Carwyn who?

Carwyn Jones

Roger Scully says that new research shows again that Welsh party leaders are far less known that their UK counterparts

What the public think about the party leaders matters. Sure, attitudes to a leader are shaped heavily by what people think about a party. But to at least some extent the reverse can also be the case: views about the party can be influenced by how appealing its leader is.

Party leaders can matter in several ways. For major parties, what the public thinks about a leader as a potential Prime Minister or First Minister can be very important. Second – although this is perhaps particularly important for minor parties – the leader acts as chief spokeperson for that party. Third, there’s good evidence that many people view a leader as a good proxy for the party as a whole: ‘what sort of party would elect a leader like this?’

In our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, YouGov repeated a standard question about the about the leaders of the four main UK-wide parties, plus the four party leaders in the National Assembly, used in several previous Welsh polls, most recently in June. This question asks respondents the following:

“Using a scale that runs from 0 to 10, where 0 means strongly dislike and 10 means strongly like, how do you feel about…”.

There are several interesting elements to the results produced. The first concerns how many people choose ‘Don’t Know’, rather than any point on the 0-10 scale. As I mentioned here last year, while some choose the Don’t Know option because they are genuinely undecided, overall the proportion of people selecting this option is a good indication of a leader’s public visibility. So how many did choose this option for each leader? The table below gives the percentage, and the change since this question was asked in June.

Leader % Don’t Know % change since June 2014
David Cameron 7 +1
Ed Miliband 8 no change
Nick Clegg 8 no change
Nigel Farage 9 no change
Carwyn Jones 21 -1
Andrew RT Davies 43 -2
Kirsty Williams 37 -3
Leanne Wood 36 -3

The obvious thing about this table is that it shows the big difference in public awareness of the main UK party leaders – among whom we must now definitely include Nigel Farage – and the Welsh leaders. Even Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales for five years, is more anonymous with the people of Wales than any of the UK-level leaders. The three opposition leaders in turn are even less well-known – although they do all seem to have improved slightly in this respect since our last poll.

But what about the views of those who did have opinions? Our next table presents two pieces of information: the mean average score for each leader (out of a maximum possible 10, among those offering a view), and the change in this average rating since June:

Leader Mean Average /10 change since June 2014
David Cameron 3.5 +0.1
Ed Miliband 3.6 -0.1
Nick Clegg 3.0 +0.3
Nigel Farage 3.2 -0.3
Carwyn Jones 4.8 +0.2
Andrew RT Davies 3.6 +0.4
Kirsty Williams 4.1 +0.2
Leanne Wood 4.3 +0.3

The first thing to notice is that no leader averages even 5 out of 10. But it is hardly a shock to note that politicians are not very popular. Perhaps more significant is how unpopular all the UK-level leaders are: the lowest-rated Assembly leader, Andrew RT Davies, ranks equally with the most popular UK leader, Ed Miliband.

Looking at the details of the poll, Nigel Farage’s ratings are very interesting. Among the UK-level leaders he score the highest level of 10/10 ratings. But these scores come almost exclusively from those who currently support UKIP. He also scores – by some way – the highest level of 0/10 ratings. There are plenty of people, indeed an increasing number of them, who reallydislike Mr Farage.

Carwyn Jones remains by some way the most popular party leader in Wales – quite an impressive achievement given his now lengthy tenure in office. He remains fully half a point ahead of any other leader. Coming a clear second is Leanne Wood, who also seems to be emerging as a potential electoral asset for her party. Kirsty Williams also continues to score quite well; her personal ratings are just about the one vaguely positive aspect of public attitudes towards her party in Wales.

Overall, these figures do not show a Wales that is exactly in love with its political leaders. Indeed, it is striking that, in general, the leaders that we know the best seem to be the ones that we like the least! There may be a lesson in that, though I’m not quite sure what it is.

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University. This piece is from his blog:

17 thoughts on “Carwyn who?

