What the Welsh Polls Say (and have said)

Well, it’s getting close now. There are just ten days to go to the general election. (And yes, I know what you are all thinking: if only campaigns could last longer).

While there will continue to be a plethora of GB-wide opinion polls right up until the eve of poll, here in Wales we are unlikely to have any further ones until the next Welsh Political Barometer poll, which should be published on the evening of 6th May.

You can find substantial detail about the various polls that have been conducted in Wales in recent times in the Opinion Polls section of the Blog; I have also discussed them in numerous posts. But I thought that it might be useful to some blog readers – never say I don’t think of you – to provide some summary information on what the Welsh polls have been saying in relatively accessible and concise form.

So here, first of all, are the average general election poll ratings of the main five parties in Wales between 2012-2014. As we can see, the only substantial trend during those years was the decline in Labour support and the rise of UKIP:

 

Average Poll Ratings for Westminster General Election, Wales

Party201220132014
Labour51.048.340.5
Conservative23.522.023.5
LibDems6.08.36.1
Plaid Cymru10.510.312.0
UKIP5.78.313.4

 

These are the polls conducted before the start of the campaign in 2015:

 

Pre-campaign Welsh Opinion Polls During 2015

PartyJanuaryJanuaryEarly MarchMid-Late March
Labour38373940
Conservative21232525
LibDems7655
Plaid Cymru12101011
UKIP13161414
Greens6865
PollsterICMYouGovYouGovYouGov

 

And these are the polls that have been conducted during the official campaign itself (I’ll fill in the gap when we get the next Barometer poll!):

 

Welsh Opinion Polls During the Campaign*

Party31/03/1515/04/1506/05/15
Labour40%40%
Conservative27%26%
LibDems6%6%
Plaid Cymru9%12%
UKIP13%13%
Greens5%4%

* All polls conducted by YouGov. Dates listed for polls are dates when fieldwork was completed.

 

Finally, here is a summary of the main findings from the Ashcroft constituency polls for the five Welsh constituencies that he has looked at. (In the case of Cardiff North he actually polled it twice; I’ve reported the more recent set of figures). Numbers here are for the question asked in these polls that asked people how they would vote in their specific constituency:

 

Ashcroft Constituency Polls (changes on 2010 result in each constituency)

Constituency (Fieldwork dates)LabourConsLibDemsPlaidUKIPGreens
Cardiff North (July 14)41 (+4)30 (-8)6 (-12)8 (+5)12 (+10)3 (+2)
Cardiff Central (Sept 14)36 (+7)17 (-5)24 (-17)9 (+6)9 (+7)5 (+3)
Brecon & Radnor (Nov 14)15 (+5)27 (-9)31 (-15)8 (+6)17 (+15)1 (+1)
Carmarthen West & South Pembs (Dec 14)29 (-4)33 (-8)4 (-12)16 (+6)14 (+11)3 (+3)
Vale of Glamorgan (Feb 15)32 (-1)38 (-4)4 (-11)12 (+6)10 (+7)3 (+2)

 

About Last Night…

I spent much of yesterday evening at ITV-Wales HQ: watching their Welsh Leaders’ Debate and then contributing to the Rate the Debate Sharp End special afterwards. Here are a few thoughts about the night…

Clear Winner: Star of the night, undoubtedly, was Adrian Masters. He had a very difficult job – steering a two-hour debate between six politicians. And he did very well. The debate never became a shouting match, and he was scrupulously fair in ensuring that the participants got an equal chance to contribute. (This contrasted with the first GB-wide debate, where the leaders of the three traditional UK parties seemed to get substantially longer speaking time than the others during the debate sections). Adrian also managed it with his customary good humour and lightness of touch.

Other Honourable Mentions: Praise also to Andrea Byrne, and my fellow panellist Valerie Livingston, Bela Arora, and Gareth Hughes, for their contributions. We watched the debate together, before doing the reaction show together. It was great fun to watch and discuss the debate with such interesting people. Diolch, pawb.

Big Losers: The one part of the ITV show I really didn’t like was the reaction in the ‘café’ afterwards from the various first-time and undecided voters – most of whom seemed to do little but complain. Frankly, I think some of them would have declared themselves unimpressed if the politicians had delivered their answers in five languages from atop unicycles while simultaneously juggling flaming torches…

Personally, I thought all the politicians performed quite capably, though none were flawless. My – purely subjective and non-scientific – thoughts on the individual performances:

Leanne Wood: The most recently-practised at live television debating, and I thought it showed. Didn’t get everything right, but looked the most comfortable in the environment and seemed (from watching it on television; it may have been different in the auditorium) to get much of the best audience reaction. Possibly also had the best line of the night – her ‘not children’ response to Nathan Gill. I’m not sure how useful it is to try to pick a single winner in a multi-person debate; but, as I said on ITV last night, if I had to pick one winner it was probably her.

