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The February Welsh Political Barometer Poll: Voting Intentions

The new Welsh Political Barometer poll provides us with the first measure in 2019 of the standing of the political parties in Wales. As is normal, our new poll asked about voting intentions for both Westminster and the Assembly.

First, Westminster. Sampling for the new Barometer poll took place during a period of considerable instability in British politics, with both Labour and Conservative MPs defecting from their parties. Has all the instability, and uncertainty around Brexit, had any impact on party preferences – which have generally been strikingly stable since the general election? Here is what YouGov found (with changes form the previous Barometer poll, published in early December, in brackets):

Labour: 35% (-8)
Conservative: 29% (-2)
Plaid Cymru: 14% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 8% (+2)
UKIP: 6% (+3)
Others: 8% (+4)

Clearly, the long period of near-stagnation in the Welsh polls seems to be over. These figures show a large fall in Labour’s support. Specifically, this poll gives the lowest levels of Labour support for Westminster since early May 2017 (the second 2017 campaign poll). Although their support is only down a couple of points, the poll also gives the lowest level of Conservative Westminster support in Wales % since January 2017. And although their support has only edged up by a single point, the Plaid Cymru figure represents their best Westminster showing since July 2016.

Using our customary method for projecting electoral results from poll figures – uniform national swings since the last general election – the figures from this new poll suggest that five seats would change hands at a general election. Given Labour’s current domination of Welsh parliamentary representation, and the large fall in their support suggested by this poll, it is no surprise that the five projected changes are all Labour losses: with Cardiff North, Gower, Vale of Clwyd and Wrexham all projected to be gained by the Conservatives, and Ynys Mon by Plaid Cymru. That would give the following overall outcome in terms of seats:

Labour: 23 seats
Conservatives: 12 seats
Plaid Cymru: 5 seats

What about voting intentions for the National Assembly? YouGov once again asked about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional list ballots in a devolved election. Here are their findings for the constituency ballot (with changes from the December Barometer poll once again in brackets)

Labour: 32% (-8)
Conservatives: 26% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 8% (+1)
UKIP: 7% (+2)
Others: 5% (+2)

Here again we see a substantial fall in Labour support: to their lowest level for this ballot in any poll since April 2017. Conservative support remains solid, while Plaid Cymru edge up – once more to their highest level in any Barometer poll since July 2016.

Once more using the assumption of uniform national swings since the last election, this poll would project seven constituencies to change hands. As with Westminster, all the projected changes are seats currently held by Labour: the Conservatives are projected to gain Gower, the Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, and Wrexham. Plaid Cymru are projected to pick up Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli. Labour’s projected twenty constituency seats would be by far their worst performance at a National Assembly election.

For the regional list vote for the National Assembly, YouGov generated the following results (with changes from December’s Barometer poll once again in brackets):

Labour: 29% (-7)
Conservatives: 24% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 6% (+2)
UKIP: 6% (+2)
Greens: 4% (no change)
Abolish the Assembly: 4% (-1)
Others: 4% (+2)

These results appear to confirm the sharp fall in Labour support, and a more modest uptick in Plaid Cymru’s ratings. YouGov do not find as high a level of support for the Abolish the Assembly party as the Sky Data poll did in December. Our new poll does, though, suggest that Liberal Democrat and UKIP support may have edged up a little.

Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once more assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Assembly’s regional list seats:

North Wales: 2 Plaid, 1 Labour, 1 UKIP

Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 1 Plaid, 1 Conservative

South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid

South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Lib-Dem

South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 UKIP

These figures therefore generate the following overall result for the National Assembly:

Labour: 23 seats (20 constituency, 3 regional)
Conservatives: 17 seats (10, 7 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 16 seats (9 constituency, 7 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (1 constituency, 1 regional)
UKIP: 2 seats (2 regional)

It is a good rule of thumb, in politics as elsewhere in life, that things that can’t go on forever generally don’t. It always seemed implausible that the huge political events currently going on in the UK would continue to co-exist in the long term with stagnant levels of party support. And it now appears that the remarkable stability that has characterised the polls since June 2017 has broken. Labour have suffered most: their very public splits last week may well have contributed to what is a considerable drop in their support. As ever in Welsh politics, though, Labour’s saving grace is the lack of a single strong challenger – their decline has been distributed across several other parties. Although this poll offers some good news for several others parties, all of them have a considerable way to go before they can offer a serious threat to Labour’s dominance in Wales.

YouGov interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,025 adults in Wales online between 19-22 February 2019.

Comments

  • Mike Murphy

    While not disputing the overall trend, i find it difficult to believe that Plaid will win Blaenau Gwent now that their local champion Nigel Copner has left the party. Similarly, Plaid will struggle to win Cardiff West without Neil McEvoy.

    Plaid should be fixing a few of its internal bridgeheads if it wants to make a breakthrough…

  • Sian

    Blimey that would mean Mark Drakeford would lose his seat. Can’t see that happening somehow – however who thought Leighton Andrews would lose his…..

  • Richard Harris

    From perhaps giving a post Carwyn leadership the benefit of the doubt, to a doubt in the benefits? Drakeford or not, Wales Labour continues to ossify.

  • J.Jones

    Carwyn was popular…Mark Dakeford less so. Sometimes what appears to be an insignificant change resets people’s thinking. UKIP and ATWAP are treading on each other’s toes; there is 15%-20% of the country who will follow any party with the courage to challenge both the idea of the Assembly and the drive towards more and more “Culture and Language, Blood and Soil” regressive nationalism; a nationalism that is unchallenged by any mainstream party.

  • Robert Francis

    Cardiff Central will be interesting too, the Welsh Liberal Democrats were only 817 votes behind Labour in 2016.

  • Danny James

    I agree with Mike Murphy’s comment that Plaid won’t win Blaenau Gwent without Mr Copner but if they don’t win there, I suppose they would be likely to win a second seat on the list. So either way, looks good for Plaid there. Cardiff West is different though. Can’t see Drakeford losing and Plaid won’t win a 3rd on the list so that’s probably a seat gone there. Llanelli is doable because there isn’t the same personal vote issue. In fact it’s the opposite there so as long as they have a sensible candidate, they should take it.

  • Petroc ap Seisyllt

    J Jones claims theres a “culture and Language, Blood and Soil” nationalism increasingly in Wales. That’s UKIP and the Tory drift to the Unionists , the culture being British, the language English and the Blood and Soil bit being white flight from a la Tommy Robinson. Welsh politicians are modest, unambitious and stuck in a culture of “no we can’t “.

  • John R Walker

    It looks to me as if the people are finally wising up to the dangers of a Corbyn administration. I have no idea why it’s taken so long because the evidence was there before he was elected Labour leader? When your own MPs start walking away even the disinterested are bound to notice. Drakeford is a Corbyn supporter but it’s probably hardly relevant as most voters still take their lead from national politics where Corbyn is rapidly becoming toxic.

    It hardly matters when the phoney consensus in Wales to protect their Bay Bubble gravy train means it doesn’t really matter which of the main parties people vote for because the outcome is going to be roughly the same. They’re all Welsh nats now – otherwise what are they for?

  • Christian Schmidt

    @Danny James – if Labour holds BG and Plaid gets a second list one, who’d lose out in South Wales East, 2nd Tory or UKIP? Either way its a gain for Labour, but if the Tories lose their 2nd, then it could be a gain for Plaid as well as Plaid needs to stay ahead of Tories to get First Minister…

    And that I actually think is the key point: Will Plaid be runners up and have a stable anti-Labour majority (i.e. will we get Scotland 2007)?

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