The Rest of the May Welsh Political Barometer, Part I

With sampling for our last Welsh Political Barometer poll being completed on the day before the general election, it was understandable that all immediate attention focussed on the implications of the poll for that election. However, as with other Barometer polls, we also included questions on a number of other matters. In this and a following post, I’ll discuss those other results.

I’ll start here with the polling numbers for the National Assembly. Please bear in mind: these numbers come from the same poll that, as I discussed in another recent blog post, slightly over-stated Labour electoral support for the general election and under-stated Conservative support. These errors will probably lead to YouGov revising their sampling and weighting procedures in Wales in future, in a manner that makes their polls produce results that are a little less favourable to Labour and a little kinder to the Tories. But that hasn’t been done yet. So I am simply reporting here the figures that YouGov supplied to us last week. They have not been adjusted in any way. You may, therefore, want to mentally revise downwards the Labour vote share figures a small amount, and revise upwards the Conservative ones a bit. Of course, any such changes could potentially have implications for the allocation of seats in the National Assembly.

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

 

Labour: 35% (-2)

Conservatives: 22% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 21% (+1)

UKIP: 12% (+1)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (no change)

Greens: 2% (-1)

Others: 1% (+1)

 

On the standard assumption of uniform national swing, 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. On Ratio Swing assumptions, we also find that only two constituency seats would change hands – but they are not the same two! Plaid would still capture Llanelli from Labour, but the other seat to change hands would be Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, which would be gained by Plaid from the Conservatives.

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

 

Labour: 32% (-2)

Conservatives: 22% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 20% (no change)

UKIP: 13% (+2)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (no change)

Greens: 4% (-1)

Others: 3% (+1)

 

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:

 

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

Conservatives: 12 seats (6 constituency seats + 6 list seats)

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

UKIP: 7 seats (7 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

 

If we model the poll numbers according to Ratio Swing, then the final seat allocations come out like this:

 

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

Conservatives: 12 seats (5 constituency seats + 7 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 11 seats (7 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

UKIP: 7 seats (7 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seats (1 constituency seat)

 

Once again, the Barometer poll has produced a projected result (under either modelling method) that gives us five parties with representation in the National Assembly. The good news for Labour is that, under either UNS or RS, they are currently projected to win well over twice the number of seats won by the next-largest party. The much less good news for Labour is that this poll put them, on both votes, within one percentage point of their lowest vote share for Assembly voting intentions in any Welsh poll conducted since May 2010. And that in a poll that was probably, for the reasons outlined above, slightly over-stating Labour support. Perhaps the best news for Labour here is that the poll hardly offers unambiguous good news to anyone else either.

Swinging Both Ways

During the run-up to the recent general election, my old friend Uniform National Swing (UNS) was given a very hard time by lots of people. A number of journalists and other commentators, and many people from within the parties, suggested that we were going to see such a complex pattern of changes across different nations, regions and even individual constituencies that UNS was positively misleading; I was even told directly by someone from one of the parties that using it to project the potential seat implications of opinion polls was ‘utterly ludicrous’.

I think that some of these criticisms, at least, misunderstood how analysts generally deploy assumptions like UNS. Of course those using UNS to project the potential seat implications of an opinion poll don’t believe that any future election will really see a party’s support levels change by an exactly uniform percentage right across the country. (We might be stupid, but we’re not that stupid). As I have tried to explain on the blog previously, I don’t see UNS as any sort of infallible prediction tool (which was why I was always very careful to make clear here that I was making projections of the potential seat implications of polling numbers, and definitely not predictions). I think UNS provides us with a useful baseline, or benchmark, against which pre-election we can assess the tasks facing parties in individual seats, and post-election we can evaluate their achievements. But it is nothing much more than that.

That said, in the wake of the election I thought that it might be useful to look through the forty Welsh constituencies, to see how well UNS performed in ‘predicting’ the outcome in each one. That is, by taking the national swings in vote share between 2010-15, how accurately can we project the result in each constituency? If the critics of UNS were right, we should find significant numbers of seats producing results different from those implied by the national swings in vote share. And as I was doing this exercise for UNS, I thought it would also be a good idea to check on the outcomes for Ratio Swing (RS) as well.

