Author Archives: Roger Scully

Roger Scully

About Roger Scully

Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University. Jazz fan and horse-racing follower. Dog-walker.

First Evidence on the 2015 Ground Campaigns in Wales

As I mentioned on the blog last week, I’m going to be having all sorts of fun over the coming weeks and months with the British Election Study (BES) data. One of the first things that I have used it for is to begin looking for systematic evidence on the parties’ ground campaigns in Wales. I’ll present a few bits of that evidence here.

First of all, how successful were each of the parties at contacting voters? The table below displays the proportion of the nearly 1600 respondents to the BES post-election online survey in Wales who reported having been contacted by each of the main parties during the final four weeks of the campaign. The majority of respondents claimed to have been contacted by at least one party. (This overall percentage of respondents reporting contact is likely to be slightly over-stated, due to the now well-attested tendency of on-line surveys to be somewhat biased towards more politically interested and engaged citizens. More important than the absolute figures reported in this table, and those further below, are probably the differences between the parties.)

Voter Contact Rates During the Campaign

Contacted by…%
Labour44%
Conservatives34%
Plaid Cymru28%
Lib-Dems24%
UKIP21%
Greens10%
Other party2%
Not contacted by any party42%

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); number of respondents = 1556. Percentages sum to well over 100 because many respondents reported contact by more than one party during the campaign.

 

The main message from this table is that Labour appear to have been some way ahead of their rivals on voter contacts in Wales. The Conservatives were the second most active party, followed respectively by Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, with the Greens some distance behind all the other parties. (I should perhaps add that the previous wave of the survey, conducted during the campaign period itself, produced very similar results. So that boosts our confidence in the robustness of the data here).

The parties did not, however, all campaign in quite the same ways. The next table displays details on the types of contact made by each of the parties. The data show some significant commonalities between the parties – in particular that contact through direct mail or leaflets was by far the most common method for all of them. Indeed, very similar proportions of respondents reported contact by this method from all of the parties. Labour, though, stand out in terms of the much greater volume of in-person contacts made with people at their homes: #LabourDoorstep was clearly much more than just an internet meme. At the other end of the spectrum, UKIP and the Greens appear to have done far less doorstep canvassing – perhaps because they lacked the organisation and human resources for such an effort. It is also notable that the three traditional UK parties made much the most use of email to contact voters, with the Conservatives putting particular efforts into this method. The Liberal Democrats appear to have placed a greater emphasis than other parties on telephone canvassing – perhaps reflecting not only a paucity of grassroots campaigners in much of Wales but also that three of their four target seats were large, rural constituencies with dispersed populations.

 

Types of Voter Contact during the Campaign by Party (%)

Labour Cons.Lib-DemsPlaidUKIPGreens
Phone669420
Letter/Leaflet868790939494
At home3015131662
In street968664
Email182215899
Other435533

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); percentages in table are of those respondents who reported being contacted during the campaign by a party (as per the previous table).

 

All very interesting so far. But I was also interested to see how much of this activity was actually going on in the places where the parties needed it to occur? To assess this, I divide the forty Welsh constituencies, for each of the four established main parties in Wales, into three categories: Safe, Competitive, and Hopeless. (How the seats were categorised for each party is detailed here). What proportion of BES respondents living in each category of seat were contacted by each party? The data, presented in the next table, tell a fascinating story. Labour did contact far more Welsh voters than any other party – but many of them, it appears, were in the wrong places. A substantial proportion of the voter contacts it made were in seats it was never going to win, while many others were in seats it was not at all likely to lose.

 

Contact Rate for Main Parties in Types of Seat

HopelessSafeCompetitive
Labour44%40%53%
Conservative27%43%56%
Lib-Dems19%n/a64%
Plaid Cymru25%44%50%

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave).

 

All the other three parties, but particularly the Conservatives and to an even greater extent the Liberal Democrats, were more effective at targeting their voter contact efforts in the marginal constituencies – those where they either faced a tough defence or had realistic hopes of capturing a seat. Astonishingly, the BES data suggests that though it had a much higher overall rate of voter contact than the other parties, Labour actually contacted fewer voters in their key seats than either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats did in theirs, and barely more than Plaid Cymru.

Some words of caution would be wise in interpreting this final table. Respondents were only asked about contacts from the parties in the final four weeks of the campaign, while campaigning in some of the key marginal seats had been going on for months, if not years. It’s also true to say that the data here only reflects a simple binary: where you contacted, or not, by a party? It provides us with no information about the number of contacts that some key voters in key seats might have received. Third, Labour had vigorous young candidates in some seats – such as Brecon & Radnor, and Ceredigion – who seem to have fough energetic local campaigns in seats that would surely not have been Labour targets. This might skew Labour’s figures in the above table somewhat.

