One of the frustrations that can face those interested in elections and party politics in Wales is the paucity of information. This has certainly often been the case with regard to opinion polling.
GB-wide opinion polls by a number of companies – YouGov, ICM, Populus, Survation, ComRes, Opinium and Ipsos-Mori – are published regularly. These polls normally contain a question on UK General Election voting intention, along with a few other questions. They include Welsh respondents in their samples. But the number of Welsh respondents is too small to allow sensible conclusions about the Welsh political landscape to be drawn. To be more properly informed, we need Wales-specific polls. Not only can these have a sufficiently large sample; they are also more likely to include questions (like Assembly election voting intentions, and evaluations of the Welsh party leaders) that matter to an understanding of elections here but which obviously won’t feature in GB-wide polls.
But few bodies have normally been willing to pay for regular polling in Wales. The BBC operates tight internal restrictions on the commissioning and reporting of polls. Thus, BBC Wales commissions an annual ‘St David’s Day’ poll from the highly-respected ICM, but cannot ask about respondents’ voting intentions. And few other media organisations have generally had the resources for regular polling. Hence, between the 2003 and 2007 Assembly elections, only three polls reporting voting intention figures were published in Wales.
Things improved in 2009. Collaborating with the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth University and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, YouGov developed a Welsh polling capacity. YouGov have pioneered Internet polling: a method that has critics but which has generally delivered good results at far lower cost (and quicker turnaround time) than traditional face-to-face or telephone methods. ITV-Wales commissioned YouGov to conduct fairly regular polling in the run up to the May 2010 UK general election, the March 2011 referendum and the May 2011 Assembly election. This helped political debate and analysis to be rather better informed. Results from these surveys are available under the Opinion Polls section.
Since May 2011, amidst tight budgets, media interest has understandably waned. Only five polls have been reported. The most recent was in February 2013, conducted by YouGov for ITV-Wales. It reported the following figures (changes since the last election in brackets):
UK General Election Voting Intention, Feb 2013
Labour: 51% (+15%)
Conservative: 22% (-4%)
Lib-Dems: 9% (-11%)
Plaid Cymru: 10% (-1%)
Others: 9% (+3%)
National Assembly Election Voting Intention (Constituency Vote) Feb 2013
Labour: 46% (+4%)
Conservative: 21% (-4%)
Lib-Dems: 10% (-1%)
Plaid Cymru: 17% (-2%)
Others: 6% (+3%)
National Assembly Election Voting Intention (Regional List Vote) Feb 2013
Labour: 26% (-11%)
Conservative: 14% (-9%)
Lib-Dems: 11% (-3%)
Plaid Cymru: 26% (+8%)
Others: 24% (+9%)
(The figures that most stand out to me – and I suspect to many others – were those for the regional list vote. I hope to discuss them in a future post; and also perhaps to explore with YouGov why Labour’s support should apparently be so much lower, and Plaid Cymru’s so much higher, on the list vote).
However, a new poll is on the way!
To celebrate the launch of Elections in Wales – and conveniently timed for the political ‘end of term’ – YouGov are conducting a new poll, asking about voting intentions for both Westminster and the National Assembly. It should provide a valuable gauge of the State of the Parties for the politicians, and all the rest of us, to consider as we disappear to the seaside with our buckets and spades.
Results, along with some initial analysis, should be posted here on Tuesday. Be patient.