(A brief reminder for those of you a little hazy on the detail here. UNS simply means projecting the change in national vote share for each party onto each constituency. So if a party has seen its vote share go up by 1.1% nationally, you just apply an increase of 1.1% to its result in 2010 in every seat to get the projected result in 2015. Ratio Swing models the change in the ratio of a party’s support. So if a hypothetical party, let’s call them the Liberal Democrats, were seeing their vote share fall by two-thirds nationally, you would then project them for 2015, in each constituency, to see their vote fall by two-thirds on their 2010 total).

The table below shows the forty Welsh constituencies. In the following three columns I then list the party projected to win the seat under UNS, under RS, and the party that actually won the seat. I highlight in bold any cases where the seat is projected to have been won by a different party from that which actually won it.

 

ConstituencyUNSRatioRESULT
Ynys MônLabourLabourLabour
ArfonPlaidPlaidPlaid
AberconwyConservativeConservativeConservative
Clwyd WestConservativeConservativeConservative
Vale of ClwydLabourLabourConservative
DelynLabourLabourLabour
Alyn & DeesideLabourLabourLabour
WrexhamLabourLabourLabour
Clwyd SouthLabourLabourLabour
Dwyfor MeirionyddPlaidPlaidPlaid
MontgomeryConservativeConservativeConservative
CeredigionLib-DemPlaidLib-Dem
Brecon & RadnorConservativeConservativeConservative
Preseli PembrokeConservativeConservativeConservative
Carmarthen West & South PembsConservativeConservativeConservative
Carmarthen East & DinefwrPlaidPlaidPlaid
LlanelliLabourLabourLabour
GowerLabourLabourConservative
Swansea WestLabourLabourLabour
Swansea EastLabourLabourLabour
NeathLabourLabourLabour
AberavonLabourLabourLabour
BridgendLabourLabourLabour
OgmoreLabourLabourLabour
RhonddaLabourLabourLabour
Cynon ValleyLabourLabourLabour
PontypriddLabourLabourLabour
Vale of GlamorganConservativeConservativeConservative
Cardiff WestLabourLabourLabour
Cardiff NorthConservativeConservativeConservative
Cardiff CentralLabourLabourLabour
Cardiff South & PenarthLabourLabourLabour
Merthyr Tydfil & RhymneyLabourLabourLabour
CaerphillyLabourLabourLabour
Blaenau GwentLabourLabourLabour
IslwynLabourLabourLabour
TorfaenLabourLabourLabour
Newport WestLabourLabourLabour
Newport EastLabourLabourLabour
MonmouthConservativeConservativeConservative

 

As we can see, there are not many cell entries in bold. UNS projected the correct winner – albeit not necessarily by the correct percentage – in 38 of the 40 seats in Wales. The only exceptions are the two surprise Conservative gains on the night: Vale of Clwyd and Gower. RS performs almost equally well – perhaps unsurprisingly as it projects the same result as UNS in all-but-one seat. That seat is Ceredigion, which UNS correctly projected to be a Liberal Democrat hold, but RS projected as a Plaid Cymru gain.

So, UNS projected the correct winner in 95 percent of all seats in Wales; and RS did so in 92.5 percent. I don’t think that’s at all bad – those are success rates that some of the very mathematically sophisticated election prediction models developed for 2015 certainly did not attain. I’ll therefore continue to use UNS as the main basis for projecting the potential seat implications of any polls conducted in Wales, while also reporting for readers of this blog figures from an RS projection. I hope you don’t think that is too ludicrous.

‘Where Did It All Go So Wrong?’

In addition to the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, the clear loser from the 2015 general election seems to be the opinion polling industry. Throughout 2015 the polls had apparently been pointing to a very close general election, with a hung parliament a near-certainty. Yet, in the end, the Conservatives finished almost seven percentage points way ahead of Labour in the popular vote, and managed to secure an overall parliamentary majority. Something seems to have gone rather wrong.

The British Polling Council, a body to which all of the main polling companies belong, has already announced an enquiry. But before we can enquire into why things went wrong, we have to be clear about the nature of the error. In Scotland, the polls got it absolutely right in predicting an SNP landslide, even if they did not get the percentage vote-shares won by each of the parties exactly correct.