  1. Is the lesson here that there a scarcity of Welsh specific Media so Welsh so the review and analysis of Welsh politics doesn’t really take place in the public eye – and isn’t subext to the same level of scrutiny as UK politics?

  2. Find your last paragraph interesting Prof Scully but perhaps the answer is in the simple fact that most people of Wales live parallel life to the privileged few and as yet have not realised what Carwyn Jones and other political leaders of Wales stand for and who is the principal beneficiary of post devolution Wales?

    A simple question for you: When did you see or heard any high level public debate on the implications of the Welsh language imposition by Rhodri Morgan first and the same practice continued by Carwyn Jones where education and public employment are used to socially engineer Wales into a ‘bilingual nation’?

    Furthermore, have you seen any sensible, open and frank debate what is the principal reason for appalling standards of the Welsh education and equally matched by the appalling standards of Welsh governance?

    Lets assume those two issues I have raised featured large in the Welsh Media then do you honestly think Carwyn Jones and others will be as ‘popular’ as your statistics imply!?

  3. Omitted an important word ‘invisible’ in my last paragraph which should have read …. will be as ‘popular’ or as ‘invisible’ as your statistics imply?

  4. Dear Glasnost, I applaud your dexterity in trying to turn this into yet another debate on the language. As important an issue as that is (and it has plenty of air time on this site), please, on this occasion give it a rest 🙂

  5. Thank you for publishing my earlier comment Lee and do take your point – All I stand for is openness and honesty in any society and my perceived ‘dig’ at the Welsh language is simply intended to drive home a message that the first comment picked it up which is the distinct lack of scrutiny of Welsh politics and Welsh politicians including their agendas by the Welsh media – In any open society there should never be any ‘Sacred Cows’ or the ‘Invisible Elephants’ – People of Wales need freedom of choice and I’d rather deal with social justice issues or distinct lack of it within the British society rather than the Welsh language!!

  6. Well, if you wrap yourself in a Union Jack, no surprise if the rest of the world thinks you are a spare flagpole…”Spare” being the operative word.

    Why is anyone STILL amazed at the non recognition of the invisible? The grey painted grey?

  7. What do the leaders’ numbers look like if all the ‘Don’t knows’ are scored as zeros?

  8. I must say, I have the impression of Carwyn Jones as the Chief Executive of the Welsh Assembly, rather than as a politician; he seems rather low key, and quite unlike someone such as Alex Salmond, who must be as well-known as Nigel Farage, but possibly much more popular.

  9. If about 30% of welsh people do not know that the NHS is under the management/financial control of the Assembly/WAG then how would they know about Carwyn Jones the First Minister of this semi autonomous region of the UK. The ‘movers and shakers’ in this remote and isolated region are of course obsessed with ‘welshness’ as that how they earn their corn,however to the ordinary public,like me it leaves us cold. The ‘succcess’ of CJ’s is that he doesn’t challenge anything in reality,but is a staunch supporter of ‘welshification’ in all its guises,and if it isn’t moving according to plan then the answer is to throw more money at the problem,and if that doesn’t work then its more money once again. The problem is that the highly educated/welsh speaking/highly paid elite who live in Caerdydd and surrounding areas only really meet/converse with each other and have ‘morfed’ into the same position as the Westminster ‘elite’. Why would any body take an interest as politics down the BAYas its a sideshow as evidenced in recent ‘events at Princess of Wales Hospital where treatment/services for elderly people was atrocious,howver the result has been the ‘scapegoating’ of nurses,whilst managers/politicians at huge salaries have escaped with no sanctions at all. At the same time the CEO of a LA in West Wales was provided with a FERRARI!!.It stinks and that why people are turned off.

  10. On matters even remotely tangential to the language, Mr. Protic (for, once again, it is he) does not merely have some ‘issues’; he has the full run of them, complete with the limited-edition ring binders to keep them in.

