Our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll once again includes our normal question about the party leaders; here we ask respondents to rate all the leaders on a 0-10 scale, where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’ (with respondents also able to choose Don’t Know if they wish). For our latest poll, we asked about all the main party leaders in Wales, and at the UK level. That meant including Paul Nuttall, the new UKIP leader; and also included Tim Farron, who had not been included in the September Barometer poll.
In the table below, I present three sets of figures for each leader:
- In the first column, we have the percentage who chose Don’t Know. As I have observed several times previously, while some people can choose this option because they are genuinely undecided, in the aggregate the percentage of Don’t Knows is a reasonably proxy measure of the relative public visibility/anonymity of a leader.
- In the second column, I list the average score out of 10 on the 0-10 scale, for each leader, for those respondents who did have a view about them.
- And in the third column, I show the change in this average rating since the September poll. (For Tim Farron and Paul Nuttall, this column is simply left blank).
|Leader||% Don’t Know||Average /10||Change|
|Andrew RT Davies||47||3.2||-0.2|
|Neil Hamilton||34||2.0||No change|
So what can we make of these findings? As I have commented here many time before, while some of our respondents may well choose the Don’t Know option because they are genuinely undecided about someone, in the aggregate the percentage choosing this option functions as a pretty good measure of the public visibility of a political leader. And the patterns that we see here are very much in line with those that previous polling evidence has suggested. Thus, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition at Westminster enjoy much the greatest public profile. They are then followed by the First Minister and Leanne Wood. Neil Hamilton also enjoys a relatively high public profile given his actual political status (as the Assembly group leader of the National Assembly’s smallest recognised party); however, given his low popularity ratings this profile may not be an unalloyed benefit to his party. The other leaders, both at UK and Welsh levels, lag some way further behind.
In terms of popularity, there is an interesting general trend – that nearly all the leaders have become less popular since our last poll! Perhaps our poll hit upon a particularly grumpy sample of respondents, or possibly one that was feeling the post-Christmas blues? Whatever the reason, all those that we asked about in September have seen their ratings decline, with the singular exception of Neil Hamilton. (However, Mr Hamilton remains by some way the least popular leader, and his average score is perhaps encountering what social scientists sometimes refer to as a ‘floor effect’).
Looking at the figures for the individual leaders, Carwyn Jones, Theresa May and Leanne Wood remain some way ahead of the others as the most popular leaders – although even they average well under five out of ten. For most of the other leaders there is little that is particularly surprising – although it is notable that, among those members of the public who have formed a view about Paul Nuttall, he is not yet doing very at all well.
What is clearly of importance, however, is that the largest decline in ratings since September is that experienced by Jeremy Corbyn. He has fallen a full half a point since our last poll less than four months ago. For a Labour leader to be averaging only 3.5 out of 10 on this scale is extremely poor. Even Ed Miliband never quite sank this low. (He did score 3.6 in the December 2014 Barometer poll). The brief Corbyn Bounce
that we saw in our first Barometer poll after his election now seems a long time ago. Much of the Welsh public now seem to have made up their mind about the Leader of the Opposition, and their views are not generally favourable. This cannot possibly be good news for the Labour party – in Wales or elsewhere in Britain.