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.