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The July Welsh Political Barometer Poll

In these first days of Boris Johnson’s Prime Ministership, and with the Brecon and Radnor by-election coming up this week, the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll provides us with an up-to-date assessment of public attitudes in Wales in these eventful political times.

As is always the case, our new poll asked people about their voting intentions for both Westminster and for the National Assembly. Has a change in leadership for the Conservatives, and also for the Liberal Democrats, had any significant impact on levels of party support?

First, lets look at the figures for Westminster. With another general election this year a distinct possibility, how do the parties now stand? Sampling for our new poll began after the outcome for both party leadership elections had been declared, and so provides a gauge of the immediate impact of Boris Johnson and Jo Swinson on levels of party support. This is what YouGov found (with changes from the previous Barometer poll, published just before the European elections in May, in brackets):

Conservative: 24% (+7)

Labour: 22% (-3)

Brexit Party: 18% (-5)

Liberal Democrats: 16% (+4)

Plaid Cymru: 15% (+2)

Greens: 3% (-2)

Others: 1% (-4)

These are quite extraordinary results: in many respects almost wholly unprecedented. The poll shows the extent to which the dominance of the two largest parties has declined in recent months: this is the second Barometer poll in a row where the combined Conservative and Labour vote share is below fifty percent.

In some senses the results of the poll are truly historic. The most obvious concerns Labour’s support: this is the lowest Labour general election support ever recorded in any Welsh poll. Meanwhile, our new poll gives the Conservatives a lead in Wales for the first time since the opening two polls of the 2017 general election campaign; while for the Liberal Democrats, this is their best result in a Welsh poll since the early days of the coalition government in 2010. And such is the dispersal of support across the largest five parties that Plaid Cymru see their support up two points, to a level not far short of an historic high in Westminster support for the party, yet are actually in fifth place!

Projecting parliamentary seat outcomes from polling numbers during such a period of historic turbulence in party support is a very hazardous business. The normal method for generating seat projections – uniform national swings since the last general election – should therefore be interpreted with even greater caution than normal. In a five-cornered general election fight, of the kind indicated by our new poll, all sorts of peculiar localised dynamics might develop in different constituencies. But, for what it is worth, these are the seat projections that are generated from the results of the new poll:

Labour: 18 seats

Conservatives: 16 seats

Plaid Cymru: 4 seats

Liberal Democrats: 2 seats

The majority of the seats to change hands would be won by the Conservatives directly from Labour. The poll projects the Tories to capture Alyn and Deeside, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Delyn, Gower, Newport West, Vale of Clwyd, and Wrexham from Labour. This is despite the fact that our new poll actually has Conservative support falling by almost ten percentage points since the 2017 general election. Labour support has simply fallen much further. The poll also projects the Liberal Democrats to gain two Welsh seats: Brecon and Radnor (the projection does not take into account this week’s by-election, but the party are projected to gain the seat from the Conservatives simply on the national swing since 2017), and Ceredigion, projected to be gained by the Lib-Dems from Plaid Cymru. Plaid, though, are projected to, in turn, gain Ynys Mon from Labour. Labour’s 18 projected seats would be the first time they had not won a majority of Welsh seats in a general election since December 1918.

The sensational voting intention figures do not stop there. As per usual YouGov also asked about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional ballots in a devolved election. Here are the findings for the constituency ballot (with changes from the May Barometer poll once again in brackets):

Plaid Cymru: 24% (no change)

Labour: 21% (-4)

Conservatives: 19% (+2)

Brexit Party: 19% (+2)

Liberal Democrats: 12% (+3)

Greens: 4% (-1)

Others: 2% (-1)

These are again figures of historic proportions. This is the first Welsh poll ever to show Plaid Cymru in the lead for the Assembly constituency vote, while Labour support is again at an unprecedented low. Meanwhile, we see support for the Conservatives and Brexit Party apparently edge upwards, and the Liberal Democrats continuing to head back towards the category of a major party.

Once again deploying the assumption of uniform national swings since the last election (the National Assembly election of May 2016), this poll would project the Labour party to lose eleven of the constituency seats that they currently hold. Their projected losses are as follows:

  • Plaid Cymru are projected to gain Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Cardiff West, Llanelli and Neath
  • Thee Conservatives are projected to gain Cardiff North, Gower, the Vale of Clwyd, the Vale of Glamorgan, and Wrexham
  • And the Liberal Democrats are projected to gain Cardiff Central

In addition to these changes, the new poll projects Plaid Cymru to gain Aberconwy from the Conservatives. Labour’s projected sixteen constituency seats would be by far their worst-ever performance at a National Assembly election – they have never thus far failed to win a clear majority of constituency seats in the chamber.

