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The Party Leaders – New Evidence from Wales

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’:

 

Cameron: 8%

Corbyn: 13%

Farron: 47%

Farage: 9%

Jones: 24%

Davies: 47%

Williams: 39%

Wood: 23%

Gill: 62%

 

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.

 

Cameron: 3.3

Corbyn: 4.7

Farron: 3.8

Farage: 3.6

Jones: 4.8

Davies: 3.6

Williams: 4.3

Wood: 4.7

Gill: 3.2

 

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:

  General Election Assembly
More Likely 20% 13%
Less Likely 19% 15%
No difference – probably going to vote Labour anyway 19% 21%
No difference – probably wasn’t going to vote Labour anyway 32% 38%
Don’t Know 11% 13%

 

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.

Comments

  • J.Jones

    Plaid supporters are particularly active and numerous on the internet I always notice. Plaid are also very good at dominating the political story-line in the Western mail and Daily post. These two factors guarantee the visibility of Leanne Wood in particular but at the moment you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between the political positions of Corbyn and Wood. The previously effective tactic of branding Labour in Wales as “London Labour” and the “Red Tories” may be hard to maintain when “London Labour” (Corbyn) is saying exactly the same as Plaid. The only significant difference remaining is the “I” word which Plaid has a monopoly on, however, there has been little evidence that going big on “independent Wales” is anything other than a vote loser. Whither Plaid?

  • glyn

    All these polls look positive for UKIP. Which if a reflection of general election voting patterns is bad news for labour in FPTP . Corbyns popularity will not bring back the hard right of labour voter base.

    Labour losing 5 – 10 seats would not be a massive shock.

  • Cymro Cymraeg

    As an historic supporer of devolution, it is unfortunate to learn that UKIP will potentially return 7-10 AM’s to the Senedd in 2016. However, if they are elected through a democratic formula that currently occupies our election, then the outcome must be respected. The element of PR in the Senedd was intended to provide a better reflection of voting intentions across Wales. As a ‘left from centre’ thinker it was always my hope to see the Green party, TUSC and other minority parties being represented in our Senedd. It never dawned on me that a political party to the right of the Consernatives may now have an influence over Welsh civic life. It is therefore highly ironic that UKIP may return more AM’s than their current number of cllrs next year. It is for this reason that we now need to abolish the element of PR and elect all AM’s via the traditional ‘first past the post’ method.

  • J.Jones

    I love irony Cymro Cymraeg and so the notion that more democracy is fine until it comes up with answers that you don’t like amuses me no end. The rise of UKIP has less to do with our membership of the EU and more to do with xenophobia I always feel but the opinion of the public in Wales is much the same as public opinion in England. Narrowly in favour of staying in the EU, in Wales narrowly against further devolution (Tax varying powers) and significantly against immigration.
    In England the rise of isolationist sentiments has resulted in support for UKIP but little or no political representation. In Wales D’Hondt (spelling?) could give UKIP a healthy (or unhealthy depending on viewpoint) number of AMs.
    I wouldn’t worry too much however, there are many similarities between the views of UKIP supporters and Nationalist supporters…its just that UKIP apply those views to the Union rather than Wales.

    • Liam Martin

      I’m sorry but your not seriously suggesting that Plaid Cymru supporters and UKIP supporter have the same views in Wales? Ok yes they share the same disatisfaction against the Welsh Labour administration and believe that there should be improvements in the economy, the Welsh NHS and education in Wales. But other than that those two parties have completely different ideas for Wales. For example UKIP want to take Wales and the UK in general out of the EU whilst Plaid Cymru want Wales to stay in the EU. Also UKIP tighter immigration controls against migrants and refugees whilst Plaid want to see unlimited immigration and for Wales to take in more refugees. In addition UKIP want to limit the powers going to the Welsh Assembly and probably want to abolish it altogether whilst Plaid want more political powers for the Welsh Assembly. Furthermore UKIP want to bring back Grammar schools and the 11 plus examinations to Wales whilst Plaid want the continuation of comprehensive schools and are against selective education. The list goes on but you see my point. Overall UKIP are right wing, unionist, euro-sceptic militants whilst Plaid are left wing, nationalist, europhile militants.

  • Harryonthehill

    I would like to pose one question to all readers of this site:

    How much (if any) benefit or harm has the formation of the Welsh Assembly been to the people of Wales?

    A: Very beneficial. B: Somewhat beneficial. C: No Effect either way. D: Somewhat costly and damaging. E: Very costly and very damaging.

    First 100 replies will be assessed as part of a study into Welsh politics. Thank you in anticipation of your opinions. HOTH

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