So what about in Wales? Here we only had one regular polling company publishing in the build up to the election, YouGov. (ICM have done some Welsh polls over recent years, but regrettably none in the election campaign itself). So we are really evaluating the record of one poll – the Welsh Political Barometer, on which I have worked with ITV-Wales and YouGov for the last eighteen months. So how well did we do?

The final Barometer poll was released last Wednesday. Sampling by YouGov was done on the last three days of the election campaign, to ensure the data was gathered as late as possible before voting began. The poll asked two voting intention questions. The first was a standard, general question:

“The general election is this Thursday, 7th May, which party will you vote for?”

This was then followed up with a second question:

“Thinking specifically about your own constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency this Thursday?”

Results from these two questions were then weighted by respondents’ answers to a third question, on likelihood to vote (“The general election will be held this week. On a scale of 0 (certain NOT to vote) to 10 (absolutely certain to vote), how likely are you to vote in the general election?”).

The table below gives three sets of figures. The first column of numbers is the actual election result, to one decimal place, for each of the main parties. The next column gives the results produced by the Barometer poll for the ‘generic’ voting intention question. The final column gives the Barometer results for the ‘constituency-specific’ voting intention question. Finally, at the bottom of the two columns is a measure of how ‘wrong’ the poll was – the mean error. This is calculated by measuring, for each of the six main parties, the gap between the election result and the poll figure for vote share, and then working out the average of this error.

 

PartyResult‘Generic’ %‘Constituency’ %
Labour36.93839
Conservative27.22625
UKIP13.61312
Plaid Cymru12.11213
Liberal Democrats6.578
Greens2.642
MEAN ERROR0.821.48

 

Bearing in mind that such polls have a ‘margin of error’ of approximately 3% either way, we can see that on both questions the poll performed pretty well. Every one of the six parties’ final vote share was estimated within that 3% margin on both questions. However, the generic question clearly performed better for every party except the Greens, and got all of the six parties within 1.4% of the final outcome. The average error under this question was less than a single percentage point. This is a very strong performance.

Rather unfortunately, however, those generic figures were not the ones that were reported by YouGov last Wednesday as their final ‘headline’ numbers when we published the poll last Wednesday afternoon. Instead the figures that were highlighted were the constituency-specific ones. Why? In the (typically honest) words of Laurence Janta-Lipinski, Associate Director for Political and Social Research at YouGov, who has worked with us for several years on Welsh polling:

“[I]n terms of why we used the constituency questions, we made a very poor judgement call. There was patchy evidence in the last election cycle which suggested the constituency question would be more accurate; in 2009, the main voting intention showed the Lib Dems losing all their seats in their heartlands where the constituency question suggested they would hold on to them, which in fact they did in 2010. In 2015, we were seeing a similar pattern and therefore decided that the best course of action was to use constituency VI again this time. In reality, the reverse appeared to be true and…we got it wrong. It’s not just Wales, the standard question would have been better across the board.

 

It clearly was unfortunate that we did not use the generic numbers, which really were very accurate – although they still slightly under-stated the Conservative position and over-stated that of Labour.

This experience raises a broader question about the conduct of polls that have asked both generic and then constituency-specific questions. Such was the approach of Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polls, for example, which tended to give particular prominence to the constituency-specific numbers when assessing the results. In the end, however, for most constituencies polled by Lord Ashcroft, as also with our Barometer poll, it seems that the numbers produced by the generic question again came rather closer to the final election outcome than those from the question that prompted people to think about their specific constituency. I’ll be reflecting on the experience of the Ashcroft constituency polls in Wales in a later blog post.

The main message, though, is that I think we need to refine slightly our understanding of where the polls went wrong in Britain in 2015. They didn’t go much wrong at all in Scotland. Nor were they very wide of the mark in Wales. It was in England that the polls had much more serious problems. I look forward eagerly to the findings of the British Polling Council enquiry as to quite what those problems were.

An Election 2015 Podcast

Earlier today I recorded a podcast about the 2015 general election with my colleagues at the Wales Governance Centre here in Cardiff University, Lleu Williams and Richard Wyn Jones.