Nonetheless, the evidence here does suggest the possibility of some significant flaws, if not in the planning then at least in the execution, of Labour’s ground campaign in Wales. It will be interesting to explore this further.

Some New Evidence on Attitudes to the EU

In a recent blog post I discussed the evidence from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll on how people thought they would vote in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; I also showed how the findings from that poll compared with previous ones. The Barometer polls have been asking a consistently-worded question on EU referendum voting intentions for over 18 months now. They have tended to show support for remaining in the EU ahead of support for leaving the EU, although the gap between the two has usually been fairly small. But a significant number of people typically indicate that they have not yet made up their minds as to how they would vote in such a referendum.

Over the last week a couple of new pieces of relevant evidence on this issue have emerged. The first was a poll conducted by Beaufort Research for the Western Mail. (One question was included in Beaufort’s regular Welsh Omnibus survey. Some 1,018 respondents were sampled, face-to-face, during June. I’m grateful to Martin Shipton for supplying me with the full details of the results). What is particularly interesting about this poll is that not only does it give us evidence from a different pollster, using a different survey method, from the Barometer polls. In addition, a different question format was used. While that makes direct comparisons with the Barometer findings difficult, I think that difficulty is more than compensated for by the interest of the different question format.

Beaufort put the following question to people:

“The UK Government intends to hold a referendum by 2017 on whether the UK should stay in the European Union (EU) or leave. Before the referendum, the Government will seek to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU. Which one of the following options best reflects how you intend to vote in the referendum?”

Respondents were then given several response options from which to select:

  • I will vote for the UK to stay in the European Union regardless of any renegotiation
  • If I am satisfied with the renegotiation, I will vote for the UK to stay in the European Union
  • I will vote for the UK to leave the European Union regardless of any renegotiation
  • If I am not satisfied with the renegotiation, I will vote for the UK to leave the European Union
  • I will not vote
  • Don’t Know

One might criticise the precise wording of these options. In particular, the two ‘renegotiation’ options are not really mutually exclusive; one could well imagine someone simultaneously agreeing with both – “If I’m satisfied I’ll vote to stay in, if not I’ll vote to leave”. Nonetheless I think it’s interesting to explore opinions on the EU referendum in this subtly different way from the binary Yes/No choice of referendum voting options.

These were the answers that people gave:

Stay in regardless of renegotiation26%
Stay in if satisfied with renegotiation20%
Leave regardless of renegotiation13%
Leave if not satisfied with renegotiation11%
Will not vote11%
Don’t Know / Refused18%

 

The evidence from this question is consistent with that from the Barometer polls in suggesting that those campaigning to remain in the EU will, in Wales at least, start the referendum with something of an advantage. Around a quarter of all respondents seem committed to supporting continued UK membership of the EU no matter what, compared to only half that number who are equally committed to supporting a British exit. This hardly suggests that the referendum is in the bag. But it does seem clear which side will have the easier task before it, particularly if Prime Minister Cameron is able to reach some sort of agreement on his renegotiation of the terms of British membership.

Of course it will not only be Wales voting in the EU referendum. I was therefore interested to see the latest data release from the British Election Study (BES) a few days ago: this was the immediately post-election wave of the large, multi-wave online survey that they have been running. (Details on the questionnaire, and the full data-set to download, are all freely available here). There is lots in this BES data-set that I will be having fun with over the next weeks and months. But one question in the post-election survey was about EU referendum voting intentions. The BES used the same question as we do in the Barometer polls: “If there was a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how would you vote?”

There have been, and surely will be in the future, plenty of Britain-wide polls asking about EU referendum voting intentions. However, few surveys carry large enough samples to enable realistic cross-national comparisons. The BES survey did: it had over 1,500 respondents in Wales, more than 2,500 in Scotland, and over 25,000 in England. (The BES does not cover Northern Ireland, which has long had its own, separate election study). What I was particularly interested to see was whether there was any difference in the pattern of voting intentions between respondents in England, Scotland and Wales.

Here was what the BES found:

 

 EnglandScotlandWales
Remain45%58%50%
Leave35%28%33%
Wouldn’t Vote3%2%3%
Don’t Know16%13%16%

 

Differences between the nations are not vast; nonetheless, they do exist. Our confidence that these are not fluke differences resulting from random sampling variation is boosted by the fact that they are consistent with the pattern found by other, separate studies (for example, see http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/2014/04/30/attitudes-to-europe-two-interesting-tables/). On EU referendum voting, and indeed on some measures of attitudes towards the EU, England tends to be the most inclined of the three British nations towards Euro-scepticism. Scotland is the most EU enthusiastic. Wales tends to occupy the middle position, while being a little closer to England. The differences are subtle – we are not talking about a situation where England is rampantly EU-phobic while Scotland is almost unanimous in Euro-enthusiasm. Instead, the picture is one of gradations of difference, but differences nonetheless.