Kirsty Williams: Kirsty has, deservedly, built a high reputation as a determined and fluent advocate for her party’s cause. Against those expectations, I thought her start was very disappointing – her opening statement was one of the least impressive. But as the debate moved onto the NHS, ground that she knows well, she improved markedly. She also had some very strong lines in the immigration section. Overall, confirmed what we already knew – a class act, and tough with it.

Stephen Crabb: I think the Conservatives were very fortunate in being represented by him last night, and not his predecessor as Welsh Secretary. He had perhaps the most obviously uncomfortable moment of the night, when hesitating in response to Nathan Gill’s challenge on immigration. But other than that, I thought he performed very capably, defending the Conservatives’ case in his normal calm and emollient manner.

Owen Smith: There was some negative reaction to his performance on-line afterwards (and see also comments below on the Twitter ratings). In the main I thought this was unfair. Like Stephen Crabb, Owen’s approach to debating has a bit more of the House of Commons style to it, and perhaps that doesn’t go down well with everyone. But in the main I thought he advanced Labour’s case fluently and well, coming over as very well-informed. Possibly the one mistake he and Stephen Crabb in particular made in the NHS section was to bandy around spending figures that were not very clearly explained; I suspect much of that would have gone completely over the heads of most viewers. But overall a much better performance, I think, than some gave him credit for.

Nathan Gill: The relative lack of experience of both Nathan Gill and Pippa Bartolotti did come through at various points: his comparison of the Assembly to children wasn’t the best idea. But overall I thought he performed well. Unsurprisingly he sounded most comfortable when discussing UKIP’s ‘home turf’ of immigration and Europe. But he was more conciliatory in both tone and content on these subjects than Nigel Farage was in the GB-wide debates. To both UKIP’s core vote and those considering voting for the party I think this would have come over as a very capable performance.

Pippa Bartolotti: The only non-professional politician in the debate, and at times it showed: she often ran over time with her answers, and seemed to make the mistake of speaking too much to the couple of hundred people inside the hall rather than the tens of thousands watching outside it. But for those who might consider voting Green, I suspect the absence of the smoothness of a professional politician is no great handicap. And she did speak with great passion on many issues. A better performance than her detractors would have expected, or probably given her credit for.

Well that’s what I thought. Is there any more objective evidence? Sadly there were no reaction polls. But the ITV-Wales show did feature an analysis of Twitter reaction (see here: http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2015-04-22/watch-the-itv-wales-election-debate-online/) conducted by Blurrt. Based on both the quantity and sentiments within tweets, this apparently ranked the leaders in the following order (from highest to lowest):

  1. Leanne Wood
  2. Kirsty Williams
  3. Pippa Bartolotti
  4. Nathan Gill
  5. Stephen Crabb
  6. Owen Smith

However (and without in any way questioning the integrity or professionalism of those conducting this analysis) I would suggest that we interpret these results with some caution. The use of social media sentiment to measure public attitudes is a very exciting area of social research, but it does not yet have the well-established grounding of opinion polls. We know that Twitter users are not typical of the whole population, and Twitter sentiment can be an inaccurate measure of opinions across society: for instance, Twitter sentiment measures last September apparently suggested that the Yes campaign would win the Scottish referendum. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is wrong this time – just that, as I say, we should interpret these results with caution.

New Barometer Poll: The Standing of the Party Leaders in Wales

As we look forward to tonight’s Welsh Leaders’ Debate on ITV Wales, some new evidence is available on the standing of the party leaders here in Wales.