We discussed the election result, and its further implications, for just under half an hour.

You can hear it here. I’d be grateful to hear any thoughts and feedback you have.

The 2015 Election Result in Wales

Well, I think we can safely say that that was an ‘interesting’ general election…

The final result in Wales was (with changes in vote share and seats from 2010 in brackets):

 

PartyVotes% VoteSeats
Labour552,47336.9% (+0.7)25 (-1)
Conservative407,81327.2% (+1.1)11 (+3)
UKIP204,36013.6% (+11.2)0
Plaid Cymru181,69412.1% (+0.8)3
Liberal Democrats97,7836.5% (-13.6%)1 (-2)
Greens38,3442.6% (+2.1)0
Others15,6161.1% (-2.3)0

 

I’ve posted a link, in the Election Results section of the blog, to the full BBC list of results in Wales.

You can also see here, a spreadsheet list of the changes in vote share, for each of the six main parties in Wales, in every seat.

Meanwhile, my friend Harry Hayfield has very kindly prepared a list of what are now the ten most marginal Welsh seats:

10) Ceredigion (Lib Dem lead of 8.20%)

9) Alyn and Deeside (Lab lead of 8.09%)

8) Delyn (Lab lead of 7.82%)

7) Clwyd South (Lab lead of 6.85%)

6) Wrexham (Lab lead of 5.60%)

5) Bridgend (Lab lead of 4.88%)

4) Cardiff North (Con lead of 4.18%)

3) Vale of Clwyd (Con lead of 0.67%)

2) Ynys Môn (Lab lead of 0.66%)

1) Gower (Con lead of 0.06%)

 

Harry has also been kind enough to work through the numbers and look at what would happen in next year’s Assembly election if people voted as they did this year. (And before anyone objects, yes both Harry and I know very well that many people tend to vote differently in the two elections! We also know that there are two ballots next year; for now, Harry has assumed a 100% transfer of constituency votes to regional votes, which of course has never happened in an Assembly election to date.)

Anyway, here are the numbers Harry has worked out:

 

North Wales Constituencies: Labour 5, Conservatives 3, Plaid Cymru 1

North Wales Regional List Votes: Labour 107,722, Conservatives 100,103, UKIP 44,392, Plaid 42,637 (No other parties get enough to be in the running for the list seats)

North Wales Regional List Allocation: UKIP win the first seat, Con win the second seat, UKIP win the third seat, Plaid win the fourth seat (UKIP 2, Con 1, Plaid 1)

 

Mid and West Wales Constituencies: Conservatives 4, Plaid Cymru 2, Labour 1, Liberal Democrats 1

Mid and West Wales Regional List Votes: Conservatives 90,209, Labour 63,798, Plaid 56,382, Liberal Democrats 39,219, UKIP 33,649

Mid and West Wales Regional List Allocation: UKIP win the first seat, Lab win the second seat, Lib Dem win the third seat, Plaid win the fourth seat (UKIP 1, Lab 1, Lib Dem 1, Plaid 1)

 

South Wales West Constituencies: Labour 6, Conservatives 1

South Wales West Regional List Votes: Labour 113,582, Conservatives 56,685, UKIP 37,692, Plaid 25,540

South Wales West Regional List Allocation: UKIP win the first seat, Con win the second seat, Plaid win the third seat, UKIP win the fourth seat (UKIP 2, Con 1, Plaid 1)

 

South Wales Central Constituencies: Labour 6, Conservatives 2

South Wales Central Regional List Votes: Labour 135,592, Conservatives 86,878, UKIP 37,346, Plaid 34,629, Lib Dem 24,338

South Wales Central Regional List Allocation: UKIP win the first seat, Plaid win the second seat, Con win the third seat, Lib Dem win the fourth seat (UKIP 1, Plaid 1, Con 1, Lib Dem 1)

 

South Wales East Constituencies: Labour 7, Conservatives 1

South Wales East Regional List Votes: Labour 131,779, Conservatives 73,938, UKIP 51,251, Plaid 22,516

South Wales East Regional List Allocation: UKIP win the first seat, Con win the second seat, UKIP win the third seat, Plaid win the fourth seat (UKIP 2, Con 1, Plaid 1)

 

Constituencies Won: Labour 25, Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru 3, Liberal Democrats 1

Regional List Members Elected: Labour 1, Conservatives 4, Plaid Cymru 5, Liberal Democrats 2, UKIP 8

Total Assembly Members: Labour 26, Conservatives 15, Plaid Cymru 8, UKIP 8, Liberal Democrats 3 (Labour short of a majority by 5)

 

And before anyone tweets excitedly about this, neither Harry nor I are predicting that this is what will happen next year.

