Our new Welsh Political Barometer poll is published today – as we hit the one hundred days to go point in the general election campaign. With the election on May 7th drawing ever closer, where do each of the parties stand here in Wales?
Here is what the Barometer poll found regarding general election support for each of the main parties (with changes from our last poll, conducted in early December, in brackets):
- Labour 37% (+1%)
- Conservative 23% (no change)
- UKIP 16% (-2%)
- Plaid Cymru 10% (-1)
- Greens 8% (+3)
- Liberal Democrats 6% (+1%)
- Others 1% (-1)
So what does that mean in terms of who represents us in parliament? Well, if the changes since the last general election implied by these figures were repeated uniformly across Wales, we would get the following outcome in terms of seats:
- Labour: 28 seats (+2)
- Conservatives: 8 seats (no change)
- Plaid Cymru: 3 seats (no change)
- Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (-2)
Only three seats, of the forty in Wales, would change hands: Cardiff North and Cardiff Central would both won by Labour (from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively); Brecon & Radnor would be narrowly gained by the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats.
There’s an interesting paradox here. Party politics in the UK currently seems more uncertain and turbulent than for a long time –maybe more than it has ever been. We’ve seen big recent movements in the support levels of several parties, including the rise in Wales of UKIP and now a notable increase for the Greens. Yet, at the moment, a direct projection of poll findings produces only very small changes in terms of who wins which seats. We could be on course for an election in which lots of things change, but the basic fundamentals of which parties represent us in parliament are hardly disturbed.
Overall, what does this poll tell us about the prospects for each party, as we enter the final hundred days of campaigning?
For Labour, this poll is at least modestly encouraging. A persistent feature of the opinion polls in Wales during 2014 was the decline of Labour support: they finished the year well below the point that they started it. Our new poll seems to suggest that Labour have stopped, and may even have begun to reverse, this erosion in their support. This poll doesn’t put Labour on course to gain as many seats as they would need to help secure a parliamentary majority for Ed Miliband. But it does place them slightly ahead of where they were in 2010, and indicates that Labour are currently on track to make at least some ground in May.
The Conservatives have surprised many observers with the robustness of their support levels since 2010, holding steady at a level only slightly below the vote share they won in the last general election. Here is yet another poll that supports this pattern. Although the poll projects the Tories to lose the ultra-marginal Cardiff North, on these figures they ought to retain all their other Welsh seats. And it puts them in with a very good chance of taking Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats.
For the Tories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats this is yet another in a long series of disappointing polls. They have at least managed a very small up-tick in their support levels. But this poll still indicates that they have lost more than two-thirds of the support that they gained in Wales in 2010, and with the rise of the Greens they are now in sixth place! There seems to be no substantial improvement in their position in sight. The best the party can do for now, it seems, is to try to hang on to the three seats they currently hold. But even that will now be very difficult.
For Plaid Cymru this poll will be at least a little disappointing, putting them as it does a little below their vote share in 2010. One piece of slightly better news for them comes from a question where YouGov asked respondents how certain they were to vote in the election: Plaid supporters were the most likely to indicate that they were absolutely certain to vote. This poll suggests that Plaid may well be able to hold their existing seats. But they are nowhere near threatening the sort of breakthrough that their sister-party is doing in Scotland.
For UKIP, this poll may also be mildly disappointing. Perhaps the big story in Welsh politics in 2014 was the UKIP breakthrough. Our latest poll indicates, as have many of the recent Britain-wide ones, that UKIP’s forward momentum may well have been checked, at least for the moment. Nonetheless, UKIP have not yet gone into a clear reverse. They are currently on course to get lots of votes in Wales in May. But the party still remain up against it to convert this significant public support into a win in any specific constituency.
Finally, what about the Greens? This poll shows them making significant ground in Wales, relegating the Liberal Democrats to sixth place (as they did in last May’s European elections). As with UKIP, however, it is currently very difficult to see the Greens converting such support into actually winning a seat anywhere. But the more proportional voting system used for devolved elections makes a Green presence in the National Assembly after 2016 look increasingly likely.