The July Welsh Political Barometer Poll

Roger Scully outlines the results of the latest Wales Barometer Poll.

The Labour party has fallen to its lowest level of support for both Westminster and the National Assembly since before the 2010 general election; meanwhile, Plaid Cymru have risen to the highest levels of support ever in a YouGov poll in Wales.

These are among the key findings from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, the first opinion poll to be conducted in Wales since last month’s EU referendum. The period immediately prior to the fieldwork for the poll also saw the Prime Minister announce his resignation and the start of the Conservative leadership contest, as well as the departure of more than half of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

What has been the impact of these events on support for the parties in Wales? As usual, we asked people how they would vote both in a general election for the House of Commons and also in an election for the National Assembly.

First, Westminster. Here are the figures from our new poll (with changes from the last Barometer poll, conducted at the beginning of June, indicated in brackets):

Labour 34% (-5)
Conservative 23% (+1)
Plaid Cymru 16% (+2)
UKIP 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+2)
Others 3% (+1)

After a relatively good score for Westminster last time, we see Labour now slipping back a full five percentage points. Given the chaos surrounding the party leadership and shadow cabinet in recent times this can probably not be viewed as surprising. Labour had not previously fallen below 36% for Westminster in any poll conducted in Wales since the May 2010 general election. So this is unambiguously bad news for the party.

However, the Conservatives have had their own problems and have not been in much of a position to take advantage. They edge up only very marginally here, and to a support level that is still more than four points short of their Welsh vote share at last year’s general election. Meanwhile, post-referendum UKIP support actually appears to have slipped slightly, while that for the Liberal Democrats has moved up by a couple of points.

It is Plaid Cymru who will probably be most pleased by these results. Our previous Barometer poll had equalled Plaid’s highest Westminster support level with YouGov since October 2009; rather than slip back slightly towards their long-term average, they have now advanced two points further. The 16% Plaid score here is better than they have ever done in a YouGov poll in Wales.

If we take the changes to party support since the May 2015 general election implied by this poll and apply them uniformly across Wales, we get the following projected result (with all seats won by a party at last year’s general election remaining in their hands unless stated otherwise):

Labour: 26 seats (gaining Gower and Vale of Clwyd, but losing Ynys Môn)
Conservative: 9 seats (losing Gower and Vale of Clwyd)
Plaid Cymru: 4 seats (gaining Ynys Môn)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (no change)

What about for the National Assembly? I’ll start as per usual with the constituency vote. Here are the findings from our poll (with changes from the last Barometer poll once again indicated in brackets):

Labour 32% (-2)
Plaid Cymru 23% (no change)
Conservative 19% (+1)
UKIP 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (no change)
Others 3% (no change)

Despite their troubles, we continue to see the Labour party some way in the lead. But once again, this is the lowest Labour support level seen since before May 2010. After a big leap in their support in our last poll, Plaid Cymru will be pleased to consolidate their position in this new poll. For the other main parties, there are only the most modest changes in their support level since last time – or, for the Lib-Dems, no change at all.

If the changes from May’s Assembly election indicated by this poll are applied uniformly across Wales, then four constituency seats are projected to change hands, all gained by Plaid Cymru: Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli from Labour, and Aberconwy from the Conservatives.

The findings for the Assembly regional vote show a broadly similar picture:

Labour 29% (-3)
Plaid Cymru 24% (+3)
Conservative 18% (no change)
UKIP 15% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (no change)
Others 8% (+10)

Tracing parties’ historic performance on the regional list vote is difficult, because of past changes in question wording. But the 29% vote share Labour score here equals their worst performance on this ballot since YouGov started using the current question wording in December 2013. It confirms Labour’s poor performance across the board in this poll. By contrast, Plaid Cymru achieve their highest rating on the regional ballot with YouGov since the current question wording was adopted. There is minimal, or no, change in the performance of the other main parties.

Applying once more the assumption of uniform national swing, and also taking into account the projected constituency results just mentioned, our poll provides the following projected outcome for the regional list seats:

North Wales: 2 Conservative, 2 UKIP
Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 UKIP
South Wales West: 2 Plaid, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 UKIP
South Wales East: 2 UKIP, 2 Plaid

This, in turn, gives us the following overall projected outcome:

Labour 26 seats (24 constituency, 2 regional)
Plaid Cymru 15 seats (10 constituency, 5 regional)
Conservative 10 seats (5 constituency, 5 regional)
UKIP 8 seats (8 regional)
Liberal Democrats 1 seat (1 constituency)

In short, this poll confirms what we might have suspected from the recent bad torrent of bad news – that the Labour party is in some difficulty. Even in its historic Welsh bastion it is reaching levels of electoral unpopularity not seen since the days of Gordon Brown’s leadership, and hardly ever experienced by a major party when it is in opposition in London. At the same time, such has been Labour’s strength in Wales that even weakened as it currently is it remains well ahead of all the competition. The Conservatives’ recent problems have hardly placed them in a good position to take immediate advantage of Labour’s struggles. And while this poll undoubtedly offers encouragement for Plaid Cymru, they still remain some way short of challenging Labour for first place, even for the National Assembly.
The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, had a sample of 1010 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 30 June – 4 July 2016.


Postscript: And, for the cognoscenti/confirmed saddos, here are the Ratio Swing seat projections from the poll.

For Westminster, Ratio Swing projects the exact same seat outcomes as UNS.

For the National Assembly, Ratio Swing projects Plaid Cymru to gain Aberconwy from the Conservatives, as well as Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli from Labour. But in addition, Ratio Swing also projects Plaid to pick up Caerphilly, again from Labour.

Taking these constituency ‘results’ into account, Ratio Swing then projects the following outcome for the regional list seats.

North Wales: 2 Conservative, 2 UKIP
Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 UKIP
South Wales West: 2 Plaid, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 UKIP
South Wales East: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid

These are exactly the same regional results as projected by uniform swing, except in South Wales East.

Labour 25 seats (23 constituency, 2 regional)
Plaid Cymru 15 seats (11 constituency, 4 regional)
Conservative 11 seats (5 constituency, 6 regional)
UKIP 8 seats (8 regional)
Liberal Democrats 1 seat (1 constituency)

Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

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