 

Final Welsh Political Barometer Poll of the Election

Today’s Welsh Political Barometer poll is our final one of this general election campaign. With polling stations opening in less than twenty-four hours, how do the parties in Wales stand on the eve of this, most unpredictable general election? And how has support for the different parties changed across the course of the campaign?

Our new poll was carried by YouGov as late as possible – between Monday and this morning. Here are the figures for general election voting intention (I’ve put in brackets how our poll figures compare with the vote-share won by each party in Wales in the May 2010 election):

 

Labour: 39% (+3)

Conservatives: 25% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 13% (+2)

UKIP: 12% (+9)

Liberal Democrats: 8% (-12)

Greens: 2% (+2)

 

This is the fifth poll that YouGov have carried out in Wales since the start of the election campaign. How much has support for the parties changed? The following table shows how support has ebbed and flowed since our late-March Barometer poll:

 

Party27/0331/0315/0430/0406/05
Labour40%40%40%39%39%
Conservative25%27%26%26%25%
LibDems5%6%6%6%8%
Plaid Cymru11%9%12%13%13%
UKIP14%13%13%12%12%
Greens5%5%4%3%2%

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

 

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 final poll suggests that the campaign has had only a limited impact in terms of changing the mind of the Welsh voters. Labour’s support has been stable throughout the campaign, at a level a few points above their performance in 2010. This suggests that Labour should be in good shape to hold most, if not all, of the seats that they won in 2010; however they may gain fewer seats in Wales than they would need in order to be on course for a parliamentary majority in the Commons.

The poll also provides yet further confirmation that Conservative support in Wales remains robust at a level that should help the Tories retain the vast majority of the seats that they won in Wales in 2010.

Two parties have the polls suggest, made some progress during the campaign. One, perhaps surprisingly, is the Liberal Democrats. While their overall support remains well below half of the level they won five year ago, they are up three points on the start of the campaign. If this rise in support is concentrated in their existing seats, then the Lib-Dems may well have a chance of hanging on to all three of them.

The one party that has made some, modest progress is Plaid Cymru. Their support has risen by three points from YouGov’s previous Welsh poll. This is the second successive poll that has placed them – narrowly – ahead of UKIP in third place, and they are up four points on their low-point in a poll early in the campaign. Nonetheless, on uniform swings Plaid would still be struggling to add to its current three seats.

The poll adds further evidence that UKIP’s support is now several points below its highpoint last autumn. It also suggests that the Greens have had a poor campaign. Neither party would now appear to have realistic hopes of winning a parliamentary seat in Wales in 2015.

Still, this is only an opinion poll. As we all know the only poll that really counts is the one that is coming tomorrow. There’s not long to wait now!

Postscript: And for the die-hard Welsh psephology enthusiasts out there (yes, both of you), here are the Ratio Swing seat projections from the 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 won in 2010 and gaining Ceredigion);

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

 

But please remember, folks – a projection is not a prediction.

Other Results from YouGov’s Poll for Plaid Cymru

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had details published yesterday of a new poll which YouGov conducted last week for Plaid Cymru. I discussed the results on voting intention in yesterday’s post; I also explained there that the poll had been conducted in the standard YouGov manner, and that the results had been weighted and presented in the normal way. Moreover, the ordering and wording of the questions on vote intention were perfectly standard. In short, although the poll was commissioned by a party competing in the election, and although I disagreed with aspects of the interpretation put on those results by Plaid Cymru, I can’t see any reason to question the basic findings of the poll itself. We can place as much – or, if you prefer, as little – credence on its findings as we would on any YouGov poll.

