The Welsh Political Barometer poll, published on Monday, certainly generated lots of interest. Not only was there extensive national and even international press coverage of the general election voting figures; at times on Tuesday it felt like I had spoken to every broadcast media outlet in the UK except for CBeebies…
The good news is that there will be more Barometer polls during the campaign. The even better news is that there is also plenty more information contained in the current poll.
Among that information is a set of ratings of the party leaders. As we enter the campaign period, those leaders will become even more important to their parties. They will be the main faces and voices for their parties for the next six weeks; on them will, to a significant extent, rest their parties’ fates. As we get into the groove (as Madonna might have put it) of the election campaign, which of these leaders are most likely to be assets to their parties?
As in previous Barometer polls we asked respondents to the Barometer poll to rate each leader on a 0-10 scale, where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’; respondents could also select a Don’t Know response. We asked about each of the main UK party leaders, plus the leaders of the main parties in Wales. The table below summarises the findings, giving several pieces of information:
- The percentage of respondents simply choosing Don’t Know for a leader; while some people may choose this because they are genuinely undecided, as I have discussed here previously in the aggregate this offers a good measure of the overall public visibility of a leader.
- The average rating of each leader out of 10; and
- The change in that rating since our last Barometer poll in January
|Leader||% Don’t Know||Average / 10||Change|
|Andrew RT Davies||44||3.7||+0.5|
A few things come out of the figures here. First, and as has already been discussed in the media, Theresa May is clearly the most popular politician in Wales at the moment. For a Conservative party leader to attain that status in Wales is an indication of the rather extraordinary political times in which we appear to be living. That popularity is particularly notable among those who voted Leave in last year’s Brexit referendum (she averages 6.5 out of 10 among Leave voters); it is also striking that May is almost as popular among 2015 UKIP supporters (with whom she averages an impressive 7.1 out of 10) as she is with those who voted Conservative that year (among whom she averages 7.8). Her pitch for a Brexit-focussed election appears to be very much working with such voters, and giving her a considerable personal popularity boost with them. For much of the Welsh electorate, Theresa May is clearly an electoral asset to her party.
May comes out a long way ahead of the other UK-level leaders, with UK’s Paul Nuttall doing particularly poorly after a politically tough few months. Nuttall is actually the only leader to show a net decline in popularity since January. Perhaps more surprising, and striking, is that for the first time in a Barometer poll Theresa May also clearly outdoes both Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood for overall popularity. The Conservatives appear to have both the most well-known party leader in Wales (jointly, with Jeremy Corbyn) and the most popular one. That is a very good place in which to be.
The other striking, and also surprising, feature of the ratings is the significant upwards leap in ratings of Andrew RT Davies, the Conservative Assembly group leader. There is no very obvious reason for this, although publicity around Mark Reckless’ defection back from UKIP, and the Conservative group thus resuming their previous status as the second-largest group in the Assembly, may conceivably have helped. This finding for Davie might suggest that our poll has produced a particularly pro-Conservative sample – in which case we need to exercise some caution in our interpretation of the voting intention figures that caused such a fuss the other day. However, those voting intention figures were very much in line with the trends in recent GB-wide polls, while our Barometer poll also sees some upwards movement in the ratings of Carwyn Jones. Whether any of these findings are ‘outliers’ is something for which we must await the next Barometer poll to provide us with confirmation.
As our new poll began sampling the day after the Prime Minister called the general election, we were able to add in a couple of questions about the idea of having this ‘snap’ election. First of all, we asked Barometer respondents whether there should or should not be a general election. Some 55 percent of our sample chose Should, and only 22 percent Should not, with 24 percent being Don’t Knows. We then asked the following question:
“Theresa May had previously ruled out calling for an early election. DO you think she was right or wrong to go back on this pledge?”.
Even when the question was posed in this manner, a plurality – some 42 percent – of our Barometer respondents endorsed the Prime Minister’s actions, while only 34 percent said that she was wrong (with the remaining 23 percent choosing Don’t Know).
In short, it seems that at the moment Theresa May can do little wrong with much of the Welsh electorate. She is the most popular politician in Wales, in a party that is enjoying unprecedented electoral prospects here. Even her decision to reverse months on unambiguous statements and call an early general election has won substantial public backing. With six weeks to go until polling day the Prime Minister is doing well with voters in Wales.