continuation of the trend, observable over the last year or more, of Labour support declining. Labour’s support for the Assembly, on both the constituency and list votes, is now not only well below the levels they won in 2011; it is also below the levels won in 1999 and 2003. The saving grace for Labour, however, is that there is now single strong challenger to them emerging. Labour continue to be on the slide, but not other party is taking full advantage of this.

Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at the Wales Governance Centre and Director of Research, Politics of Cardiff University. This piece was originally published on Roger's blog, Elections in Wales (

10 thoughts on “Labour’s support in decline

  1. There is an interesting parallel with the latest news from Sweden, where the left failed to make real gains but benefitted from the collapse of the centre-right to the nationalist right. If nothing changes, this could happen here next year. Interestingly, the bookies – a surer indicator than the polls – have Labour to win most seats but the Conservatives to win most votes. Given the cynical gerrymandering of Labour and the Liberals, this is all too credible.

    So the much-mocked Mr Miliband is actually being clever. He knows that he probably cannot win an overall majority but also that he does not need to. He only needs to be the largest party to make a deal with the Liberals. So he is swinging left to look after his base. He may not win over moderates but he will get his core vote out on the day, and that is what counts.

    Mr Cameron would be well advised to adopt a similar strategy, except that his move has to be in the opposite direction. Unhappily his advisers still seem to think that the UKIP vote is soft and that disgruntled Tories will return to the fold of their own volition without his having to do anything. The data here suggests they are getting it badly wrong. Perhaps Britain will follow a Scandinavian model after all – but not the one centre-left Scandimaniacs prefer.

  2. The basic problem with these opinion polls is that they don’t take into account the possible effect of a narrow Labour win in next year’s UK election. Labour is already committed to sticking to the UK Coalition’s spending targets for the first year for a start and eliminating the deficit by 2020. At the same time the cuts programme by Labour controlled councils will really start to bite. It’s worth looking at the medium term financial strategy reports now being presented to Council cabinets. Millions in service cuts and council tax increases close to 5% each year is not going to make anyone in power very popular. In Carwyn Jones’ own authority we are looking at cuts close to £25 million and a 9.6% council tax increase in the two years running up to 2016. Labour in Wales benefited at the last Assembly election from the existence of the UK Coalition and even then didn’t do that well. If Ed Miliband is in no 10 who are they going to blame? As the state of Hollande’s government in France shows disillusionment can set in pretty quickly. Throw in a non existent or pretty creaky party organisation in many parts of Wales and 2016 could be very interesting.

  3. Yes Roger, Labours support is in decline but then so is Plaid’s. Maybe it’s the left in decline and the right on the rise helped along by disgruntled working class voters going over to UKIP from Plaid and Labour.

  4. You vote UKIP at the UK level if you want to leave the EU and restrict immigration. Since neither foreign policy nor border control is a devolved issue and UKIP has not announced any other firm policies, what are you voting for when you vote UKIP in an Assembly election?

  5. Had to laugh at John Richards’ comment above: “the bookies… have Labour to win most seats but the Conservatives to win most votes. Given the cynical gerrymandering of Labour and the Liberals, this is all too credible”

    One man’s “cynical gerrymandering” is another man’s “targeting strategy”! The FPTP system necessarily means that parties concentrate their resources where they feel they can make the biggest impact – the Lib Dems being historically the best at this. It’s hardly “cynical gerrymandering” to work hardest and get your vote out in your target seats whilst ignoring seats where you’re out of the race. Until / unless we get proportional representation, it’s hard to see the parties doing anything different.

  6. The Tory voters in the poll are still steadfastly against devolution of tax raising power which, when you consider that it is official Con.policy, is strange. 70%-71% against…much as it was last time the question was asked. UKIP also against and Labour just about in favour.
    Makes you wonder where Silk got the idea that we in Wales welcomed the idea of Tax raising powers……64% in favour! Still if they will conduct opinion polls on the Maes what can you expect?

  7. @ J.Jones

    Lol! Well it is the NATIONAL eistedfodd of Wales so therefore it must be a representative reflection of everybody in Wales. I suspect the 01286 dialling code also features quite prominantly in the Silk Poll 🙂

  8. Frank, with respect, there is a world of difference between targeting and gerrymandering. Targeting is simply intelligent allocation of resources. Gerrymandering is drawing constituency boundaries, or preventing their redrawing, in order to maximise party advantage at the expense of a reasonable reflection of popular will. One would have thought proponents of proportional representation – rightly rejected by the people in a referendum – would be the strongest opponents of gerrymandering, but the opposite has proved true. The Liberals in particular, who posed for decades as the champions of a more accurate reflection of the popular will, have revealed themselves as total hypocrites on this point.

    J Jones makes an important point about the disconnection between Conservative policy and Conservative target voters on devolution. If the ‘Yes’ campaign prevails tomorrow by a small margin, it might be because the hasty last-minute concessions prompt some Unionists to wonder why they were bothering and stay home.

  9. “….what are you voting for when you vote UKIP in an Assembly election?” If by “You” you mean “Me” (JJ not Me the poster) then I don’t vote UKIP.

    If on the other hand by “You” you mean “One” then I shall hazard a guess that UKIP represents “None of the above” parties which share a happy consensus on issues like more and more devocreep and more and more “Language measures”.

    UKIP has given evidence to the Commission looking at Silk and has been the only political party that has said that they do not support the devolution of tax raising powers to the Assembly. This is interesting in that they are therefore the only party that shares the majority reluctance to see tax raising powers devolved. They have in fact said that they do not support any further devolution. This is also a majority view (Abolish the assembly plus status quo versus further powers plus independence).

    On the language issue the only promise that they have made is to campaign for freedom of choice for parents to select medium of education for their children EVERYWHERE in Wales not just everywhere but the Fro Cymraeg.

    They may have support there and of course the immigration issue is as relevant in Wales amongst blue collar workers as anywhere else.

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