Overall, however, the BES findings are consistent with findings of other studies which have shown the ‘Remain’ camp having the advantage at present across Britain as a whole. The referendum would need to get significantly closer before it became likely that it might produce a result where some nations voted Yes to remaining in the EU while others voted No.

How Prejudiced is Wales?

The other day I was looking back through some old survey data. (Some of us just know how to party, OK?). It was the 2011 Welsh Election Study (WES) that I was looking at, and I was reminded of some questions that we ran in that study. These were a series of questions regarding various groups in society, including some obvious and high-profile minority groups. Some four-and-a-bit years on I can’t recall the exact motivation behind these questions, or who suggested them; but they were presumably an attempt to explore various forms of prejudice within Welsh society.

The question form was as follows:

“Now using a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means feel very unfavourable and 10 means very favourable, how do you feel about…”

with this question then applied to each of the following groups:

- Gay and lesbian people

- Muslim people

- Black people

- Asian people

- White people

- People who speak Welsh

- People from England who come to live in Wales

- People from Eastern Europe who come to live in Wales

 

It is worth mentioning at this stage, I think, that these are questions which work particularly well on an internet survey (as WES was). There is significant evidence, particularly from studies conducted in the United States, that people are more willing to admit to prejudicial or socially undesirable attitudes in the relative anonymity of an internet-based survey than when they are interacting directly with another human being (as happens in telephone or face-to-face surveys).

It may also be worth mentioning that, as far as I am aware, no-one has done anything in terms of publishing or analysis with the results from these questions. The data are all freely available here, so perhaps I can prompt someone into exploring it further?

In the remainder of this post I’ll just give an outline of what we found. First, in the following table, I’ll try to summarise the overall WES findings by giving four statistics for each group for which we asked this question. These four statistics will be:

  • The percentage of WES respondents giving 0 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximum degree of unfavourability to members of that group)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving between 0 and 4 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the unfavourable side of the 0-10 scale)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving 10 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximum degree of favourability to members of that group)
  • The percentage of WES respondents giving between 6 and 10 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the favourable side of the 0-10 scale)

 

Group0/100-4/1010/106-10/10
Gay and Lesbian people5.215.021.258.1
Muslim people11.532.512.941.2
Black people2.110.720.861.8
Asian people5.121.515.751.3
White people0.42.233.175.2
People who speak Welsh2.110.725.864.9
People from England in Wales2.610.823.764.0
People from Eastern Europe in Wales8.632.210.740.8

 

So what can we make of this overall patterns of responses? I guess if you are a ‘glass half-full’ person then you would be encouraged to see that there were more people expressing favourable than unfavourable attitudes towards every single group mentioned here. On the other hand, there are significant levels of un-favourability shown here towards a number of different groups in society. More than one in seven respondents had unfavourable attitudes towards gay and lesbian people; and nearly one in three had similarly negative views regarding Muslims and people from Eastern Europe. This evidence does not suggest that Wales is quite as tolerant a place as some of us might sometimes like to think it is.

While I was playing around with this data, I thought it would also be interesting to look at the breakdowns by supporters of the different parties. I was particularly interested in level of hostility towards the different groups among supporters of any of the parties. So below is another table of figures, where I have looked at attitudes amongst those who identify with each of the four main parties (or, rather, what were the four main parties in Wales back in 2011. The past is a foreign country – they did politics differently then).

For each party, in relation to each group, there are two figures. The first number is the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that particular social group at 0 out of 10 on the favourability scale. The second, larger number will be the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that group at somewhere between 0 and 4 out of 10 on the scale.

