A honeymoon period in the polls for the new PM?

Roger Scully looks at the results of the latest Welsh Political Barometer Poll.

Theresa May has helped lift support for the Conservative party in Wales to its highest level for six years. This is the stand-out finding from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, the first opinion poll to be conducted in Wales since the change of Prime Minister.

As usual, our poll 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 in early July, indicated in brackets):

Labour 35% (+1)
Conservative 29% (+6)
Plaid Cymru 13% (-3)
UKIP 14% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Others 2% (-1)

For the second successive time, our Barometer poll sees a big change in the support level of one of the main parties. Last time around it was Labour seeing a five-point fall – from which they have only recovered a single point in our new poll. Now we see a big boost for the Conservatives, under their new UK leader. The last time that the Welsh Tories scored this highly in a Welsh poll for Westminster was October 2010.

Meanwhile, after getting their best-ever Westminster figure from YouGov in July, Plaid Cymru unsurprisingly slip back three points; UKIP decline a couple of points, on top of an identical decline in our previous poll.

If we take the changes to party support since the May 2015 general election implied by this poll, and apply them uniformly across Wales on the current seat boundaries, 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: 24 seats (losing Ynys Môn)
Conservative: 11 seats (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 4 seats (gaining Ynys Môn)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (no change)

What about the new electoral map for Wales proposed by the Boundary Commission just a couple of weeks ago? Under those boundaries – and using the ‘notional’ 2015 results for those boundaries produced by Anthony Wells of YouGov – this poll projects the following outcome:

Labour: 15 seats
Conservative: 10 seats
Plaid Cymru: 3 seats
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat

These projected results would represent a net loss for Labour of three seats from the 18 that Wells projects them, on the new boundaries, to have won in 2015. The Cardiff North, Flint & Rhuddlan, and Wrexham Maelor seats, all projected by Wells to have been narrowly won by Labour on the new boundaries, would on the figures in our new poll now be won narrowly by the Conservatives. Labour would still be projected to win a majority of Welsh seats but only barely so – 15 out of 29.

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 34% (+2)

Conservative 24% (+5)
Plaid Cymru 20% (-3)
UKIP 13% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Others 3% (no change)

We continue to see the Labour party some way in the lead. But once again, the big change in this poll is a large leap in support for the Welsh Conservatives. And as with Westminster, we see support for both Plaid Cymru and UKIP ebbing since our July poll.

If the changes from May’s Assembly election indicated by this poll are applied uniformly across Wales, then only two constituency seats are projected to change hands, both gained by the Conservatives from Labour: Vale of Glamorgan and Vale of Clwyd.

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

Labour 29% (no change)

Conservative 22% (+4)
Plaid Cymru 21% (-3)
UKIP 13% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (no change)
Others 10% (no change)

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

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

Labour 26 seats (25 constituency, 1 regional)
Conservative 14 seats (8 constituency, 6 regional)

Plaid Cymru 12 seats (6 constituency, 6 regional)
UKIP 7 seats (7 regional)
Liberal Democrats 1 seat (1 constituency)

Overall, this new poll shows a significant lift in the fortunes of the Conservative party. This confirms that the broad picture indicated in recent Britain-wide polls applies in full to Wales as well. It is not at all unusual for new Prime Ministers, or leaders of major parties to enjoy something of a honeymoon period. In our September Welsh Political Barometer Poll last year, the recent leadership victory of Jeremy Corbyn appeared to give his party an immediate boost in the polls. The ‘Corbyn Bounce’ was very short-lived: by the time of the next poll, in December, it had already disappeared. The fact that our new poll has been conducted some weeks after Theresa May’s accession to 10 Downing Street suggests that the boost received by the Conservative party could be a little more enduring. But as she will doubtless be aware, and supporters of her party should bear in mind, all Prime Ministerial honeymoon periods come to an end eventually.

The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, had a sample of 1001 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 18-21 September 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. Ynys Môn is the only seat projected to change hands on the existing boundaries, while the Conservatives would narrowly make some gains on the notional new boundaries.

For the National Assembly, Ratio Swing also projects the same constituency results, with the Conservatives gaining Vale of Glamorgan and Vale of Clwyd.

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

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

In short, as with the constituencies, these are exactly the same regional results as projected by uniform swing! (That was really worth doing, wasn’t it…)

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University. This post first appeared on his blog here: http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/2016/09/23/the-september-welsh-political-barometer-poll/

6 thoughts on “A honeymoon period in the polls for the new PM?

  1. I’m quite surprised that the UKIP vote is holding up. Why? The vote is counted; BREXIT won, what are UKIP for anymore? Their politicians have hardly covered themselves with glory although I’m at least grateful that they seem to be rattling the cage down in the Bay of Mediocrity. If they knew a bit more about Wales they could actually carve themselves a niche…something along the lines of “nobody likes us; we don’t care” sort of thing.
    When percentages move only 1-3% points I always suspect that they could be reversed next time round but with Wales falling out of love with Labour and Plaid hitched to the Labour wagon are they both running a risk? I think that Plaid voters in particular were against any cooperation with Carwyn & Co.

  2. Can Mrs May be act any worse towards Wales than Mr Cameron. Let’s hope she has more sense than to risk the union.

    Cameron mentioned over 30 times in Prime Minister’s Questions, every single mention being derogatory and contemptuous and politically motivated. Probably not strange from a politician, but showed his characteristic lack of common sense.

