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The September Welsh Political Barometer Poll

After the dramatic political changes of recent times, our new Welsh Political Barometer poll shows relative stability in the fortunes of the main political parties. But it also points to the Senedd election next May being very much up for grabs. And our new poll has historically bad ratings for one party.

After an April Barometer poll that produced the highest-ever ratings for the Welsh Conservatives, and then a poll in June where their ratings had plunged and Labour was back in the lead, this time around we see much smaller changes in the standing of the parties. As always, the latest poll explored voter preferences for both a general and a devolved election. First, Westminster: here are the voting intention figures (with changes since the June Barometer poll in brackets):

Labour: 41% (+2)

Conservatives: 33% (-2)

Plaid Cymru: 15% (no change)

Brexit Party: 4% (+2)

Greens: 3% (no change)

Liberal Democrats: 2% (-3)

Others: 2% (+1)

These figures suggest that there has been little change in the fortunes of the main parties over the strange summer of 2020. Labour appear to have consolidated their lead over the Conservatives somewhat; however, these changes are well within any polling ‘margin of error’, and so could represent nothing more than typical sampling variation. Nonetheless, these figures will be pleasing to Labour, and are in line with the Britain-wide evidence suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer is making slow but steady progress in improving Labour’s standing among the electorate. Nonetheless, Conservative support remains robust at a level only slightly below that attained in December’s general election.

Plaid Cymru will also surely be pleased with these numbers. After a summer in which they have struggled – amidst the major events going on – to achieve much media attention, it should be encouraging for them to see their support for Westminster remaining robust, and at a level higher than they have ever scored in a general election. By contrast, this poll is very disappointing for the Liberal Democrats. A year ago the party seemed resurgent, with a recent victory in the Brecon and Radnor by-election and strong poll ratings. Now, in the wake of another desperately disappointing general election performance, their poll rating in Wales has slumped to the lowest level in any poll this century – possibly their lowest level ever. These are truly difficult days for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

What might be the implications of these numbers in terms of parliamentary seats? Using the standard method of projecting swings since the last general election uniformly across Wales we see the following projected outcome in terms of seats (with changes from the December 2019 election result indicated in brackets):

Labour: 24 (+2)

Conservatives: 11 (-3)

Plaid Cymru: 5 (+1)

The projected Labour gains from the Conservatives are in Bridgend and Delyn; Plaid Cymru are narrowly projected to gain the three-way marginal of Ynys Mon, also from the Tories.

A somewhat similar picture of only modest change in recent months emerges when we examine voting intentions for the Senedd. For this part of our poll, and given the inclusion of 16 and 17 year olds in the franchise for next May’s election, we made sure to include respondents from this age group in our sample. In practice, this makes only a small difference to the reported support levels for the parties; nonetheless, it is important that these young voters are included, as they will be for all Barometer polls between now and the Senedd election next May.

Here are the figures for the constituency ballot (with changes in support since June once again indicated in brackets):

Labour: 34% (no change)

Conservatives: 29% (-2)

Plaid Cymru: 24% (+2)

Brexit Party: 4% (+1)

Liberal Democrats: 3% (-2)

Greens: 3% (no change)

Others: 3% (no change)

As with the figures for Westminster, we see here only small changes in the reported support levels for the parties since early summer, with all changes well within the polling ‘margin of error’. Just as we see for a general election, though, there is a modest consolidation of the Labour lead; a robust rating for Plaid Cymru; and historically bad numbers for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. 

Despite the poll indicating Welsh Labour support being almost at the level it was in the 2016 Senedd election, a uniform swing projection of changes since then indicate Labour to currently be on course to lose seven constituency seats that they narrowly held last time. The Conservatives are projected to gain the Vale of Glamorgan, Vale of Clwyd, Gower and Wrexham; at the same time, Plaid Cymru are projected to capture Llanelli, Blaenau Gwent and Cardiff West. However, local factors since 2016 may make both of those latter two gains for Plaid much less likely than the mere arithmetic suggests.