GroupLabour Cons.LibDemsPlaid
Gay and Lesbian people4.6

13.5

9.0

23.2

2.1

10.5

4.0

13.6

Muslim people11.9

31.2

17.2

46.7

6.3

21.2

6.2

25.8

Black people1.5

9.4

3.4

13.4

1.1

9.0

0.0

9.0

Asian people5.9

22.5

6.3

29.8

2.1

13.1

1.7

17.6

White people0.0

1.7

1.1

1.7

0.5

2.6

0.0

1.1

People who speak Welsh1.0

7.6

4.0

21.4

0.5

4.7

1.1

2.2

People from England in Wales2.4

10.3

2.3

6.1

0.5

6.9

5.6

31.0

People from Eastern Europe in Wales8.4

30.7

12.9

43.0

2.6

22.8

4.5

23.0

 

There are a few oddities in the results, such as the tiny number of Plaid Cymru supporters who are apparently deeply hostile to Welsh speakers. (Or, perhaps more likely, got the scale the wrong way around). Overall, it would appear that Liberal Democrat identifiers are, on average, the most tolerant. (‘Supporters of Liberal Party in Liberalism Sensation’). But I think that the key message from this data should be that all the parties have a significant number of supporters who have some views that the party leaderships would probably be rather uncomfortable with. And much of this data from 2011 perhaps helps us to understand why UKIP’s message on immigration has found a receptive audience in parts of the Welsh electorate in subsequent years.

Welsh Political Barometer details available

The full details of the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll are now online for you to look over – click on the Opinion Polls header near the top of the home page, and scroll down to the bottom. (It’s the June 2015 Barometer poll you’ll be looking for).

One question that was included in the poll, results for which have now been published, was one that ITV-Wales decided to run on attitudes towards Welsh-language education at English-medium schools in Wales. The specific question was:

“Until when, if at all, do you think it should be compulsory for children in English speaking schools in Wales to learn Welsh?”

The results have attracted a bit of media comment today, as the largest single group of people (some 33%) chose the option “It should not be compulsory for children to learn Welsh at all”. But I think the results are perhaps open to a rather more nuanced interpretation than most people will probably give them. Many people react negatively to any suggestion of compulsion in anything, yet a clear majority of Barometer respondents actually favoured Welsh being compulsory at least until the end of Primary School.

Anyway, no doubt lots of people will have views on this, and will find forums in which to express them! I hope you find the details of the poll interesting.

Referendum Voting Intentions in Wales: the latest evidence

Among the other matters covered in the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, we have continued to ask people about voting intentions in two referendums that Wales may well be facing in the next few years: on partial income tax devolution to the National Assembly, and on British membership of the European Union.

In our final pre-election poll, both of these questions had produced unusually large leads (for, respectively, those opposing income tax devolution and those in favour of Britain remaining within the EU). What did our new poll find?

On income tax, we once again asked the question “If there was a referendum tomorrow on giving the National Assembly for Wales powers to raise or to lower the levels of income tax in Wales, how would you vote?”

We found that 34% of Welsh Political Barometer respondents indicated that they would vote in favour of the National Assembly gaining some powers over income tax in Wales, while 42% of the sample indicated that they would vote against. Some 5% suggested that they would not vote, while fully 20% chose the Don’t Know option.

The table below shows the full run of all published polls on an income tax referendum (at least all those with which I am familiar; if you know of any others, please do inform me). As can be seen, the ‘No’ side has led in every poll bar one since February 2014, while the slight decline in the No lead since our last poll is probably just a reversion towards the mean after an unusually large lead last time. An income tax referendum would clearly be a difficult one to win – which may well be one reason why it is unlikely to occur.

 

Poll% Yes% No% DK/ NR% ‘No’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 2013393427-5
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20133538263
Western Mail/Beaufort, December 2013323038-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201431422811
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 20143339286
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20143441257
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 201432422610
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20143839241
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20143738251
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20153739242
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 2015373627-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20153740223
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 201531432612
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June 20153442258

 

Looking in more detail at the party breakdowns of the responses, it is interesting that Conservative supporters are the most hostile to the idea of income tax devolution. This is interesting not least because a number of leading Welsh Tories have expressed support for the idea. Clearly this would be an important factor in any such referendum, if it occurred: could Conservative party leaders in Wales persuade their own voters to back something that they are currently highly cautious about?

What about the European Union? Here we again asked our standard question “If there was a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how would you vote?” Of our sample, some 44% indicated that they would vote for Britain to remain in the EU, while 37% stated that they would vote to leave. Some 3% said that they would not vote and 16% chose the Don’t Know answer.

The table below again shows the complete run of all such referendum questions in Wales of which I am aware. We can see that, as with income tax, there has been a drop in the lead since the last poll. But, once more, this appears to be simply a reversion to the mean after an unusually large lead last time. The typical pattern has been of a small lead for ‘remain’. Though the size of this lead suggests that it is by no means impossible that Wales might vote to leave the EU as and when we actually have the referendum, at present the balance of opinion appears to be somewhat in the other direction.