Vote intention was not, however,the only subject matter covered by the poll. Three other questions were included by Plaid in the poll – all of which tap into themes that Plaid have sought to emphasise in their election campaign. These additional questions – which came after those on voting intention, and so could not have ‘contaminated’ the vote intention responses – more clearly sought to play into a particular partisan agenda.

The first two concern the issue of ‘fair funding’ for Wales, which has of course been one of Plaid’s central campaign themes. The first question asked respondents:

 

“Do you think Wales receives more, less or about the same amount of funding as Scotland?”

 

The responses given were:

Wales receives more funding that Scotland: 2%

Wales receives less funding than Scotland: 77%

Wales receives about the same amount of funding as Scotland: 7%

Don’t Know: 14%

 

These responses are quite striking. While it would be useful to see the issue explored with some other, slightly differently-worded questions, they do suggest that on this issue Plaid has had considerable success in getting its message home to people – although this message does build somewhat on years of wider discussion on the matter.

The second question then followed directly on from the first one: having asked people what they think is the situation regarding funding, they now asked people what it should be:

 

And do you think Wales should receive more, less or about the same amount of funding as Scotland?

 

Responses were:

Wales should receive more funding that Scotland: 8%

Wales should receive less funding than Scotland: 4%

Wales should receive about the same amount of funding as Scotland: 78%

Don’t Know: 10%

 

While the responses to the first question were perhaps somewhat surprising, these ones to the follow-up are much more predictable. Questions such as this play into strong social norms regarding fairness. The key impact of these findings, though, is in the disparity between the responses to the two questions – there seems to be a widespread public view that, on funding, Wales is not being treated as it ought to be.

 

Finally, the Plaid poll also asked the following question:

Thinking of this General Election campaign, which political leader best stands up for the people of Wales?

This particular wording might be regarded as ‘stacking the deck’ in favour of Leanne Wood to some extent. Given that she has been, by a very long way, the most high profile Welsh politician during the election campaign, the first six words of the question might well be regarded as conducive to her receiving particularly good ratings. Whatever, a long list of politicians were offered to the survey respondents, and these are the answers given:

 

Leanne Wood: 29%

Carwyn Jones: 12%

Ed Miliband: 7%

Nigel Farage: 4%

David Cameron: 4%

Kirsty Williams: 4%

Stephen Crabb: 3%

Andrew RT Davies: 2%

Natalie Bennett: 1%

Owen Smith: 1%

Nathan Gill: 1%

Nick Clegg: 1%

Pippa Bartolotti: 0%

 

Clearly, Leanne Wood comes out well ahead of the field – something that does fit with other evidence that the election campaign has raised both her profile and her popularity within Wales. Nonetheless, it might be interesting to repeat this question, minus the first six words, outside the context of a general election campaign.

All the tables for the poll are available here.

A Bonus YouGov Poll!

Well, there went my quiet Saturday… After posting this morning my reflections on last night’s BBC Leaders’ Debate, I thought I could have a few hours off and enjoy the Newmarket Guineas meeting on TV. (That’s horse racing, in case you were wondering).

However, Plaid Cymru have decided to interrupt my few, well-earned hours leisure by releasing a new Welsh poll. Like our Welsh Political Barometer polls it was conducted by YouGov, with the fieldwork done on Tuesday to Thursday of this week. The detailed tables are here.

First things first – can we trust this poll? After all, it was commissioned by a political party competing in this election. Well, I’ve looked through the details of the poll, and it seems quite ‘legit’ to me. It has been done to YouGov’s normal professional standards, with a similar sample size to the Barometer polls; the questions seem to me both sensibly ordered and reasonably worded. The data has also been weighted and reported in YouGov’s normal manner. It might well, be, of course, that had the results been unfavourable to Plaid’s narrative then the poll findings would not have been published. But while I would dispute some aspects of how Plaid seem to be spinning the results (see below), the results themselves seem as reliable as any poll to be conducted by YouGov.