    With regard to Carwyn Jones, here we have a politician so featureless and anodyne that, in his own living room, he would be in danger of being mistaken for an item of furniture. Compare and contrast with Scotland, whose recently-departed First Minister has put his country firmly on the map not just in UK terms, but across this continent (the fact that the Unionist parties and the totally Unionist media have tried – and largely failed – to turn him into a latter-day folk-devil is testament to his effectiveness).

    Meanwhile, here in Gwalia Hen, we have a supposed ‘leader’ who would perhaps pass muster as a regional under-manager of a mid-sized insurance company, albeit in a thin year. In this, however, he is at least consistent with the alleged ‘government’ he manages, in that unthreatening mediocrity is his – and their – defining characteristic.

  11. That’s an interesting observation, Alice. I think it’s a function of the fact that there is no serious challenger to Labour as the dominant party even though they’ve never had a majority. Carwyn Jones can be fairly relaxed about his position as First Minister because of that. He is more likely to face a challenge from within his party than from without. But as I understand it, Labour in Wales prefers electoral contests for the leadership only when the previous incumbent has indicated his readiness to stand down.

    The most recent opinion poll conducted by YouGov (8th Dec) has indicated that Labour is currently on course to win 28 of the 60 seats at the national election in 2016. There’s still 17 months to go of course and the results of the general election next May will have its impact on voting intentions in the following year. However that would indicate another Lab-Plaid coalition which would give the Government a working majority of 8.

    So until Labour has to fight to retain its political dominance, Chief Executive is a good description of his position.

  12. In a democracy people get the government they deserve. Yes, there is a big problem with the media in Wales but if people wanted to be informed they could be. Most people just don’t bother and they vote, if at all, out of habit. That is their right but then they should stop complaining about politicians. If they are lazy and complacent like Carwyn Jones that is what the voters let them be by not paying attention. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes watching Assembly debates live or on the box knows that Kirstie Williams is far more effective and energetic than any of the other party leaders, whether you agree with her or not. The fact that Carwyn, who is happy to preside over drift, ranks higher underlines the fact that our electorate doesn’t know what’s going on. They get what they deserve. That is the benefit of devolution: we get what we deserve not what English votes happen to impose on us.

  13. John Walker. The legal rule is: silence signifies assent. If people don’t vote they accede to what is going on. And if they don’t know, they don’t know. Losers always claim the don’t knows and non-voters are on their side really. Stop kidding yourself.

  14. What is depressing about all of this is that the next Assembly election will be fought not on the voters views of the performance of the political parties in Wales but again on voters’ views of the Westminster government a year after the 2015 UK election. Welsh politicians don’t help by continuing even though the Assembly has law-making powers to blame everything on whoever runs the UK government. We saw it again this morning with Carwyn Jones arguing that he didn’t know where health in Wales would be if the Tories win in 2015. This is despite the evidence as Anne Perkins points out in today’s Guardian that all the political parties including the Tories are committed to spending more money on health in England. As a result though the Barnett consequential Wales will get more money. We were promised in the last referendum that law making powers would end the blame culture and lead to a more mature political culture. Some of us are still waiting!

  15. Why would any of the mainstream parties even want a more informed and active electorate? Despite all the “dam breaking” cant of 1997 this is now a service administration with its secure and specific societal place in the sun. Its collective “politics” is its own continuence as a class. “L’etat, …cest us”

    Why else do we have an Economics Minister who does “not do media” and is allowed to get away with that year on year with a collective shrug/smile of political/media class shoulders. Accountability? Well, maybe to (Sir) Terry Mathews but was that REALLY the point to all this? To quote Peggy “Dowlais” Lee…”Is that all there is?”

  16. Not sure about the methodology here Mr Scully. When you compare the popularity of UK and Welsh Assembly leaders how big are the two populations. Those who know the Assembly politicians are presumably a small subset of the group that know the UK leaders.You are not comparing like with like.

  17. Richard Harris is 100 per cent right. The solution is in the electorate’s hand. Those of us who cling to a belief in democracy look forward to the day when they will throw the rascals out. We’ll get new rascals perhaps but at least they will fear the electorate. This lot don’t.

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