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Analysing the Welsh Political Barometer Poll, 1

This week has seen the launch of the Welsh Political Barometer. This is a unique collaboration between ITV-Cymru/Wales, the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, and the leading polling agency YouGov. We’ll be working together to provide regular political polling in Wales – hopefully at least quarterly from now on.

The Barometer polls will include regular questions on voting intention, as well as somewhat more occasional ones on subjects like attitudes to the party leaders, and what people see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the different parties. This should offer a valuable gauge of public attitudes during the run up the May 2015 general election and the 2016 National Assembly election.

Over the next few Blog posts I’ll be analysing various aspects of the results from the first Barometer poll.

First, let’s look at the results for UK general election voting intention. The table below sets out the figures for each of the main parties; as indicated, subsequent columns indicate the vote share won by each party in the 2010 general election, and then the voting intention figures given in the previous YouGov poll in Wales – that conducted for this Blog in July. (I should perhaps make clear that the question wording for UK general election voting intention has not been altered, unlike that for National Assembly regional list voting intention. Therefore, the July and December results are directly comparable).

 

Party

Vote Intention

(December 13)

Vote Share, 2010 General Election

Vote Intention

(July 13)

Labour

46%

36.2%

48%

Conservative

21%

26.1%

23%

Liberal Democrats

8%

20.1%

8%

Plaid Cymru

12%

11.3%

9%

UKIP

10%

2.4%

8%

Others

4%

3.8%

4%

There are a few things worth commenting on in these figures. Obviously Labour remains well in the lead. However, the strength of Labour’s position seems to have ebbed somewhat. The change in vote share since July is only 2%: well within the standard ‘margin of error’. However, that July figure was itself 3% lower than in the previous survey. Prior to the July 2013 poll, five successive polls between February 2012 and February 2013 had placed Labour general election support in Wales in the 50s. This is hardly a catastrophic slide – and if you were one of the other parties you’d gladly swap Labour’s polling position for your own! Nonetheless, that position looks a little less strong than it has been doing for the last couple of years.

The Conservatives continue to poll in the low twenties. While this is a little below what they scored in the general election, Welsh Conservatives may be comforted by a number of factors: that polls in Wales have long tended to slightly under-state their support (and over-state that of Labour); that they have lost little support even during the mid-term of the Westminster government; and that their poll rating in Wales does not appear to have been substantially hit by the growth in support for UKIP.

While the outlook continues to be rather bleak for the Liberal Democrats, things at least appear to have stopped getting worse for them. For Plaid Cymru, there is a modest degree of good news. Their 12% rating is a level they have attained in only one other poll since the start of the campaign for the May 2010 general election. While the change from the most recent poll is again within the margin of error, this result may indicate a moderate strengthening of Plaid’s position. UKIP, meanwhile, continue to perform relatively well in terms of poll ratings, even if there currently seems little prospect that 10% support in Wales would actually win them a parliamentary seat.

What would these figures mean for the outcome of a general election? To examine this, I have applied the swings since the last general election implied by this poll uniformly across Wales. This does not, of course, mean that one would expect to see absolutely uniform national swings actually take place. In fact, the one prediction about the next general election that I would make right now with total confidence is that swings will not be wholly uniform across Wales! But the idiosyncrasies of different local swings often balance out in aggregate. And in the absence of more detailed local information, applying a uniform swing is our best current guess at how poll findings would translate into an overall national result.

So, if these swings indicated by our new poll were repeated across Wales, it would produce the following outcome in terms of seats:

Labour: 33 seats (+7)

Conservatives 3 seats (-5)

Liberal Democrats 2 seats (-1)

Plaid Cymru 2 seats (-1).

The seats to change hands would all be won by Labour:

·        Arfon (from Plaid Cymru)

·        Aberconwy, Preseli Pembs, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan, and Cardiff North (all from the Conservatives)

·        Cardiff Central (from the Liberal Democrats).

Labour would also retain all of the 26 seats they won in 2010.

The Conservatives would retain only Clwyd West, Montgomery, and Monmouth. The Liberal Democrats would hold Ceredigion, and Brecon & Radnor. Plaid Cymru would hold Dwyfor Meirionydd, and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (although on these swings the latter would be held by a margin of only 0.1%!)

In short, although the poll suggests that Labour’s general election support among the Welsh public may have softened somewhat, Wales’ long dominant party remains in a very strong position for the forthcoming general election. All the other parties trail a long way in its wake.

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