Another set of questions that we were able to include in the poll run by YouGov recently was about the party leaders.
The question asked was the following: “Using a scale that runs from 0 to 10, where 0 means strongly dislike and 10 means strongly like, how do you feel about…” applied to all the main UK and Welsh party leaders.
This is a question that has been used before in YouGov surveys in Wales (and, indeed, elsewhere): we can therefore readily compare the results from the current poll with those from previous surveys.
A first interesting thing to look at is how many people chose the ‘Don’t Know’ option for each leader. No, really. While some people do choose this option because they are genuinely undecided or totally indifferent, in the aggregate the percentage of people choosing Don’t Know seems to be a good indicator of the visibility of a particular party leader.
Given that we are between election times, we would expect the public visibility of the Welsh party leaders to be lower than it will be during the Assembly election campaign in 2016. However, there has also been concern expressed at the low public visibility of devolved politics in Wales. The results from our poll tend to reinforce this concern. The percentage of respondents choosing the Don’t Know option for each leader were:
David Cameron: 9%
Ed Miliband: 10%
Nick Clegg: 10%
Nigel Farage: 21%
Carwyn Jones: 23%
Andrew RT Davies: 44%
Kirsty Williams: 37%
Leanne Wood: 40%
So Carwyn Jones, after being First Minister for more than three years, appears to have a lower profile in Wales than Nigel Farage – leader of a party with no MPs or AMs, and only limited support in Wales. And over two-fifths of respondents had no opinion of the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.
What about those people who did offer a view? The same question was asked in the 2011 Welsh Election Study, immediately after the May 2011 Assembly election. The mean average rating then for each leader was the following:
David Cameron: 3.6
Ed Miliband: 4.6
Nick Clegg: 3.1
Nigel Farage: n.a
Carwyn Jones: 5.8
Nick Bourne: 3.1
Kirsty Williams: 4.4
Ieuan Wyn Jones: 4.4
Perhaps the most obvious thing to stand out here is how far ahead of all the other leaders Carwyn Jones was. Indeed, a direct comparison with data from the 2011 Scottish Election Study (who asked an identical question) showed that Carwyn was even more popular in Wales than was Alex Salmond in Scotland: Salmond was by far the most popular of all the party leaders in Scotland, but had an average rating of only 5.5 out of 10.
So how have the leaders fared since? The same question has been asked in three surveys over the last 14 months: in April 2012, February 2013 and now our new poll (July 2013). The average ratings in these three polls were:
Apr12 Feb13 July 13
David Cameron: 3.1 3.2 3.0
Ed Miliband: 3.8 4.3 4.4
Nick Clegg: 2.7 2.9 2.9
Nigel Farage: n.a 3.6 3.1
Carwyn Jones: 4.7 5.0 5.1
Andrew RT Davies: 3.0 3.2 3.0
Kirsty Williams: 3.5 3.5 3.5
Leanne Wood: 3.9 3.8 3.5
Perhaps the most obvious feature of the results is the general decline in ratings compared with those gathered immediately after the Assembly election. We should probably not be surprised about that, as we are comparing a survey conducted straight after an election campaign (when all the parties have been spending weeks striving to present themselves in the best possible light) with ones conducted in mid-term.
The other thing that leaps out of the findings is that Carwyn Jones remains consistently well ahead of all the other – UK and Welsh – leaders. He continues to be a significant electoral asset to Labour in Wales.
David Cameron’s ratings have fallen further than those of the other UK leaders. A notable feature of the poll is the high level of hostility towards Cameron: in the latest poll, fully 36% of respondents gave him a 0 out of 10 rating (compared with 30% for Clegg, 27% for Farage, 19% for Miliband, and below 20% for all the Welsh party leaders.) A lot of Welsh voters have come to really dislike the Prime Minister.
Among the other Welsh leaders, the replacement of Nick Bourne by Andrew RT Davies has apparently done nothing to give the Welsh Tories a popular leader. However, the party may well feel that this didn’t seem to do them too much harm in 2011. Kirsty Williams (despite the general unpopularity of her party) and Leanne Wood are doing reasonably well in public esteem. But there is no sign yet that Leanne Wood is making any major breakthrough with Welsh voters. Indeed, if anything her ratings have fallen since last year.