Now the regional list vote. YouGov produced the following results (with changes from May’s Barometer poll once again in brackets):

Plaid Cymru: 23% (+1)

Labour: 19% (-2)

Conservatives: 18% (+6)

Brexit Party: 17% (-6)

Liberal Democrats: 12% (+5)

Greens: 4% (-4)

UKIP: 2% (+1)

Others: 5% (-1)

Once again, the voting intention figures break all previous records. Plaid Cymru have never previously been in first place in a National Assembly poll on the regional list vote. Nor has any Welsh poll ever previously shown Labour support below twenty percent. The figures for this vote also show a significant rise in Conservative support which exactly matches a fall since our last poll for the Brexit party. And, as with the other voting intention results, there is a notable increase in support for the Liberal Democrats.

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 Brexit, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 Plaid

Mid & West Wales: 2 Brexit, 1 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat

South Wales West: 2 Brexit, 1 Plaid, 1 Liberal Democrat

South Wales Central: 2 Brexit, 1 Plaid, 1 Liberal Democrat

South Wales East: 2 Brexit, 1 Conservative, 1 Liberal Democrat

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

Labour: 17 seats (16 constituency, 1 regional)

Plaid Cymru: 15 seats (12 constituency, 3 regional)

Conservatives: 11 seats (10 constituency, 1 regional)

Brexit Party: 10 seats (10 regional)

Liberal Democrats: 7 seats (2 constituency, 5 regional)

In short, this new poll projects the National Assembly heading into uncharted waters – with no party winning even one third of the seats in the chamber; the only two-party majority coalition available being one between the two largest parties, Labour and Plaid; and the Liberal Democrats apparently now on course to re-emerge as a significant force in the Assembly. But in these current uncertain and febrile political times we should be even more cautious than usual about projecting current opinion poll results into future political outcomes. Given how much the fortunes of the parties have changed in recent months, who could accurately predict where they will be by the time of the next Assembly election in May 2021?

Overall, our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll is a fitting reflection of the historic political times that we currently experiencing. This new poll does show some, though modest, evidence of a ‘Boris bounce’ for the Conservatives. If anything, what is most striking is how limited has been the electoral boost for the party from their new leader: new Prime Ministers has historically tended to boost their party’s support by rather more. The poll supports recent Britain-wide polling in suggesting that the Liberal Democrats are back as a significant party – a message likely to be reinforced by the Brecon and Radnor by-election this week. For Plaid Cymru, this is an historic poll: for the first time ever putting them in the lead for National Assembly voting intentions. The poll also shows that the Brexit party has, at least for now, replaced UKIP as a substantial force on the Euro-sceptic right of the political spectrum. Perhaps most significantly of all, though, the new Barometer poll indicates that Labour are in very deep trouble in their most historic heartland. There is no ambiguity about the message of the poll here. This is, on all three voting intention figures, Labour’s worst ever showing in any Welsh opinion poll. Having delivered an unprecedentedly abysmal European election result in May, Jeremy Corbyn and Mark Drakeford now appear to be well on course to destroy their party’s near century-long hegemony in Welsh politics.

YouGov interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,071 adults in Wales online between 23-6 July 2019.

Comments

  • Michael Murphy

    So the only two viable coalitions are Labour-Plaid or a Plaid-Con-LD rainbow.

    Sounds familiar…..

  • TARLETON

    The LibDems should easily win the Brecon By Election on Thursday ,and by record numbers ,now that Plaid Cymru and the Greens have dropped out to unify the remain vote ; I’d be surprised if the Cons and Brexit Party even get 45% combined , leaving the LibDems well over 40%

  • Ian Perryman

    I would suggest that the results are even more remarkable than the author suggests. The fact that the combined Conservative and Labour vote in table 1 has been less than 50% for 2 months running is, indeed, remarkable; but the fact that this has happened despite the ‘bounce’ caused by the appointment of a new PM makes it even more so.

    Of more importance perhaps is the way the votes are moving. It would appear that Brexit Party supporters and Others (presumably UKIP) are moving to the Tories, while Labour supporters are moving to Plaid and the Lib-Dems.
    The first would not surprise many people, and may even be said to be an expected ‘returning home’ of the right wing; the second, I would suggest, shows a more fundamental shift.

    With Labour support so low the only people left are hard core Labour voters. Seeing a shift away from long-term allegiance to other parties erodes Labour’s claim to be the heart and soul of socialist Wales.
    Once the ‘flag bearer’ tag is lost the flood-gates open.

    The final question is what will happen to the Brexit Party’s support ?
    If BP is indeed UKIP reincarnate then the future, for them, looks bleak. We all remember how UKIP was riding the crest of a wave at the previous EU elections, with about 27% of the vote; but then dropped to about 12% when it came to the Westminster election. Will it happen to BP ? We don’t know, but their support already seems to be crumbling.

  • danny roberts

    Everyone, whether in Wales or elsewhere, needs to remember that BXP isn’t a conventional political party. Their purpose is singular: to achieve a clean exit for the UK from the EU. Voting for them is done to force other parties to go to a full Leave stance, and their remaining in existence is to keep those other parties on the ‘straight and narrow’. If a clean exit is achieved under BJ, then the Brexit party will fold, not with a whimper, but with a victory parade.

