Current Ratings of the Party Leaders in Wales

Among the most interesting sets of questions that we asked in our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll was that about the standing of the main party leaders.

This question followed what has become our standard format, which we include in most Barometer polls, where we ask people to rate a set of politicians on a 0-10 scale (where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’); a Don’t Know option is also available. And as previously this question was asked about the main Britain-wide leaders for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Brexit Party and the Greens, as well as the main party leaders in Wales.

I have often observed on the blog that a first useful thing to explore in the results from these questions are simply how many people who answer Don’t Know for each leader. Although some people choose this response because they are genuinely undecided, while others bluff about a leader whom they are unaware of, overall the number of people saying Don’t Know for any leader is a good rough-and-ready gauge of their public visibility (or lack thereof). What we have found in the past is that the more high-profile UK-wide leaders – particularly the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition – generally have low proportions of survey respondents saying Don’t Know about them; most others have higher number, and some even have a majority of respondents choosing this option.

So how do things stand now? And has there been any significant change since our last Barometer poll in July? Then, both Boris Johnson and Jo Swinson had only been party leaders for a matter of days. Since our last poll, as well, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds has been elected as an MP in the Brecon and Radnor by-election; while Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price had the potential boost of his party’s conference just a few days before sampling for our poll began. We might reasonably expect this have led to some boost in the public visibility of both Dodds and Price.

This is what our new poll found in this regard – (with changes from July’s Barometer poll in brackets):

Leader               % Don’t Know
Boris Johnson             8 (-1)
Jeremy Corbyn           9 (-1)
Jo Swinson                 36 (-15)
Nigel Farage               11 (no change)

Sian Berry                   77 (-1)

Jonathan Bartley         79 (-2)

Mark Drakeford          50 (-2)
Adam Price                 65 (-7)
Paul Davies                 76 (-2)
Jane Dodds                 71 (-5)
Neil Hamilton              35 (-2)

Mark Reckless 64 (-4)

Three leaders clearly stand out here. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and Mr Farage are much more well-known than any of the other leaders. Despite her prominent role in parliamentary discussions about Brexit, Jo Swinson remains much more anonymous these three leading figures (although there has been a significant improvement in her position). Among devolved level leaders, Neil Hamilton remains apparently the most well-known. Despite having been first minister for nearly a year, Mark Drakeford continues to be anonymous to roughly half the Welsh public. Similarly, and despite their recent successes, and some modest improvements in their visibility, both Jane Dodds and Adam Price remain unknown to most of the Welsh electorate. Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies fares, if anything, even worse.

But what about the answers given by those respondents who did have a view? Here are the average ratings out of ten for each of the leaders (with changes since July again in brackets):

Leader                       Average /10
Boris Johnson             4.0 (no change)
Jeremy Corbyn           3.0 (no change)
Jo Swinson                 3.5 (-0.8)
Nigel Farage               3.1 (-0.4)

Sian Berry                   3.6 (-0.4)

Jonathan Bartley         3.2 (-0.4)

Mark Drakeford          3.5 (no change)
Adam Price                 3.6 (-1.1)
Paul Davies                 2.8 (-0.5)
Jane Dodds                 3.7 (-0.4)
Neil Hamilton              2.2 (-0.1)

Mark Reckless 2.8 (-0.1)

Several things stand out from these findings. A first is that not a single one of these politicians has apparently risen in public esteem since July! As many of them will have experienced first-hand, this is not a great time to be a politician.

A second thing, though, is that Boris Johnson is actually (though by a small margin, and just in this one poll) apparently the most popular leader in Wales at present. In particular he is well ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in public esteem, something that helps underpin the Conservatives’ currently polling advantage over Labour. But, as ever, averages can also conceal quite a lot of information: in this case, the stark differences in ratings of the Prime Minister by Conservative supporters (average 7.8 out of ten) and Brexit Party supporters (average 7.0) on the one hand, and on the other the ratings given to him by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Plaid supporters (all of which average below 2.5). What is not concealed, though, is just how poorly Jeremy Corbyn is doing. His surge in popularity during and shortly after the 2017 general election campaign now seems a distant memory. For the UK leader of Wales’ long-dominant political party to be doing that poorly in public esteem is truly astonishing.

Meanwhile there has been particularly striking falls in the average ratings of Adam Price and Jo Swinson. This may be related to their rising public visibility: they may have reached further out to more voters, beyond the core of their own party’s support, into sections of the electorate less inclined to respond positively. But it may also be a function of their public stances on Brexit, which could have come to the attention of more pro-Leave voters. Adam Price’s particularly stark fall, though, comes after a rather sharp rise in our July poll: that may have been something of an ‘outlier’ finding, and at least some of the decline in our new poll may be simply the over-statement in that poll now being corrected.

We have been here before. In April 2017 they will say conservative opinion poll lead in Wales, and Theresa May was well ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in public esteem. Then, Labour and Corbyn turned it around; if nothing else the Leader of the Opposition does seem to do well on the campaign trail. But he may need to; it is difficult to see Labour suffering anything other done an election defeat if their leader continues to poll at his current level. Meanwhile, events of the next few days in relation to Brexit are likely to do much to shape public attitudes to the Prime Minister. If he is able to deliver a successful deal, he and his party are likely to benefit further in the polls; breaking his word on delivering Brexit by the end of the month, though, might bring substantial negative consequences for Boris Johnson .


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