Three-way fight for second place in May’s elections?

Roger Scully discusses the results of the latest Wales Barometer poll on voting intention for the Welsh Assembly Elections.

Labour remains well in the lead for May’s National Assembly election, while the continued rise of UKIP threatens a three-way fight for second place. Those are key findings from this week’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll, which provides the first measure of public support for the political parties in 2016.

As we approach the start of the campaign for this year’s National Assembly election, we sought to assess how well each of the main parties are currently doing. As with all our previous Barometer polls, we asked respondents how they intended to vote on both the constituency and regional ballots for the National Assembly election. Here are the figures for the constituency vote (with changes on our previous poll, in December, in brackets):

Labour: 34% (-1)

Conservatives: 22% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 19% (-1)

UKIP: 18% (+3)

Liberal Democrats: 5% (no change)

Others: 2% (-1)

So here we see only very small downwards changes, all well within the standard ‘margin of error’, for the largest three parties, but a more significant upwards move for UKIP. Having also increased their support in our previous poll, UKIP are now some five points up on where they were in the September Barometer poll.

Applying the changes since 2011 indicated by this poll uniformly across Wales, the figures project three constituency seats to change hands: the Conservatives would gain Cardiff North, Plaid Cymru would take Llanelli, and the Liberal Democrats would capture Cardiff Central. All three gains would be at the expense of Labour.

The figures for the regional vote were like this (with changes from the previous Barometer poll again indicated):

Labour: 31% (-3)

Conservatives: 22% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 19% (+1)

UKIP: 18% (+2)

Liberal Democrats: 4% (no change)

Greens: 3% (-1)

Others: 3% (+1)

Again assuming uniform swings since the 2011 election across Wales, and after taking into account the distribution of constituency seats, this gives us the following projected distribution of the regional seats:

North Wales: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 UKIP

South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru, 1 UKIP

South Wales Central: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

South Wales East: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

Combining both sets of figures produces the following overall outcome for the National Assembly:

Labour: 27 seats (25 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

Conservatives: 12 seats (7 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

UKIP: 9 seats (9 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

Labour thus remain a long way ahead of the field. But after our December poll witnessing the rapid deflation of the ‘Corbyn bounce’ that we saw in September, this poll again has their support slipping a little further. At this point before the 2011 National Assembly election, the most recent poll had put Labour on 45% for the constituency vote and 41% for the list vote; in the following poll they would hit 48% and 45% respectively. So Labour are currently running ten percentage points or more below where they were five years ago, and seemingly heading in the opposite direction.

Labour’s saving grace continues to be the divided nature of the opposition to them. The two main opposition parties in the Assembly are essentially stagnant in this poll, a finding that does not bode well for the chances of either the Conservatives or Plaid Cymru making the large numbers of constituency gains that they would need to challenge Labour’s dominance in the Assembly. Meanwhile, the fourth party in the Assembly, the Liberal Democrats, have made no progress whatsoever – even though the fieldwork for this poll was conducted in the immediate aftermath of their Welsh conference last weekend. Unless the Liberal Democrats can stage some sort of revival by May even holding two seats may be an optimistic prognosis for them.

The clear gainers in this poll are UKIP. This is, in some respects, very strange: the party has been subject to significant internal divisions recently, particularly in Wales, and has attracted substantial negative publicity. For ‘normal’ parties you would expect such developments to generate a loss in public support. But for UKIP this does not appear to be the case. Indeed, the opposite is true – their support continues to grow. The party continues to be on course to enter the Assembly in significant numbers after May’s election.

As we move ever closer to the Assembly election, voter turnout will become increasingly important. Voter participation rates tend to be much lower in devolved elections than general elections; this makes it all the more important which parties are able to mobilise their support to get out on the day. So, as in our previous Barometer poll, we have once again asked people they are to vote in the National Assembly election. Respondents were asked to place themselves on a 0-10 scale, where 0 meant that definitely would not vote in next year’s Assembly election and 10 meant that they definitely would vote. Once again, the overall percentage claiming that they will definitely vote – some 58% – is probably over-stating the likely turnout in May: for various reasons internet polls do tend to give rather inflated estimates of turnout rates. Far more important, I think, are the differences in likelihood to vote between the supporters of the different parties. Here are the average scores out of ten for those indicating they would vote for each party on the constituency vote:

Labour: 9.24

Conservatives: 8.89

Plaid Cymru: 8.89

UKIP: 9.11

Lib-Dems: 8.63

In our previous poll it was supporters of Plaid Cymru and UKIP who appeared the most motivated to take part in the Assembly election, while motivation was to be the lowest for Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This time around we find Labour and UKIP leading the way in likelihood to vote, while the remaining Liberal Democrat supporters score clearly the lowest. However, the differences remain fairly small, and the parties still have many weeks to more effectively mobilise their support. If we weight the voting intention figures for the National Assembly election by respondents’ stated likelihood to vote, it actually makes almost no difference to the numbers, which now come out as follows:

Constituency Region
Labour 35% 32%
Conservative 22% 21%
Plaid Cymru 19% 19%
UKIP 18% 18%
Liberal Democrats 5% 4%
Others 2% 6%

The poll for ITV and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre had a sample of 1024 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 9-11 February 2016.


As has become customary, for the benefit of the cognoscenti who read this blog, I have also computed Ratio Swing projections from our poll.

For the National Assembly, Ratio Swing, as with UNS, projects three constituency seats to change hands. But one of the seats is different. While Ratio Swing still projects Llanelli to be gained by Plaid Cymru from Labour, and Cardiff North to be gained by the Conservatives from Labour, the third seat is now not Cardiff Central but Brecon and Radnor, projected to be gained by the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats.

For the regional list seats, Ratio Swing produces the following projections:

North Wales: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 UKIP

South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru, 1 UKIP

South Wales Central: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

South Wales East: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru

In short, for the regional seats Ratio Swing produces exactly the same projections for this poll as does UNS!

Overall, a Ratio Swing projection of this poll therefore generates the following outcome for the Assembly election:

Labour: 28 seats (26 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

Conservatives: 13 seats (8 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

UKIP: 9 seats (9 list seats)

Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre. This blog first appeared on his site:

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