In our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, YouGov asked respondents to rate all of the party leaders on a simple 0-10 scale, “where 0 means strongly dislike and 10 means strongly like”. Using this scale, respondents to the Barometer poll were asked to rate all of the five main UK-level party leaders (David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, and Natalie Bennett). We also asked them to rate those Welsh leaders who will be participating in the ITV-Wales debate:

  • Stephen Crabb (the Secretary of State for Wales, who will represent the Conservatives);
  • Owen Smith (the Shadow Secretary of State, who will be representing Labour);
  • Kirsty Williams (Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats);
  • Leanne Wood (Leader of Plaid Cymru);
  • Nathan Gill (UKIP’s Leader in Wales); and
  • Pippa Bartolotti (Leader of the Welsh Greens)

Respondents who were unsure of how to rate any of the leaders were able to choose a Don’t Know option. Although some people can choose this option because they are genuinely undecided what they feel about a leader, in the aggregate the proportion choosing this option seems to function very well as a measure of the public visibility of a political leader. So how many chose Don’t Know for each of our politicians? Here are the figures (and, in brackets, the change since the last time we asked this question, in our early-March Barometer poll, for those leaders included in both polls):

  • David Cameron: 6% (-1)
  • Ed Miliband: 7% (-1)
  • Nick Clegg: 7% (-2)
  • Nigel Farage: 7% (-2)
  • Natalie Bennett: 35% (-19)
  • Stephen Crabb: 54%
  • Owen Smith: 66%
  • Kirsty Williams: 41% (-2)
  • Leanne Wood: 22% (-17)
  • Nathan Gill: 66%
  • Pippa Bartolotti: 65% (-8)

There are several interesting aspects to these results. First, for all the leaders included in both the March poll and our new one, we see some decline in the proportion choosing the Don’t Know option. However much many people may seek to tune out the election campaign, it does seem to make people more aware of leading politicians, and push them to decide what they think of them.

Second, we see that the visibility of the leaders of the four main UK parties is much higher than that of any of the Welsh leaders: this has been a consistent pattern every time this question has been asked in a Welsh poll, and holds true even when we ask about the First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

A third interesting aspect of these findings, however, is that the largest falls in Don’t Know choices since our poll last month have been for Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood. The greater visibility that they have been given in the election campaign, including their participation in the two main UK-level leaders’ debates, appears to have raised their profile among the Welsh public quite substantially.

The figures above tell us something about how well known the leaders are. But how highly are they rated by the Welsh public? Our second set of figures gives the average rating, out of ten, for each leader. (And, once again, we show the change since our March poll, for all those leaders included in both):

  • David Cameron: 3.8 (+0.4)
  • Ed Miliband: 4.5 (+0.5)
  • Nick Clegg: 3.5 (+0.4)
  • Nigel Farage: 3.3 (-0.1)
  • Natalie Bennett: 3.9 (no change)
  • Stephen Crabb: 3.6
  • Owen Smith: 3.9
  • Kirsty Williams: 4.4 (no change)
  • Leanne Wood: 4.8 (+0.4)
  • Nathan Gill: 3.0
  • Pippa Bartolotti: 3.3 (-0.6)

Once again there are several interesting aspects to these results. The first is that no leader averages even five out of ten. But I guess it is hardly news that politicians are not very popular!

Second, however, we do see several politicians improving their ratings since our previous poll: all three leaders of the traditional UK parties have seen their ratings move significantly upwards. For all that people do like to complain about parties’ election campaigns, they do help to portray the parties and their leaders in a more positive light. However, this improvement in ratings is not shared by Nigel Farage, whose average score has actually declined marginally. Mr Farage is now the most unpopular UK-level leader in Wales, with notably more respondents choosing the 0 out of 10 option for him than for any other politician in our list.

Third, we also see in our new poll a notable improvement in ratings for Leanne Wood. The election campaign thus far has, it appears, raised both her profile and her popularity. She is now clearly the most popular leader of all those eleven politicians about whom we polled. (Although we should note that in our previous poll Carwyn Jones scored an average of 5.0 out of ten, a rating that would still place him slightly ahead of Plaid Cymru’s leader).

Among the other Welsh leaders, Kirsty Williams continues to poll relatively strongly, given the current unpopularity of her party. Pippa Bartolotti scores the biggest decline in average ratings among those leaders also included in our previous poll. However, the Welsh leader with the lowest ratings is again that of UKIP, with Nathan Gill averaging only 3.0 out of ten.

The ITV-Wales debate will, however, give the six Welsh politicians mentioned here a chance to put their party’s case to the voters, and perhaps also change public perceptions of them as individuals. Which ones will take best advantage of this? It will be interesting to observe.

National Assembly Voting Intentions in the New Barometer Poll

Most of the attention of all political observers is, of course, currently focussed on the forthcoming general election. Nonetheless, our new Welsh Political Barometer poll has also continued to ask people about how they would vote in an election to the National Assembly. What did it find?