So what do the results show? Well, here are the figures on the standard general election voting intention question (weighted, as YouGov have been doing with all their polls in the final few weeks prior to polling day) by likelihood to vote. (You can find the results without likelihood to vote weighting in the detailed tables):

Labour: 39% (-1 on the most recent Barometer poll)

Conservative: 26% (unchanged)

Plaid Cymru: 13% (+1)

UKIP: 12% (-1)

Liberal Democrats: 6% (unchanged)

Greens: 3% (-1)

Others: 2% (+2)

 

So these figures show only very small changes on the last Barometer poll, all well within the ‘margin of error’. Still, you’d always rather be going up rather than down, even within the margin of error, and Plaid will be pleased to have edged up a bit further – thereby relegating UKIP narrowly into fourth place.

An interesting feature of this poll, however is that it followed up the standard ‘generic’ voting intention question with one that asked respondents to focus on the specific dynamics of their constituency. (See the tables for the exact wording on this). This is very similar to the approach that Lord Ashcroft has followed in his constituency polls. It is also something that Survation have been doing in some of their recent GB-wide polling. What difference does this make? Well, here are the figures for voting intention once respondents have been primed to focus on their constituency:

Labour: 37%

Conservative: 25%

Plaid Cymru: 15%

UKIP: 12%

Liberal Democrats: 7%

Greens: 2%

Others: 2%

 

So overall this constituency-specific question doesn’t make a great deal of difference. But it does seem to help Plaid a little bit (and also the Lib-Dems to an ever smaller extent) – it pushes them up to 15%, which would be, if they achieved it, Plaid’s best-ever general election vote share in Wales.

On Plaid’s website, my old friend and former colleague Dr Dafydd Trystan (Plaid’s National Chair) has compared the results of this second question with those from the generic voting intention question in the first YouGov poll of the campaign, that for The Sun newspaper at the very end of March. I think this is a tad naughty – we are comparing the results of two different questions here. There is also a more general question regarding the use of these questions that ask people to think about their specific constituency: once the election is over we may be able to tell whether they, or the traditional generic questions, have proven better at ‘predicting’ voter behaviour.

I’ll up-date this post later today with UNS and Ratio Swing projections of these findings. I’ll also post some time (tomorrow, I expect) about the other findings of the poll.

Postscript: OK, so I’ve worked through the seat projection numbers for both the generic and the constituency-specific voting intention questions from this poll. And I’ve done them for both Uniform National Swing and Ratio Swing (boy do I know how to have a fun time on a Saturday afternoon…).

So, first, the standard voting intention question. Here are the UNS seat projection numbers:

Labour: 28 seats (holding all 26 from 2010, and gaining Cardiff Central and Cardiff North)

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

Plaid Cymru: 3 seats (holding the 3 seats won in 2010)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (holding Ceredigion, but losing both Cardiff Central and Brecon & Radnor)

And here are the Ratio Swing projections:

Labour: 28 seats (holding all 26 from 2010, and gaining Cardiff Central and Cardiff North)

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

Plaid Cymru: 4 seats (holding the 3 seats won in 2010 and gaining Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats)

Liberal Democrats: 0 seats

 

What about the constituency-specific question? Well, for Uniform National Swing the projected seat results are identical to that for the generic question, with the two Cardiff seats plus Brecon & Radnor being the only seats to change hands. But when we use Ratio Swing, we get a slightly different outcome:

Labour: 27 seats (gaining Cardiff Central and Cardiff North, but losing Ynys Mon)

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

Plaid Cymru: 5 seats (holding the 3 seats won in 2010, and gaining Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats and Ynys Mon from Labour)

Liberal Democrats: 0 seats

 

Those are the seat projections I get from applying these formulae to the polling numbers. Could I remind you all to please not refer to them as my predictions as to what will happen next week.

The BBC Leaders’ Debate

Last night saw the final major set-piece event of the election campaign in Wales – the second full Welsh Leaders’ Debate, shown live on BBC1 Wales. Analysis of Twitter reaction to this event apparently showed far fewer tweets than there were in response to the earlier ITV debate – perhaps even Twitter is getting a little campaign-weary?! Still, held only six days prior to polling, this debate was a last major chance for the parties in Wales to connect to the voters.