 

Poll% Remain% Leave% DK/ NV% ‘remain’ Lead
ITV-Wales/YouGov, February 20134235227
Western Mail/Beaufort, June 2013293735-8
WGC/YouGov, July 2013394021-1
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 2013384022-2
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, Feb 201444332311
Walesonline/YouGov, June 20144138223
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, June-July 20144136245
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, September 20144337206
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, December 20144239193
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, January 20154436208
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, early-March 20154336227
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, late-March 20154438186
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 201547332114
ITV-Wales/WGC/YouGov, May 20154437197

 

New Welsh Political Barometer Poll: Party Leader Ratings

The new Welsh Political Barometer poll provides us with some very interesting information questions about party leaders in Wales – and also some about prospective leaders.

As in several previous Barometer polls we asked people to rate a set of politicians on a 0-10 scale, where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’; respondents were also able to choose a ‘Don’t Know’ option.

First of all, we asked about all the main party leaders in Wales: First Minister Carwyn Jones for Labour, Andrew RT Davies for the Conservatives, Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, Kirsty Williams of the Liberal Democrats, Nathan Gill of UKIP, and Pippa Bartolotti of the Welsh Greens. As a useful point of comparison, we also asked for views about the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

As I have discusssed on several occasions in the past on the blog, the percentage of respondents who respond ‘Don’t Know’ for a leader is one piece of useful information. Although some people might choose this option because they are genuinely undecided, in the aggregate the number of people selecting Don’t Know functions well as a measure of that leader’s anonymity with the public. So, a mere seven weeks after an election campaign that did much to raise the profile of Wales’ leading politicians, how well known are each of our six party leaders? Here are the percentages of our sample who, when asked for their view of each leader, simply responded ‘Don’t Know’:

 

Jones: 26%

Wood: 22%

Williams: 41%

Davies: 48%

Gill: 62%

Bartolotti: 61%

Cameron: 6%

 

The first, and most obvious feature of these findings is that David Cameron stands well ahead of all the Welsh politicians. This is unsurprising: as Prime Minister of the UK, and having recently led his party to victory in the general election, we should probably expect more people to have a clear view about him than anyone else. Similarly, we should also expect many people in Wales to have little idea who Nathan Gill and Pippa Bartolotti are, even though the election campaign raised their profile to some degree.

More interesting is that, even after having been First Minister for more than five and a half years, Carwyn Jones lags well behind Prime Minister Cameron in public visibility. More interesting still is the impact that the general election campaign, including her participation in the television debates, has had on the visibility of Leanne Wood. In polls asking such questions prior to the general election, similar proportions of people were unable to offer a view about her as they were about Kirsty Williams and Andrew RT Davies. Now, Leanne Wood appears to stand ahead even of the First Minister in public recognition.

But what of those who did have a definite view of each leader? Among those who did state an opinion for each leader, here are their average ratings out of ten (with those of Prime Minister Cameron again included for the purposes of comparison). Changes on the last poll to ask about each leader are in brackets. (Wood, Williams, Gill and Bartolotti all appeared in the televised Welsh Leaders’ Debates during the general election campaign, and we had therefore asked about them in a Barometer poll conducted before the first such debate in April. With Labour and the Tories having been represented in those debates by their Westminster spokesmen, the most recent polling data we have for Jones and Davies is from the early March Barometer.)

Jones: 4.8 (-0.2)

Wood: 4.8 (no change)

Williams: 4.4 (no change)

Davies: 3.7 (+0.3)

Gill: 3.4 (+0.4)

Bartolotti: 3.7 (+0.4)

Cameron: 3.8 (no change)

 

Not a single one of the politicians averages even five out of ten among those with a view about them! But I suppose it is hardly news that politicians are not very popular. Interestingly, despite his recent electoral success, David Cameron ranks well below three of the Welsh leaders in popularity. Also interesting, if slightly puzzling, is that the three least well-known leaders in this list have all seen modest improvements in their ratings, while none of the other politicians have seen such shifts.

The most important thing to emerge from these leader ratings, though, I think is that for the first time Leanne Wood equals Carwyn Jones in popularity. In next year’s National Assembly election, for the first time since 1999 Welsh Labour faces the prospect of fighting at least one opposition party with a leader who matches their own leader in both profile and popularity. In the last three Assembly elections either Rhodri Morgan or Carwyn Jones have been well ahead of their rivals; that may well not be the case in 2016. And though Leanne Wood’s higher ratings have not thus far yielded significant electoral gains for her party, as Welsh voters begin to focus more on the Assembly election next year this may change.

In addition to asking about the party leaders in Wales, we thought it might be interesting to gauge attitudes in Wales to the four candidates to be the UK-wide leader of Wales’ largest party, Labour. What, if anything, have people here made of the four candidates seeking to take over from Ed Miliband?