For the constituency vote, these were the figures (with changes from the most recent previous YouGov poll in Wales indicated in brackets):

 

Labour: 37% (-1)

Conservatives: 23% (+2)

Plaid Cymru: 20% (+1)

UKIP: 11% (no change)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (-1)

Greens: 3% (-1)

Others: 0% (-1)

 

On the standard assumption of uniform national swings, this poll would project only two constituency seats to change hands from the last Assembly election in 2011: the Liberal Democrats would narrowly regain Cardiff Central from Labour, while Labour would also lose Llanelli to Plaid Cymru.

The figures for the regional list vote were as follows (with changes from the last poll again indicated):

 

Labour: 34% (-2)

Conservatives: 23% (+1)

Plaid Cymru: 20% (+1)

UKIP: 11% (no change)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (+1)

Greens: 5% (no change)

Others: 2% (no change)

 

Again assuming uniform swings from 2011 across Wales, and after taking into account the distribution of constituency seats in allocating the list seats, this gives us the following projected overall outcome:

 

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

Conservatives: 14 seats (6 constituency seats +8 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 11 seats (6 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

UKIP: 5 seats (5 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

 

The numbers in this particular poll project the Greens just losing out on a regional list seat in Mid and West Wales, in contrast to some other recent polls that have had them narrowly winning a seat there. Instead we have five parties winning seats – but with Labour remaining a long way ahead of all the other parties.

Overall, the new Barometer poll shows for the National Assembly, as it does for Westminster, mainly small changes in the support levels of each of the parties. All of the changes on the previous poll reported here are well within the standard 3% ‘margin of error’, so they could well be the result simply of the normal variation that one would expect to see between the different samples that individual polls are able to gather. Nonetheless, it is always better to see your numbers going up rather than down, and so one would expect the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru to be modestly encouraged by the numbers here. While Labour might be a little disappointed to see their support levels slip marginally, they will also be pleased to remain well ahead of all the competition. The poll adds to the body of evidence suggesting that while UKIP are not attracting quite the same level of support now that they did late last year, they are currently on course to be a significant presence in the next National Assembly. And the poll continues to provide evidence that the Liberal Democrats are not yet recovering their support base; for them to remain a substantial force within the National Assembly after May 2016, something will have to change.

The Latest Welsh Political Barometer Poll

Today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll gives us the very latest guide to how the people of Wales are intending to vote in May’s general election. Crucially, it is the first poll to be conducted in Wales since the ITV Leaders Debate of 2nd April. How has that debate, and the campaign so far, impacted on each of the parties?

This is what our poll, conducted by YouGov, found in terms of voting intentions for the general election. (Changes on YouGov’s previous Welsh poll, carried out for The Sun newspaper in late-March and the very start of April, are displayed in brackets):

 

Labour: 40% (no change)

Conservatives: 26% (-1)

UKIP: 13% (no change)

Plaid Cymru: 12% (+3)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (no change)

Greens: 4% (-1)

Others: 0% (-1)

 

Thus, we see in the main only quite small changes since the last Welsh poll, with most of those changes being well within the margin of error. The only remotely substantial shift is the increase in Plaid Cymru support, which is up by a third since the last YouGov poll; however, that poll had shown Plaid support at an unusually low level, and may thus simply have been an outlier.

If we apply the swings implied by this poll from the May 2010 general election result uniformly across Wales, this produces the following outcome in terms of parliamentary seats:

 

Labour: 28 seats (keeping the 26 seats they won in 2010, and gaining both Cardiff Central from the Liberal Democrats and Cardiff North from the Conservatives);

Conservatives: 8 seats (losing Cardiff North to Labour, but gaining Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats);

Plaid Cymru: 3 seats (no change);

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (losing both Cardiff Central and Brecon & Radnor, and holding on only to Ceredigion).

 

This new poll adds to the evidence that the decline in electoral support experienced by the Labour party during 2013 and 2014 has stopped, and even been partially reversed. As the election has come closer, Labour support has firmed up from the levels we saw at the end of 2014. Now polling at a level almost four percentage points higher than the vote share that they won in 2010, Labour look in good shape to continue to win the clear majority of Welsh parliamentary seats in this year’s election.

The poll also confirms that Conservative support in Wales remains robust, and at a level that should ensure that the Tories retain the vast majority of the seats that they won in Wales in 2010. The contrast with the fortunes of their coalition partners continues to be stark. Liberal Democrat support remains at below one-third of the level that they won five year ago. The Lib-Dems hope is that their vote will prove much more robust in their existing seats than across Wales as a whole. It will have to do so for the party to hold all those seats.