The most obvious winner last night, as in Thursday’s Question Time event in Leeds with Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, was the audience. The Cardiff audience last night seemed cut from much the same cloth: nearly all those who spoke seemed formidably well-informed, and the overall tone of the audience could, I think, fairly be described as feisty.

But what of the politicians? As I mentioned on the live Blog the BBC were running, I thought it was difficult to pick out an outright winner. But there did seem to me to be one person who had clearly the most uncomfortable night – Labour’s Owen Smith. Although he did land a few good blows of his own, he was far too often on the defensive. His attempts to defend Labour’s economic record up until 2010 received, at one point, derisive laughter from some of the audience; he was forced onto the defensive during debate on the NHS (which is supposed to be Labour’s strongest ground); and he was on the receiving end of the most effective line of the night (about which, more below). In a very close election, last night’s debate would not likely have won many votes to Labour – and could even have lost a few.

(As a side note, I was somewhat surprised that Owen Smith remained the Labour representative last night. As numerous polls discussed on this blog have shown, Carwyn Jones has for some years been the most popular politician in Wales. And Carwyn’s speech at the Labour Millennium Centre rally yesterday showed just how effective a political communicator he can be. Labour’s reluctance, in such a close election, to field what is clearly their biggest electoral asset in Wales remains a puzzle to at least some outside observers).

I thought that all the other leaders performed capably. While having a few uncomfortable moments in defending aspects of the coalition government’s record, both Stephen Crabb and Kirsty Williams performed well overall and particularly when on their own most-favoured territory (the economy for the former; the NHS for the latter). Pippa Bartolotti seemed to have learned plenty from the ITV debate – she ran over time less often, and seemed to manage better the balance between addressing the people in the hall and those watching on TV. Meanwhile, Nathan Gill again gave a good performance: he took a much less confrontational approach than his party leader had done in the GB-wide debates, and I think it generally worked.

For much of the night, Leanne Wood seemed in rather restrained form. Watching it at the time, I wondered if she was just running out of steam, as we approach the end of a campaign in which she has participated in so many media and campaign events. But perhaps she was just waiting her moment – because her ‘taking people for granted’ line to Owen Smith near the end of the debate was, I think, the most effective line of the night. As Nicola Sturgeon showed in the seven-way GB-wide debate, it isn’t necessarily the person who talks the most who comes out best in these debates.

So, only five days to go now. For these last few days the parties will, one imagines, be focussing on their key seats, and ensuring that they mobilise their support. The polls show that things remain achingly close. My next blog post should be on Wednesday – with the results of the final Welsh Political Barometer poll of the campaign.

A Personal Plea

The election is now a week away. Some 3,973 candidates are awaiting the verdict of the voters. There are few certainties in this election, but one is this: all but 650 of these candidates will lose.

The majority will surely expect defeat – indeed, they cannot possibly expect any other outcome. But some of those who will be defeated will be sitting MPs, and not all will have anticipated losing their seats. Others to lose will be challengers who began their campaign with reasonable expectations of success, but who in the end have fallen short. Even for some who had little illusion that they were likely to win, the scale of their rejection by the voters may still come as a major disappointment.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have had the experience of applying and interviewing for a job but failing to get it. Many will also have experienced losing a job. The former is hardly enjoyable; the latter can be deeply painful. But for most of us these experiences will, at least, have occurred in relative privacy. Outside the realms of football management few people experience what defeated electoral candidates must often experience: large numbers of people actively cheering news of your demise.

Of course we must acknowledge that candidates enter politics voluntarily, and they generally have a pretty fair idea of what they might be letting themselves in for. And, after some years on a good professional salary and with decent severance payments, any sitting MPs losing their seats are unlikely to face destitution.

All this is true. But it’s also true that most people I have encountered in politics – even those whose views I profoundly disagree with – get involved in it because they care about the society they live in and wish to make it better. Most elected parliamentarians, at all levels, work hard for long hours – while not infrequently facing levels of criticism and even hostility that would qualify as unlawful harassment in most other working environments.

Whatever their individual character faults, all 3323 defeated candidates in the general election are human beings. And it cannot be easy having your downfall actively and publicly celebrated by others. Perhaps we should all bear this in mind.

Please be kind.