    He created scares on health, driven by his need to prove that Welsh refusal to put its services out to tender to private companies produces worse results. Wales does have some longer waiting times, partly through refusing to prioritise minor ailments at A&E and surgery just to hit time targets, ahead of more serious cases that need quicker treatment. But his wildest attacks claim hospital mortality rates in Wales are higher. (44% of hospitals in Wales have death rates above the base line, but that’s 60% of hospitals in England.) Independent reports put Wales slightly ahead. Probably not strange for a politician to twist facts to fit their political agenda.

    His attacks on Welsh education were even more fantastical, that the WAG and the WAG alone were responsible for our education slipping behind England. This ignored the inconvenient fact that education in Wales had seriously slipped behind England before devolution (and on the Tory watch). His fantasy rested on quoting PISA results, ignoring the inconvenient facts these didn’t start until after devolution. Different countries take part in PISA every 3 years, making any comparison meaningless. And the biggest fact Cameron ignored – PISA was criticised by English academics (as well as Europeans) who have called for PISA to be scrapped. School league tables however show that since devolution the results gap is closing: 53% in Wales get five good GCSEs including English and maths, compared with England’s 59%.
    On Camerons watch the only Welsh local authority they controlled (Monmouthshire) was the only area in Wales where the educational department was in special measures. On Camerons watch the Welsh tories wanted to cut the WAG education budget by 12%

    A honeymoon period for Mrs May, after Cameron anything is an improvement

  3. Just to make this point, hopefully for the last time. The Assembly began in 1999 the graph in this piece:-


    shows those pupils in the “pipeline” prior to Welsh government changes beginning to kick in and mess up our education system, 2002-2004, all performing above the English GCSE performance. From 2004 it was all down hill until Leighton Andrews stepped in and brought in school banding and greater accountability along with literacy and numeracy testing. Unfortunately since two years ago we are no longer able to compare statistics with England because they have made it a lot harder for schools to score highly at GCSE. Wales has remained relaxed in that respect and we are now dependent on PISA as the only means of comparing ourselves to other countries including England.

  4. J.Jones
    A very good post. You have successfully demolished the ATWAP claim that education in Wales has fallen behind England. Education in Wales from the 1970s had fallen behind England and now under the WAG Wales is catching up and we are either just ahead or just behind England and no significant difference between us. Will this stop the ATWAP claiming everything wrong is due to the WAG, no. Let’s start a party to abolish the ATWAP

  5. PISA has faced a barrage of criticism from governments and academics over its worth. It is a flawed system of testing. The OECD itself, academics and the UK Statistics Authority have all warned that comparisons to the UK’s performance in previous PISA studies is only possible between 2006 and 2012 because of weaknesses in the data and we cannot read too much into the PISA rankings. Between 2006 and 2012, UK scores have not significantly changed in any of the subjects tested. The difference in the proportion of the population covered by PISA in each country has also been criticised in a recent Commons Education Committee meeting. The PISA coverage for Shanghai is 79% of 15 year olds, while in the UK it is 93%, with the Shanghai pupils tending from the social elite

    The OECD’s ‘PISA in focus — 2014/02’ compared pupil performance by parental occupation, finding that pupils with parent(s) in elementary occupations (generally those who belong to manual professions) still performed better than pupils of professionals in the UK. Professor Tom Loveless at the Brookings Institute argues that there are problems with this comparison too. A child’s scores might be counted in the ‘elementary occupation’ category for one parent, but their other parent might be classed as a professional and so they’d be counted in that category too. Professor Loveless told us that the argument remains that the pupil populations are too different to compare, with the raw data showing that 19.5% of Shanghai pupils had parent(s) in the ‘elementary occupation’ category, while 35% of UK pupils did.

    Dr John Jerrim at the Institute for Education points out that UK PISA scores between 2000 and 2009 show a decline, where another widely-used measure, TIMSS, found performance had improved.

    Yes, lets use PISA scores but don’t solely rely on PISA because they suite the political ideology of the ATWAP. Comparing the perform of any country using the raw date from PISA is flawed. There are other international comparison. The TIMSS amongst them. But the results from TIMSS do not suite ATWAPs political ideology so are never mentioned in the media.

  6. No comparison method is without problems, that much is true but now that we have diverged by so much in the way we administer and measure GCSE and GCE from England what other method do we have to decide whether we are improving other than PISA?

    As Philip Hughes points out there have been questions asked about the sampling within places like Singapore but the sampling in England and Wales is very robust and there is no particular reason to question its accuracy. Further more each country in the UK also commissions in depth analysis of the PISA data by independent bodies. The next PISA Wales is being analysed by UCL Education department in conjunction with two private companies of Education data specialists. As you will have seen from the last in depth analysis of Wales data this is a very thorough and extensive piece of work which scrutinises the PISA methodology as it applies to Wales and cross references PISA with our own statistical data.

    To go on saying we mustn’t compare education outcomes because we don’t like the results is just burying our heads in the sand. We already tried this line in the early years of the Assembly…what later became known as “taking our eye off the ball”.

    As for ATWAP, although Roger Scully doesn’t reference them in particular, they made a marginal gain of 1% in the latest Barometer. Their support comes from people who would vote Con or UKIP in Westminster for the most part.

    Truth; what on earth are you talking about? Read the graph; we were ahead of England prior to devolution and then lost the plot. We improved post Leighton Andrew after he brought back testing and league tables but now we can’t compare except through PISA. We just don’t know where we are in relation to England.

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