For the regional list vote, our new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since the June Barometer poll once again indicated in brackets):

Labour: 33% (+1)

Conservatives: 27% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 23% (-1)

Abolish the Assembly: 4% (no change)

Brexit Party: 4% (+1)

Greens: 4% (+1)

Liberal Democrats: 3% (-2)

Others: 2% (+1)

As with the other vote intention figures there are very modest changes since June. Once again Labour’s lead has apparently extended slightly; Plaid Cymru are in a strong third place; and the Liberal Democrats are taking a beating. As with the constituency ballot, this is the worst poll rating that the Welsh Lib-Dems have ever recorded; this is also the first time ever that the party have been reported to be in seventh place for the regional list vote.

Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once again assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Senedd’s regional list seats:

North Wales: 2 Plaid, 2 Labour

Mid and West Wales: 3 Labour, 1 Conservative

South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid

South Wales Central: 3 Conservative, 1 Plaid

South Wales East: 3 Conservative, 1 Plaid

From all these figures we thus produce the following overall projected result for the Senedd:

Labour: 25 seats (20 constituency, 5 regional)

Conservatives: 19 seats (10 constituency, 9 regional)

Plaid Cymru: 15 seats (9 constituency, 6 regional)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)

Amidst probably the strangest summer that any of us can remember, it may appear also to be strange that party support has shifted so little in the last three months. But this ‘summer of stability’ could be the calm before considerable political storms. The further progress of the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit are likely to cast a huge shadow over devolved level politics in the months leading up to the Senedd election. The fortunes of candidates may depend, perhaps to an even greater extent than normal, on external events of historic importance, over which they will have little or no control. The relatively small changes that we see in party support in our new Welsh Political Barometer poll should certainly not lull us into thinking that the next few months of politics are likely to be dull.

The Welsh Political Barometer poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,110 Welsh adults aged 16+ and was carried out online by YouGov from 28 August to 4 September 2020.

Comments

  • Rodolfo Piskorski

    How is polling for the Senedd reflecting the fact that foreign nationals will be able to vote?

  • Michael Murphy

    Plaid wont take Blaenau Gwent – which will be a Labour hold. However Plaid will take the 4th list seat instead displacing the Conservatives. So nett effect being Labour +1 Conservative -1.

    Similarly in Cardiff West although it is more complicated there., but again Labour +1 Conservative -1

    So i would suggest that the overall picture is more likely to be Labour 27, Conservative 17, Plaid 15 others 1.

  • Gareth

    I agree with Michael above regarding Blaenau Gwent.

    In terms of the seat predictions, I know they’re only predictions and come with the usual cavities etc, but I question their worth especially with regular polling like this where poll by poll they don’t change much.

    Anyone who knows anything about Welsh politics knows there are three unconnected issues effecting the seats of Cardiff West, Llanelli and Blaenau Gwent, all of which will be a significant barrier to Plaid gaining them last year. Four years ago no poll predicted Plaid gaining Rhondda but they duly did. Whilst I respect this poll and the work of it’s commissioner I think we need more of the usual health warnings when applying a universal swing to Senedd seats.

  • michael murphy

    For what is worth, i think Plaids best chances of gains in 2021 are probably Neath and Caerffili.

  • Christian Schmidt

    Over on the party leaders post Roger says that Plaid voters quite like the FM and labour voters quite like Adam price. So I wonder if that together with decent poll numbers may spell a bit of trouble for Labour, in that many Labour sympathisers feel they can vote for Plaid just to keep Labour on its feet?

    (A bit like the losses of Scottish Labour to the Socialists and the Greens in 2003.)

  • GPB

    It is worth remembering the Labour party have had quite a falling out in Llanelli recently with a signigicant number of community and county councillors leaving their groups. With fewer activists in nearly every party these people are often the foot soldiers that decide the outcomes of general elections.

  • John R Walker

    Further evidence the parties which claim they want to end legislative devolution in Wales need to present the electorate with a united front and a single box to tick on the ballot papers. Or they’ll probably all end up as toast having squandered yet more time, effort, and money without really making a difference.

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