The poll adds further to the evidence that the surges in support experienced by UKIP and, to a slightly lesser extent the Greens, in the last twelve months have now ebbed somewhat. Both parties are now polling several points below their peak ratings of a few months ago, and neither would appear to have realistic hopes of winning a parliamentary seat in Wales in 2015.

The one party clearly moving forward in this poll is Plaid Cymru. Their support has risen by three points from YouGov’s previous Welsh poll. While that last poll may have given the party an unusually low score, at 12% the current poll equals Plaid’s highest rating in a YouGov poll since the 2010 general election. This improvement in Plaid’s position may reflect Leanne Wood’s showing in the first televised Leaders’ Debate; if so, it is possible that her presence in this week’s second debate may also help her party. Still, Plaid remains in fourth place in Wales, and on uniform swings would be struggling to add to its existing three seats in Wales.

Postscript: My by-now customary postscript, for you cognoscenti of the Blog: Ratio Swing seat projections of the numbers from this poll:

 

Labour: 28 seats (keeping the 26 seats they won in 2010, and gaining both Cardiff Central from the Liberal Democrats and Cardiff North from the Conservatives);

Conservatives: 8 seats (losing Cardiff North to Labour, but gaining Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats);

Plaid Cymru: 4 seats (keeping the three seats they currently hold, and gaining Ceredigion);

Liberal Democrats: 0 seats (losing Cardiff Central to Labour, Brecon & Radnor to the Conservatives, and Ceredigion to Plaid Cymru).

 

The poll for ITV and the Wales Governance Centre had a sample of 1143 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov on 13-15 April 2015. Full details will be published on the blog soon.

Some Bed-Time Reading

As we get ever closer to the election, many of you will be wanting to learn more about the coming election, past elections, the electoral battleground and so on.

Obviously, my main recommendation is that you should carry on reading Elections in Wales! And, of course recommend it to all your friends and family. But in addition to this site, there is a wealth of other material available – with much of it easily accessible on-line. Here are a few recommendations of sources that I have found particularly useful.

Seat Guides: There are a number of efforts at guides to the 650 constituencies that will be fought in the election:

 

Websites:

UK Polling Report (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/) is simply in a class of its own for the sensible discussion of opinion polling in the UK. The site is run by Anthony Wells: although Anthony is someone of firm political convictions and works for YouGov UK, the site is rigorously impartial both between the different parties and the various pollsters. A particularly useful post was this recent one (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9281) about the different methods used by pollsters.

http://may2015.com/ : A very good News Statesman site; it includes profiles of many seats, plus latest state of play on polls, and more details on many of the detailed questions asked by pollsters.

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/generalelection/ As the web address indicates, a site run by the London School of Economics; includes plenty of excellent short essays and analytical pieces.

 

Twitter Accounts:

Among Twitter accounts that you may not be aware of, I’d particularly recommend following @UKGenElection and @NCPoliticsUK . @LordAshcroft is also worth keeping an eye on.

 

Finally, for those of you who have not yet bought a copy, you really should read Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box

YouGov Welsh Poll for The Sun

So there I was a few days ago, enjoying a quiet Bank Holiday Monday, when news starting seeping through about a new YouGov poll in Wales, published by The Sun. To those of you who were wondering why I had not flagged this up previously, I can only say that this was the first I had heard of it! It was not one of YouGov’s regular Barometer polls, and I hadn’t been forewarned about it.

The poll was conducted between 26-31 March – the full tables are now available here. The dates of the fieldwork are important: the poll’s fieldwork overlapped slightly with that of the most recent Barometer poll, and was also all conducted before the seven-way Leaders’ Debate on 2nd April. We therefore cannot use this poll to infer anything about reactions in Wales to that debate. For that, we will have to wait until the next Barometer poll – which isn’t too far away!

(By the way – for those of you thinking that it seems a little strange for someone to pay for a poll to be conducted before the debate, and then hold back the results until after the debate, and then release them on a Bank Holiday Monday when almost no-one will notice… well, I agree with you. It does all seem a bit odd to me as well. But as I’m not on close terms with the editorial team at The Sun, I can’t reveal any of the thinking behind this.)

