The new Welsh Political Barometer poll appears to suggest something of a ‘Corbyn bounce’ for the Labour party in Wales. But how much of that, if anything, is actually down to the impact of Jeremy Corbyn himself? That is difficult to judge definitively. But we can get some clues from questions that our new poll asked about the party leaders.
First, as in a number of previous Barometer polls, we asked people to rate party leaders 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. We asked people about the four main party leaders at the UK level (David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron and Nigel Farage); we also asked about the Welsh leaders of their parties plus Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru.
The percentage of respondents who respond ‘Don’t Know’ for a leader is a useful guide to how well known a leader is. Though some people choose this option because they are genuinely undecided, in the aggregate the number of people selecting Don’t Know is a fair measure of that leader’s anonymity with the public. So how did the leaders, including the new UK leaders for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, do on this measure? Here are the percentages of our sample who, when asked for their view of each leader, simply responded ‘Don’t Know’:
As we have seen previously, most of the UK-level leaders have a higher public profile than those at the devolved level. David Cameron, wholly unsurprisingly, leads the way, while most people are also willing and able to give a view about Nigel Farage. The figures also suggest that Jeremy Corbyn has at least become known to most people in Wales; by contrast, Tim Farron was finding it more difficult to cut through to much of the public. (It perhaps worked against Mr Farron that much of the fieldwork fo our poll was completed before his party conference speech). Among the Welsh leaders, we see the same pattern that has been consistent since polls conducted during the general election campaign: Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood are much more well-known to the Welsh public than the other Welsh party leaders.
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.
Reinforcing the positive news for Labour from this poll is that they have the most popular leaders at both the UK and Welsh levels. While the difference in average popularity ratings between Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood is miniscule, Jeremy Corbyn stands out as much the highest rated of the UK-level leaders – with David Cameron actually the lowest rated. At least among Welsh voters, Mr Corbyn seems to have made quite a positive start.
To investigate initial public reactions to Jeremy Corbyn further, we asked two specific questions about him. We asked people whether him becoming leader made them more or less likely to vote Labour, at both the next general election and the Welsh Assembly election next year. Here is what they said:
|No difference – probably going to vote Labour anyway||19%||21%|
|No difference – probably wasn’t going to vote Labour anyway||32%||38%|
These figures suggest that Jeremy Corbyn, if he has any impact on Labour support, is more likely to do so for Westminster than for the National Assembly, which makes sense. They also indicate that the public are pretty evenly balanced on the electoral impact of the new Labour leader. They don’t point to him being, at least at the moment, either a large net vote-winner or vote-loser for Labour in Wales.
When we look at the details of the poll, those who voted Conservative or UKIP in May suggest that they are now even less likely to vote Labour. However, those who supported Plaid indicate that they are more likely to vote Labour with Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour. Meanwhile, those who did vote Labour in May also suggest that they are now more likely to vote Labour again in the future; if this indicates that Mr Corbyn has generated some enthusiasm amongst existing Labour supporters, that may be of important in the Assembly election in May, where low turnout makes mobilising your supporters of particular importance.
Given the media barrage that Jeremy Corbyn has undergone since winning the Labour leadership election, many Labour supporters might view these results with some relief. At the same time, we should remember that most opposition leaders experience something of a ‘honeymoon’ period with the electorate, many of whom given them the benefit of the doubt at the start before becoming more critical. So while Mr Corbyn seems to have made a decent start with the Welsh public, more difficult days may lie ahead.