This week’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll provides the last measure of public support for the political parties in 2015. After a roller-coaster political year, where have things ended up?
Our previous Barometer poll, conducted only a short period after his landslide election as Labour Leader, showed an apparent ‘Corbyn bounce’ in Labour’s support. The period since then has been rather difficult for both Mr Corbyn and his party. Britain-wide polls have suggested that this has started to have a negative impact on Labour support. Our new Barometer poll indicates that this is also now true in Wales – any honeymoon period for the new leader looks to be quite definitely over.
We can see this both for Westminster and the National Assembly. When we asked about general election voting intention, our new poll found these levels of support for the parties (with changes on our last poll, in September, in brackets):
Labour: 37% (-5)
Conservative: 27% (+1)
UKIP: 17% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 12% (+2)
Liberal Democrats: 4% (-1)
Others: 3% (+1)
Our September poll had shown Labour rising five percentage points, so they are back exactly where they started. Given that new major party leaders normally provide an electoral boost for their parties that lasts for several months, this must be of some concern to Labour. Their decline since our last poll is to the benefit of all three of their main rivals in Wales, who all edge up by a percentage point or two. The only main party to see no benefit from Labour’s slippage in support is the Liberal Democrats – almost unbelievably, our poll shows the Lib-Dems doing significantly worse even than they did in May’s disastrous general election.
If we apply the changes since the general election implied by this poll uniformly across Wales, then only one seat would be projected to change hands since the general election: Labour would narrowly retake Gower from the Conservatives.
With less than five months to go until the National Assembly election, however, it is on this that attention will increasingly be focussed. Once again our poll asked people how they would vote on both the constituency and regional lost ballot for the devolved election. Here are the figures for the constituency vote (with changes on our last poll, in September, again in brackets):
Labour: 35% (-4)
Conservatives: 23% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 20% (+2)
UKIP: 15% (+2)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Others: 3% (+1)
So here, as with Westminster, we see Labour losing all the gains it made in our previous poll and going back to where it was at in June. On the assumption of uniform national swing since the last Assembly election, this poll projects three constituency seats to change hands: the Conservatives would gain Cardiff North, Plaid Cymru would gain Llanelli, and the Liberal Democrats would gain Cardiff Central. All three gains would be at the expense of Labour.
The figures for the regional list vote were like this (with changes from the previous Barometer poll again indicated):
Labour: 34% (no change)
Conservatives: 23% (-1)
Plaid Cymru: 18% (no change)
UKIP: 16% (+2)
Liberal Democrats: 4% (-1)
Greens: 4% (no change)
Others: 2% (no change)
Again assuming uniform swings from 2011 across Wales, and after taking into account the distribution of constituency seats when allocating the list seats, this gives us the following projected 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 some way ahead of the field. But as for Westminster we see their support for the devolved election slipping notably since September. The main thing to jump out from these findings, however, is that UKIP are currently projected to win nine list seats in the Assembly: two in every region of Wales except for South Wales West. We should note that these list seat calculations are subject to change on quite small variations in support: with only small changes in public preferences UKIP might be projected to win several fewer seats. But at the moment, the party are on course to enter the Assembly for the first time in May in substantial numbers – within one seat of Plaid Cymru and three of the Conservatives.
As we move closer to the Assembly election, voter turnout will become a question of increasing importance. We know from past experience that turnout tends to be much lower in Assembly elections than in ones for Westminster; despite the increased powers that the National Assembly has received, lower turnout is likely to persist next May to at least some extent. We have therefore added to our Barometer poll a question about how likely people 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.
Some 59% of all Barometer respondents claimed that they definitely would vote. When we consider that turnout at the last Assembly election was only 42.2%, our poll would apparently suggest that we’re on course for a big rise in participation at the devolved election. I would be cautious about this: for a number of reasons, internet polls (of which ours is one) tend to significantly over-state voter turnout. Probably of more importance are the differences between the parties in their likelihood to vote, which could make a big difference to the electoral success of the parties next year. I have calculated an average likelihood to turnout score out of ten for supporters of each party on the constituency vote; here are the numbers:
Plaid Cymru: 9.33
As can be seen, it is supporters of Plaid Cymru and UKIP that currently appear to be the most motivated to take part in the Assembly election, while motivation appears to be the lowest for Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The differences are fairly small and, of course, the parties have several months to work on mobilising their support. However, this is something that we’ll be very much keeping an eye on as we get closer to the Assembly election in May.
More detailed analysis of the poll will be provided in several posts over the next couple of weeks on my blog, Elections in Wales.
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