Anyway, enough of that; what did the poll actually say? Here are the figures for general election voting intention (with changes from the previous YouGov poll in Wales, the most recent Barometer poll, indicated in brackets):

 

Labour 40% (no change)

Conservative 27% (+2)

UKIP 13% (-1)

Plaid Cymru 9% (-2)

Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

Greens 5% (no change)

Others 1% (no change)

 

Applying the changes since 2010 implied by this poll, using the standard assumption of Uniform National Swing, then the figures from this poll would suggest the following outcome in terms of seats:

 

Labour: 29 seats (gaining Arfon, Cardiff Central and Cardiff North)

Conservatives: 8 seats (losing Cardiff North but gaining Brecon & Radnor)

Plaid Cymru: 2 seats (losing Arfon)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (losing Cardiff Central and Brecon & Radnor)

 

On the alternative assumption of Ratio Swing, we get the following seat projections:

 

Labour: 30 seats (gaining Arfon, Cardiff Central, Cardiff North and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr)

Conservatives: 8 seats (losing Cardiff North but gaining Brecon & Radnor)

Plaid Cymru: 2 seats (losing Arfon and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, but gaining Ceredigion)

Liberal Democrats: 0 seats (losing Cardiff Central, Brecon & Radnor and Ceredigion)

 

So what can we make of this poll? The fact that its fieldwork is rather out-of-date, and precedes the recent leaders’ debate, makes this poll distinctly less useful than it might have been. Nonetheless, it is now the fourth YouGov poll this year which indicates that the decline in Labour support that persisted more-or-less throughout 2013 and 2014 has come to an end, and has even been slightly reversed. The last three YouGov poll have put Labour on 39%, 40% and 40%, so they have all had Labour some 3-4 points above the vote share that the party won in 2010.

The 27% support reported for the Conservatives is their highest reported vote intention for Westminster in a Welsh poll since autumn 2010. They appear to have begun the campaign at, or possibly even slightly above, the level of support that they won in Wales in 2010. That is a rather impressive, not to say surprising, achievement for the main party in the UK government implementing an austerity agenda over the last five years. The contrast with the fate of their coalition partners continues to be striking. This poll does actually show a very small up-tick on Lib-Dem support levels. But they are still well below one-third of the level of support they won in the 2010 election.

UKIP’s very small drop in support from the previous YouGov poll in Wales may be of little significance. What is probably more noteworthy is that this poll confirms the somewhat more substantial fall in support that the party in Wales have experienced since late last year, when they were polling in the high teens. However, even more disappointed by the results may be Plaid Cymru. It is possible that they were not favoured by the timing of the poll – with the fieldwork starting on the day of the Cameron-Miliband non-debate that would have focussed attention on the two largest UK parties, and concluding before the leaders’ debate that included Leanne Wood; nonetheless, Plaid really would have hoped to be doing better than this, which is their poorest figure for Westminster voting intention since July 2013.

The Sun poll also carried questions on voting intention for the National Assembly – to the best of my knowledge these have not actually been published yet. The figures for the Constituency ballot (with changes from the last Barometer poll) were:

 

Labour 38% (+1)

Conservative 21% (-2)

Plaid Cymru 19% (no change)

UKIP 11% (-1)

Liberal Democrats 7% (no change)

Greens 4% (+1)

Others 1% (no change)

 

The figures for the regional list vote were:

 

Labour 36% (+2)

Conservative 22% (+1)

Plaid Cymru 19% (-1)

UKIP 11% (-1)

Liberal Democrats 5% (no change)

Greens 5% (-1)

Others 2% (no change)

 

Assuming uniform national swings, the only constituency seat to change hands would be Llanelli, won by Plaid Cymru from Labour! Taking account of these constituency seats, and the allocation of regional list seats, a uniform national swing projection produces the following result:

 

Labour: 29 seats (27 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

Conservative: 13 seats (6 constituency seats + 7 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 11 seats (6 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

UKIP: 5 seats (5 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency seat)

Greens: 1 seat (1 list seat)

A Few Things You Might Have Missed

We’ve all been having such a poll-tastic time recently that it is easy to miss out on some things. Last week’s latest Welsh Political Barometer poll had a few results that might have slipped past you. So this post is to help you all catch up.

First, the Barometer poll has continued to ask questions about voting intention for the two referendums that are most like to occur in Wales in the next few years: on Britain’s membership of the EU, and on income tax-varying powers for the National Assembly.

For the EU, the results (with changes from our previous poll, conducted earlier in March) were:

 

Remain in the EU: 44% (+1%)

Leave the EU: 38% (+2%)

Don’t Know / Wouldn’t Vote: 18% (-4%)

 

This is how the latest poll looks, in relation to the previous ones we have conducted:

 

Wales, EU Referendum Polls

Poll% Remain% Leave% DK/ NV% ‘remain’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 20134235227
Western Mail/Beaufort, June 2013293735-8
WGC/YouGov, July 2013394021-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 2013384022-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201444332311
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20144138223
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 20144136245
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20144337206
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20144239193
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20154436208
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 20154336227
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20154438186

 

Thus we can see that although the polls on this question have tended to be very close, those wishing Britain to remain in the EU have led in every one of the last eight polls conducted by YouGov on this topic, and in every poll conducted during 2014 and 2015.