First of all, what proportion of people were simply unable or unwilling to offer a view? The following percentage of Barometer respondents offered a ‘Don’t Know’ answer for each Labour candidate:

 

Andy Burnham: 38%

Yvette Cooper: 37%

Jeremy Corbyn: 51%

Liz Kendall: 49%

 

There is little surprising about these findings. None of the candidates yet has a public profile remotely similar to that of David Cameron. But Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper were cabinet ministers prior to the 2010 election and have been senior and visible shadow cabinet figures since then. We should therefore expect them to be more known to the public than either Liz Kendall or Jeremy Corbyn.

Among those offering a view, these were the following average ratings:

 

Andy Burnham: 4.5

Yvette Cooper: 4.2

Jeremy Corbyn: 4.4

Liz Kendall: 4.3

 

In short, it’s all much of a muchness at the moment. There is little to indicate that the people of Wales are as yet very excited by any of the people who are vying to be the next Leader of the Opposition. But neither are most people decided against any of them in a deeply negative way.

 

Postscript: My apologies, but I realised this morning that this post had left out some very pertinent information on the Labour leadership contenders – namely, what Labour’s own supporters think of the four candidates. Very (though perhaps typically) stupid of me. Anyway, to put that right, here are the average ratings out of ten of the four leadership contenders amongst those who stated a Labour voting intention for Westminster:

Andy Burnham: 5.9

Yvette Cooper: 5.7

Liz Kendall: 4.7

Jeremy Corbyn: 5.1

 

It doesn’t quite look so even now, does it? Burnham and Cooper pull some way ahead of the other two, while Liz Kendall fares notably poorly. Of course, this raises some interesting questions about what Labour should be trying to do in choosing its next leader. Should you be looking to choose someone who will appeal most to your own supporters, and raise spirits within the party? Or should you be looking for a leader best able to extend the party’s appeal to those currently not inclined to vote for it? Liz Kendall fares worst, in this poll at least, among current Labour supporters. But she has the highest ratings by some way among those currently intending to vote for the Conservatives. That’s an interesting one for Labour members and supporters to ponder, I think.

Voting Intention Figures from the new Welsh Political Barometer poll

Below is the brief analysis I wrote up for ITV-Wales on the voting intention figures from our new Welsh Political Barometer poll.

 

Support for the main parties in Wales has changed little since May’s general election. Meanwhile, Wales is currently on course to have a National Assembly with a significant UKIP presence. These appear to be the key messages emerging from today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll, the first definitive measure of political attitudes in Wales since the general election.

Our Barometer poll asked people about voting intentions for Westminster. Yes, the next general election is almost five years away. But asking this question provides us with the first assessment of whether support for the parties in Wales has changed since May 7th. We found the following levels of support for the parties (with changes on the general election indicated in brackets):

 

Labour: 37% (no change)

Conservative: 28% (+1)

UKIP: 15% (+1)

Plaid Cymru: 12% (no change)

Liberal Democrats: 4% (-2.5)

Greens: 3% (no change)

Others: 1% (no change)

 

In short, very little has changed in the seven weeks since the general election. This will probably strike most people as unsurprising; but it may be worth bearing in mind that this picture of continuity is in sharp contrast to what we saw five years ago. Then, support in Wales for the Liberal Democrats halved within weeks of the coalition agreement being signed, while Labour rapidly recovered in popularity. There has been no such dramatic turnaround in party fortunes this year.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, if we apply the changes implied by this poll since the general election uniformly across Wales, then no seats at all are projected to change hands between the parties.

Over the next year, though, increasing attention will focus on the parties’ prospects for next May’s election to the National Assembly. So where do the parties stand here? As has typically been the case in the past, our new Barometer poll shows some parties getting rather different levels of support for an Assembly election than for Westminster. In particular, Plaid Cymru do notably better when voters are thinking about a devolved election.

For the constituency vote for the Assembly, these were the levels of support indicated for each of the parties (with changes from the most recent previous YouGov poll in Wales, which was conducted immediately prior to the general election, again indicated in brackets):

 

Labour: 35% (no change)

Conservatives: 23% (+1)

Plaid Cymru: 20% (-1)

UKIP: 14% (+2)

Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)

Greens: 3% (1)

Others: 0% (-1)

 

On the standard assumption of uniform national swing, this poll would project only two constituency seats to change hands from the last Assembly election in 2011: the Liberal Democrats would narrowly regain Cardiff Central from Labour, while Labour would also lose Llanelli to Plaid Cymru.

