Following on from my previous recent blog post about the potential support levels of the parties in Wales, as measured by the Propensity to Vote (P2V) question in the British Election Study, I thought that blog readers might also be interested in responses to another set of questions from the BES which cover some related ground.
As I discussed in that earlier post, the P2V question measures attitudes to the parties in another, and rather different, way from just probing current voting intentions – it asks people how likely it is that they would ever vote for a party. The questions I am talking about in this current post also probe attitudes in a different way from simply current voting intentions. In this case, they try to get at what broader emotional responses people have to the parties.
They do so by asking the following to survey respondents:
“Now we would like to know something about the feelings you have towards each of the parties. Which of these emotions do you feel about each of the parties? Tick all that apply”
The potential answers given to respondents were:
- None of these
- Don’t Know
The set of responses offered is fairly balanced in that two broadly positive emotions are provided, alongside two broadly negative ones. Respondents are also able to select a ‘none of the above’-type option, as well as the Don’t Know one.
This set of questions was asked in the BES post-election wave of their internet panel survey. Here is the pattern of responses received, for main six parties, from the Welsh sub-sample of the BES. The numbers in the table are the percentages of the Welsh BES respondents who ticked a particular response for a particular party. As respondents could choose more than one response for each party it is therefore possible for the total percentages for a party in the table below to sum to well over 100.
Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); number of respondents = 1556.
Perhaps the most obvious thing that leaps out of these figures is the disparity between the sentiments expressed and the actual election result. The parties of the right had a good general election in Wales in 2015, but they nonetheless attract by some distance the largest amount of hostile sentiment. Meanwhile, although Labour won more than three times the number of votes that Plaid Cymru did, the two parties attract strikingly similar positive sentiments, while Plaid were actually the recipient of substantially lower levels of negative sentiment.
The table above does provide quite a lot of data to compute mentally. I’ve therefore summarised some of its findings in a second table. This latter table provides some summary information on the data in the table above for each party: the total percentage of positives and total percentage of negatives, and finally a net score (positives minus negatives):
|Net: Pos – Neg||-29||-2||-14||+18||-35||+13|
I think the findings here reinforce one point that I have made on one or two previous occasions. The relative electoral success of the Welsh Conservatives in 2015 did not occur because large sections of the Welsh population had fallen in love with the party. The Tories had some advantages in perceived economic competence and leadership in 2015; they also ran a very effectively targeted election campaign. But substantial hostility to the party remains in much of the Welsh electorate. Similarly, while UKIP made a significant advance in vote share in Wales in 2015, it nonetheless is also heartily disliked by a considerable proportion of the Welsh electorate.
The other party for which these results are the most interesting, I think, is Plaid Cymru. The numbers in the tables above come, I should perhaps remind you, from a survey done straight after an election where Plaid came fourth in vote share in Wales, winning the electoral support of slightly fewer than one in eight of those participating in the poll. Plaid Cymru in 2015, as in other recent elections, was generally quite well thought of by many people in Wales. But it failed to provide them with sufficiently compelling reasons to vote for it. That remains, as it has been for some years, the main challenge facing Plaid Cymru.