What about income tax? Although the likelihood of this referendum actually taking place continues to recede, we have persisted in asking about it. Out latest poll’s result (with changes from the previous Barometer poll again in brackets) was:

 

In Favour of income tax-varying powers: 37% (no change)

Against income tax-varying powers: 40% (+4%)

Don’t Know / Wouldn’t Vote: 22% (-5%)

 

And here, again, are the run of previous polls on the topic:

 

Wales, Income Tax Referendum Polls

Poll% Yes% No% DK/ NR% ‘No’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 2013393427-5
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20133538263
Western Mail/Beaufort, December 2013323038-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201431422811
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 20143339286
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20143441257
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 201432422610
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20143839241
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20143738251
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20153739242
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 2015373627-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20153740223

 

Here again the balance between those in favour and those against remains tight, but those opposing tax powers have resumed their narrow lead after being very slightly behind in the previous poll.

One further topic that was explored in the recent poll was the importance of different issues. YouGov asked a pair of questions:

  •  ‘Which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing the country at this time?’; and
  • ‘Which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing you and your family?’

Respondents were invited to choose up to three issues from a lengthy list (hence the percentages below add up to well over 100). In the tables below I’ll produce the results, in order, for both questions from among our sample in Wales. For comparison I’ll also show alongside these the findings from a GB-wide poll that asked the same question that was conducted approximately ten days prior to our Barometer poll.

 

Most Important Issues Facing the Country:

IssueWalesBritain
Health52%45%
Immigration and Asylum49%51%
The economy46%45%
Welfare benefits27%27%
Education18%16%
Housing17%23%
Europe12%17%
Pensions11%9%
The environment10%9%
Tax9%10%
Crime8%9%
Family life and childcare7%7%
Increased powers for Wales5%-
Transport3%2%
None of these1%1%
Don’t Know3%2%

 

Most Important Issues Facing You and Your Family:

IssueWalesBritain
Health47%40%
The economy39%43%
Pensions27%27%
Welfare benefits20%15%
Tax19%20%
Immigration and Asylum18%19%
Education15%16%
Family life and childcare13%14%
Housing12%16%
The environment9%10%
Europe7%7%
Crime6%6%
Transport5%7%
Increased powers for Wales5%-
None of these4%2%
Don’t Know5%4%

 

Thus, we see few major differences between Wales and the rest of Britain. Health is a little higher in the list of both personal and national priorities in Wales. And housing is a little lower – which is perhaps understandable if you consider that a significant proportion of the GB-wide sample are having to cope with London/South-East England property process. But, overall, the issue agendas are strikingly similar.

There are also few substantial differences between the national and personal agendas evident here. Immigration and Asylum, and also Europe, recede somewhat in importance when we ask people to focus on what they see as important to them and their families. But much of the agenda is common. These lists emphasise the over-riding importance of the economy and the NHS – and why we will be hearing a great deal more about them over the next few weeks.

Attitudes to Different Levels of Government

Much of the attention given to the results of last month’s BBC/ICM poll was devoted to their findings on the main UK party leaders, and to the answers given to their regular question on constitutional preferences. However, the poll covered a number of other interesting areas.

One, which I’d like to highlight here, concerned attitudes to different levels of government. The poll used a slightly different question format from those I’ve seen in previous studies, so it is worth explaining in full.

Respondents were asked the following three questions:

“Which one of the following political institutions do you have the most respect for?”

“Which one of the following political institutions do you trust most to do the right thing for people?”

“Which one of the following political institutions do you think is most likely to improve things for you and your family?”

Respondents were then allowed to choose between several options for each question:

  • Your local council
  • The Welsh Assembly
  • The Westminster Parliament
  • The European Union
  • None of them
  • Don’t Know

 

This set of questions thus probed some interestingly distinct aspects of attitudes to the main levels of government in the UK.