    BJ’s aim in Wales, as elsewhere, will be to force the BXP vote down further, by giving BXP what it wants. In FPTP, this will ultimately result in even more seats falling to the Cons. He will hope that the LDs continue to do well, as the lead Remain party, taking votes off Lab. He knows that the ‘Remain Alliance’ (for the Brecon bye-election) will not exist in a GE.

  • Jac Pro-biotic

    The seat predictions given here are very probably erroneous not just because of tactical voting but because (assuming we live in a sane universe) there will be official or semi-official alliances between the remain parties. Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the Lib Dems need to speak to each other (soon!) to discuss this before the September /October General Election.

    If we live in a sane universe then they can also agree not to challenge excellent remain Labour MPs like Anna McMorrin in Cardiff North, focusing instead on unsavoury Labour MPs like Stephen Kinnock in Aberavon.

    However, given that Johnson is now resident in 10 Downing Street, who can say that we are in a sane universe?

  • Peter Sketch

    Unless tactical voting led to a radically different set of Assembly seats, having Labour and Plaid with a majority between them means that logically one or other of them has to be in any governing coalition. It seems hard to imagine any such coalition that wouldn’t be ridiculously fractious. We’d be looking at a minority administration, probably quite weak and unable to do anything significantly controversial, just at a time when there will be lots of threats to Wales’ interests flying around.

    All in all, let’s be thankful the next Assembly election isn’t right now…

  • Christian Schmidt

    Since this is from yougov, they should have data how the 1000-odd people that took part voted in 2017 (UK) / 2016 (Wales), and thus how voters transferred to their new parties – e.g. what proportion on 2016/7 Labour voters stay with Labour / go to LD/Plaid/Brexit. With this data it should be possible to build a much better forecast for each constituency than uniform national swing.

    Ideally a regional breakdown would be useful too, and while the sample may not allow much of one, given Labour’s strength in the Valleys, I suspect even a simply 2-way split (Swansea to Newport / the rest) would be illuminating.

    For what it is worth, on these numbers I would expect Plaid and the LibDems to pick up more constituencies (both UK and Assembly). I would very much expect them to have a deal, as they can easily divide up 39 constituencies with only one of them standing, as well as tear each other guts out in Ceredigion without the slightest danger that it would fall to any other party.

  • Christian Schmidt

    Also re Labour on 16 Assembly constituencies – by my count there are 21 constituencies who have vote Labour at *every* Assembly election (also 5 always Plaid, 1 Tory, 1 LD, only 12 that have ever changed hands)…

    As to the UK constituencies they are forecast to lose, Labour last lost the Gower, Cardiff North and the Vale of Clwyd in 2015, Delyn in 1987, Bridgend and Newport West in 1983, Clwyd South and Alyn and Deeside never since their creation in 1997 and 1983 – and Wrexham not since 1931…

  • James Townsend

    I can’t understand how anyone could vote Labour again. Only this month, Panorama showed all the evidence needed for Labour to be prescribed as an institutionally racist party. I certainly can’t condone Labour’s racism!!

  • Richard Gadsden

    If you use the 2016 UKIP vote as a baseline for the Brexit party (rather than zero), I think UNS has them winning Torfaen in the assembly.

  • Kenneth Vivian

    Tory base members have openly admitted to having stronger allegiance to land of hope and glory England than to uk unity with Scotland/Northern Ireland – or to the economic welfare of the nation – or even to the Tory party itself. What hope is there for the Welsh in Wales who are not absorbed by the English?

  • Anthony Dunn

    Anyone (Michael Murphy) who seriously suggest that the LibDems would EVER get into any Coalition with the UKIP/Brex**it Tories has either been at the magic mushrooms or is suffering from some other kind of delusion. There is not a snowball’s chance in Hell of this happening. The LibDems will not be supporting ANY Brextremist leaders in either Westminster or anywhere else. Full stop. Period, EVER.

    Some of us will never be forgetting the comments from Lord Tebbit during the Coaltion that “every government needs a lightning conductor…” This time around, it’s the LibDems who’d like to see the lightning strike coursing through the Tories and reducing them to a smouldering ruin.

  • Zane

    Anthony Dunn – Lib Dems ARE in coalition with UKIP/Brexit Party in Bolton and Derby!

  • Michael Murphy

    Anthony Dunn – I dont think I suggested LD or anyone joining up with Brexit or UKIP. I did suggest the numbers would permit a rainbow coalition involving LD, Conservatives and Plaid, although a more likely coalition would involve Labour and Plaid – but who would be largest party?

  • Michael Hilder

    If you are a democrat then you can only vote Tory or Brexit Party. The referendum result was a majority decision of Leave. The Liberals, I leave out Democrat as they only accept majority rule when it suits them & Labour’s policy ‘leadership’ is driven by a public opinion weather vane which does not bode well when they are close to getting to No.10! Dithering is not robust government which leads to chaos.

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