The figures for the regional list vote were as follows (with changes from the previous Barometer poll again indicated):

 

Labour: 32% (no change)

Conservatives: 22% (no change)

Plaid Cymru: 20% (no change)

UKIP: 14% (+1)

Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)

Greens: 4% (no change)

Others: 3% (no change)

 

Again assuming uniform swings from 2011 across Wales, and after taking into account the distribution of constituency seats when allocating the list seats, this gives us the following projected overall outcome:

 

Labour: 28 seats (26 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

Conservatives: 12 seats (6 constituency seats + 6 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

UKIP: 8 seats (8 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

 

Clearly this poll suggests that the picture of public support has remained hardly changed since early May. None of the parties have seen changes in their support levels that are at all dramatic, and those minor changes seen could well be little more than random fluctuations within the ‘margin of error’. But the poll also indicates that Labour remains tantalisingly close to a majority of seats in the National Assembly, while many of the list seats are currently projected to be won by only tiny margins. With more than ten months to go until the Assembly election, everything is still very much up for grabs.

 

Postscript: And for the real hard-core cognoscenti out there, here are the Ratio Swing projections from the poll.

For Westminster, 39 of the 40 seats produce the same outcome on Ratio Swing as with UNS. The only seat that generates a different outcome is our old friend Ceredigion – there, the decline in Lib-Dem support since the general election (according to this one poll) leads Ratio Swing to project Plaid Cymru to gain Ceredigion. However, I would caution people that ratio swing was regularly projecting Plaid to gain Ceredigion prior to the general election, and we know how it actually turned out.

For the Assembly, Ratio Swing, as with UNS, projects only two constituency seats to change hands, but they are not the same two seats. Both project Plaid to gain Llanelii from Labour. But while UNS projects the Lib-Dems to gain cardiff central from Labour, under Ratio Swing it is the Lib-Dems who lose a constituency seat – their only remaining one in Brecon & Radnor.

After taking into account these constituency projections in calculating the list seats, we get the following overall projected outcome for the national Assembly under Ratio Swing:

Labour: 29 seats (27 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

Conservatives: 13 seats (7 constituency seats + 6 list seats)

Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats + 4 list seats)

UKIP: 7 seats (7 list seats)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 list seat)

First Results From the New Welsh Political Barometer Poll: the NHS

The first results to be published from the new Welsh Political Barometer poll concern attitudes towards the NHS in Wales. YouGov asked respondents to the Barometer poll two interesting questions about the health service, a topic that will surely be one of the most important issues – indeed, possibly the most important – in next year’s National Assembly for Wales election.

The first question asked respondents the following:

“To what extent, if at all, do you trust the NHS in Wales to provide a high quality service?”

The overall profile of answers given is re-produced below, alongside those given by adults in England to an almost identical question (which asked about the NHS in England) in a parallel YouGov poll run at pretty much the same time last week.

ResponseWalesEngland
Trust a great deal1217
Trust a fair amount4957
Do not trust very much2717
Do not trust at all94
Don’t Know36

 

The positive news here is that the majority of people in Wales trust the NHS to provide a high quality service at least ‘a fair amount’. The less positive news is that ratings here are notably, if not massively, lower than in the parallel poll in England. Fewer people in Wales have positive levels of trust in the NHS, and greater numbers express distrust.

A rather similar pattern is evident in a second question that was included in the Barometer poll: this one asked about future expectations of the NHS:

“Do you think the standard of care in the NHS in Wales will get better or worse over the next few years, or will it stay much the same?”

Again, thanks to our friends in YouGov, we are able to compare Welsh responses to this question with a near-identical question included in a parallel study run in England:

ResponseWalesEngland
Get better1213
Get worse4737
Stay much the same3241
Don’t Know108

 

Just as in ratings of trust in the NHS at present, when we ask people about the future we see (very slightly) less optimism in Wales than England, and greater levels of pessimism. In both nations people are much more likely to think that things will get worse than get better in the NHS over the next few years. But whereas in England pessimists outnumber optimists by just under three-to-one, in Wales the ratio is very nearly four-to-one.

These findings do tend to suggest that public evaluations of the performance of the NHS in Wales are not particularly strong, and also that people are not very optimistic about its future.

One reasonable counter to the findings presented here might be that “it’s just one poll”. Except that it isn’t just one poll. In a much more detailed evaluation of public attitudes to the NHS published in January of this year, Lord Ashcroft found that there were consistent national differences in public evaluations of the NHS, measured in a number of different ways. Public evaluations were consistently the most positive in Scotland, less so in England, and the most negative in Wales.

In short, our findings here do not seem to be some freak outlier, but symptomatic of a consistent pattern in public attitudes. The broader political implications of this are something that I suspect we will return to on the Blog over the next few months.

