To add to a bumper polling week in Wales comes news that BBC-Wales have run a new poll with ICM. Although the main focus of the poll was not directly on matters electoral, they have included a question on voting intention for the forthcoming general election. The poll, conducted by telephone, was actually carried out slightly before the new Barometer poll that was published on Monday, but the results were only been released last night.
The voting intention numbers (with changes from the last ICM poll for BBC-Wales, carried out in September, in brackets) are:
Labour: 38% (no change)
Conservative: 21% (-2)
Liberal Democrats: 7% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 12% (-1)
UKIP: 13% (-1)
Greens: 6% (+4)
Others: 2% (no change)
So no major changes from the previous poll, except for the significant boost in support for the Greens. The numbers are all also within the ‘margin of error’ of those produced by YouGov for the Welsh Political Barometer poll published earlier this week. Both polls showed the Greens rising by several points, raising our confidence that this is a genuine increase and not an outlier.
Using the standard Uniform National Swing assumption to project from the raw polling numbers to seat outcomes, on the figures here only two seats would change hands: Labour gaining both Cardiff Central and Cardiff North. That leaves us with the overall outcome of:
Labour: 28 seats (+2 on 2010)
Conservatives: 7 seats (-1)
Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (-1)
Plaid Cymru: 3 seats (no change)
The only difference here with the Barometer poll is that ICM’s slightly lower score for the Tories, and marginally higher one for the Lib-Dems, leads to Brecon and Radnor being projected as a marginal Lib-Dem hold rather than a narrow Conservative gain. Using the alternative Ratio Swing assumption that I have periodically discussed here on the blog, we get these seat numbers:
Labour: 30 seats (+4; gaining Cardiff Central, Cardiff North, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, and Vale of Glamorgan)
Conservatives: 6 seats (-2; losing Cardiff North, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, and Vale of Glamorgan to Labour, but gaining Brecon & Radnor from the Liberal Democrats)
Liberal Democrats: 0 seats (-3)
Plaid Cymru: 4 seats (+1; gaining Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats)
In terms of how we interpret the findings of this poll for the individual parties, I’d say this:
Labour: Rather like the Barometer poll, I think this is a moderately encouraging one for Labour. Given the erosion of Labour support throughout 2014, to see a second poll this week were poll in which Labour are holding their ground, and at a level slightly above that which they secured in 2010, is at least modestly good news for them.
Conservatives: One rather surprising – to many people, at least – feature of Welsh politics since 2010 has been how well the Tories’ support levels have held up. Throughout 2014 they were steady at a level only slightly below the vote share won by the Conservatives in the 2010 general election. In that context, this is slightly disappointing poll for them: it is only the second poll since the last general election, and the first in over a year, in which the Tories have scored below at least 22%. On these numbers, and assuming uniform national swings, they don’t suffer major seat losses. But some of the seats that this poll projects the Tories to hold on uniform swings, like the Vale of Glamorgan and Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, are on these numbers starting to get very marginal. And on ratio swings, those two seats actually fall to Labour.
Liberal Democrats: This is yet another in a very long line of disappointing polls for the Lib-Dems. There are still no signs of the party recovering much, if any, any of the substantial support they have lost since May 2010. On these numbers they have lost nearly two-thirds of their support since the last general election. (And it is perhaps worth mentioning that this is after taking into account the adjustments ICM make to the raw numbers, which are markedly favourable to the Lib-Dems. On the unadjusted numbers they are down at 5%: a loss of slightly over three-quarters of their 2010 support). At least in this poll, unlike with the Barometer one, they are still in fifth place rather than sixth…
Plaid Cymru: This is very much a so-so poll for Plaid Cymru. They are up a little on their 2010 vote share, but no more than that. While on uniform swings Plaid would hold their three current seats, it does not give them a sufficient increase in support to be projected to win any of their target seats on uniform swings, although ratio swing does project them to gain Ceredigion.
UKIP: A year ago this would have been a strikingly good performance in a Welsh poll for UKIP. But given their momentum during 2014, this may actually be slightly disappointing for them. Although changes since the last poll are small and well within the ‘margin of error’, this result is consistent with the picture from many of the GB-wide polls in January, suggesting that UKIP’s momentum may currently have stalled. But there is nothing to suggest that UKIP have yet gone decisively into reverse.
Greens: An interesting feature of the political year so far has been a relatively strong performance by the Greens in the opinion polls, coupled with an apparent surge in their party membership. This poll, as with this week’s Barometer poll, very much fits in with that picture. There is nothing to indicate that the Greens are likely to win a parliamentary seat at the general election, but they are attracting notably greater support now in Wales, just as they have begun to do in England.