So what did people say? The following table summarises the poll’s results for the three questions:

Most Respect ForTrust to Do Right ThingMost Likely to Improve
Local Council24%26%20%
Welsh Assembly31%35%38%
Westminster26%21%26%
European Union7%6%6%
None of them9%10%6%
Don’t Know2%2%4%

 

What can we make of these results? The thing that most immediately stands out from the figures, to me at least, is that the National Assembly scores highest for all three questions. Although its lead over the other levels of government on the ‘Most Respect’ question was rather narrow, on the ‘Trust’ and ‘Most Likely to Improve Things’ questions the Assembly is rather further ahead of both local councils and Westminster. We might want also to note that the Assembly scores these leads despite the fact that local councils actually did pretty well themselves in another question in the same poll, one which specifically asked about local service delivery. So the responses here don’t seem to be just reflecting a sort of ‘best of a bad lot’ set of attitudes.

Instead, I’d be inclined to view these results as being consistent with some others that have suggested that, while most people seem to retain at least some degree of suspicion about all politicians and governmental institutions – an attitude that I’d generally regard as fairly healthy – there has developed a broad, basic goodwill to the Assembly amongst many people in Wales. We must not over-state this: few, if any, are wildly in love with the National Assembly and its members. But as well as being generally supportive of the principle of devolution, the majority of people seem to have come to regard the Assembly as – whatever other faults it may have – an institution that will at least be concerned with and focussed on the interests and problems of the people of Wales.

For the other levels of government, it is interesting that the Westminster Parliament scores least well on the question about trust. The latter half of the fieldwork for the poll was actually administered as the recent Rifkind/Straw ‘scandal’ story was breaking; this may have influenced responses. It may also be the case that the memory of previous expenses problems lingers long for some people. It is also notable, if entirely unsurprising, that the European Union scores least well on all three questions. In fact I was slightly surprised that it scored as high as 6-7% on these three items! More optimistic news for Europhiles came elsewhere in the poll, however: when asked whether or not the UK would be better off remaining in, or outside, the European Union, there was a strong balance (63% to 33%, with 4% Don’t Knows) in favour of remaining in the EU.

Overall, I think this was an interesting and innovative set of questions for the BBC/ICM poll to run. I think they should be applauded for doing so. And I hope they repeat the items at least occasionally in the future, so that we can see whether attitudes on these matters change over time.

The Leaders’ Debate

Many of you will have watched the seven-way party leaders’ debate last night. Personally I thought the format worked slightly better than I had expected – or feared – for which much credit must go to Julie Etchingham, the presenter. It didn’t quite turn into the seven-way shouting match that some had feared, although it verged on it once or twice. I also think that all the leaders, notwithstanding their different styles, performed creditably. But then there are reasons why people become party leaders (i.e. they tend to be quite good at this politics stuff).

Still, no-one really cares what I think. What did the public make of it all? There was the, now customary, rather silly race between the pollsters to deliver their verdicts on who ‘won’ in the instant reaction polls. (For what little it is worth, I believe my friends at YouGov actually got their figures out first…). This race rather obscures the fact that some more interesting data emerged a little later, in the details of the polls carried out by the four companies doing post-debate polls last night.

You can find the detailed poll findings here: from YouGovICMSurvation, and ComRes. I’d encourage you to look through them for yourself. There are a number of questions in these surveys which strike me as much more useful and informative than those that simply asked for a single ‘winner’.

One of the best questions was in YouGov’s poll, where instead of asking for people to nominate one winner they asked for people to rate all the leaders out of 10. Unfortunately they have not been able to provide a ‘regional’ breakdown on these figures; however, these are the GB-wide averages:

 

Sturgeon: 6.7

Cameron: 5.9

Miliband: 5.9

Clegg: 5.5

Farage: 5.5

Wood: 5.1

Bennett: 4.7

 

The other polls do provide some regional breakdowns; although the sub-samples are fairly small, and not weighted for representativeness within those regions (and so should therefore be interpreted with considerable caution), the figures still give some useful indications. For instance, all the Scottish sub-samples show Nicola Sturgeon rating very strongly among Scottish viewers of the debate. It is difficult to imagine that the debate will have done anything other than reinforce her party’s currently strong position in Scotland.

ICM do have a question on the leaders’ performances which is, I think, almost as good as that of YouGov. Respondents were asked to state whether they thought each of the leaders had performed well or badly. Subtracting the percentage of ‘Badly’ responses from the ‘Well’ ones for each leader, we get the following results:

 

Sturgeon: +38

Miliband: +28

Cameron: +21

Clegg: +16

Farage: +14

Wood: +12

Bennett: +1

 

Among the Welsh sub-sample (a fairly small one, at only 78 respondents), these were the following net well-badly ratings:

 

Sturgeon: +66

Wood: +50

Bennett: +45

Miliband: +15

Cameron: +12

Farage: -4

Clegg: -7