I’ll be back later tonight with the voting intention figures from the Barometer poll. There will be other findings rolled out over the next few days.

A New Welsh Political Barometer Poll

I expect that many of you will be pleased to learn that a new Welsh Political Barometer opinion poll is on the way. First results from the new poll will be published next Monday, June 29th. This will be the first opinion poll conducted in Wales since the general election. As has been our established practice, the poll will include voting intention figures for both the National Assembly and Westminster, as well as for EU membership and Income Tax Devolution referendums. And they will be a few other delights as well.

That will be fun, won’t it?

Before we publish any findings, however, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a brief word about methodology. After their not-entirely-satisfactory experience in the general election, all the main pollsters have been reviewing their methods. (For a useful discussion of the first public meeting of the British Polling Council’s Inquiry into the performance of the opinion polls at the general election, see Anthony Wells’ excellent overview here). Some of the pollsters, in their GB-wide polls, have already implemented significant methodology changes since the election.

Our friends in YouGov have not yet completed their own internal investigations and considerations as to what changes might be necessary. The methodology of the new Barometer poll will therefore be largely unchanged from their pre-election polls in Wales, with one fairly small exception. In the words of Adam McDonnell, a Research Executive at YouGov who has worked with us on this poll:

“Currently, while we work out our new sampling frames and weighting, we are using the same sampling methods as pre-election and the same weight variables with the exception of Party Identification. Instead of Party Identification we are weighting by 2015 general election result.”

Given that the final YouGov Welsh poll was actually very accurate – only being about one percentage point too low for the Conservatives and one point too high for Labour, with the other parties being estimated very accurately indeed – these changes should not make much difference to the results. They should probably tend to reduce Labour’s reported support very slightly compared with the pre-election methodology, and increase that of the Conservatives by a tiny amount, while leaving that of the other parties pretty much unchanged.

Therefore, if we see in our new poll any substantial changes in reported support levels for the parties (when compared with our previous YouGov polls in Wales), then those shifts will not be ones that can simply be accounted for by methodological changes. Shifts in party support might reflect normal sampling variation between individual polls, or they might reflect  genuine changes in the public mood. But methodological changes by YouGov would not be responsible. I hope this clarifies how we should respond to next week’s poll.

(By the way, in case you are wondering – at time of writing this I have not seen any results from the poll. So I am not trying to offer tantalising hints of what the findings are. I can’t do that because I don’t know – and nor does anyone else yet either!)

Does ‘Elections in Wales’ Have a Future?

The aftermath of a major election is generally a time for reflection and consideration. This is certainly so for political parties, and for those who cover elections in the news-media. But such is also very much the case for academics, including those strange people who run election-related blogs.

Having been given back much of the time in May which I expected to have to spend offering commentary on attempts to form a coalition or minority government, I’ve been able to spend a little time since 7th May thinking about the future of Elections in Wales. The good or bad news, depending on your point of view, is that I do intend to continue with the blog. However, there are likely to be a few changes and adjustments over the next few months.

First of all, over the next few months the pace of posting is likely to dip a bit. In the build-up to the general election I was sometimes posting several pieces a week. That is a bit difficult to sustain when I am doing the blog in my spare time: running this site is not what Cardiff University pay me to do as my day job. I therefore now intend to throttle back towards my more customary ‘cruising speed’ of one post a week. And even that rather more leisurely pace will not be maintained during the couple of weeks in the summer when I am on holiday.

Second, there may well be something of a re-design and refreshment of the look of the blog. The current look – which I like to think of as ‘basic but functional’, though others might reasonably take a more critical view – stems partly from the limitations of the platform that I use but mainly from the much more substantial limitations imposed by my own technical (in)competence. However, Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre – which is where I work – is having its web presence enhanced. As part of that process, we hope to be able to improve the look of this blog and link it rather more closely to the WGC web-site. The aim will be to retain all the good bits of the current site, but to make it look a bit better. (So, basically, to achieve the exact opposite of what the BBC did the last time that they ‘enhanced’ their news website …). Look out for that in the next few weeks.

Third, there will now be, fairly naturally, a shift in the focus of the blog, somewhat away from the UK general election and towards other matters. The most obvious of these is next May’s Welsh Assembly election: that will undoubtedly be a central focus for the blog in the next months. But there is also the EU referendum to consider, and I will be trying to make sure that the blog discusses the Welsh dimension of that vote. And then we have a potentially fascinating set of local government elections in 2017 as well.

In short, the outlook for elections (and referendums) in Wales in the period ahead appears anything but dull. And Elections in Wales will, I intend, be doing its own little bit to try to contribute to debates and understanding of these events.