With Wales now in its second full week of the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, our new Welsh Political Barometer poll delivers the latest evidence on the political state of play here. And it shows that, despite the fierce criticism that has been levelled against the Welsh Government for its approach to tackling Covid-19, Welsh Labour continue to retain a significant lead over all the other parties in public support. Indeed, if anything Labour’s lead is consolidating further.
Our most recent poll, in September, put Labour in single-point leads over the Conservatives for all three voting intention questions asked: general election voting intention and the two Senedd ballots. How do things stand now? Let’s look first at Westminster: here are the latest figures (with changes since September’s poll in brackets):
Labour: 43% (+2)
Conservatives: 32% (-1)
Plaid Cymru: 13% (-2)
Brexit Party: 5% (+1)
Greens: 3% (no change)
Liberal Democrats: 3% (+1)
Others: 2% (no change)
These figures demonstrate limited movement in party support since our last poll; indeed, all of the changes seen here are well within the standard ‘margin of error’, suggesting that there has been no fundamental shift in public preferences in the nearly two month period since the last Barometer poll was conducted. Labour will, though, undoubtedly be pleased to register their highest Westminster vote intention in Wales since December 2018. Such findings are broadly in line with what recent Britain-wide polling has been showing, with a modest Conservative weakening and slight improvements for Labour in recent weeks bringing the two parties more-or-less level.
What might these numbers from the new Barometer poll mean in terms of parliamentary seats? Using the standard method of projecting swings since the last general election uniformly across Wales generates the following projected outcome in terms of seats (with changes from the December 2019 election result indicated in brackets):
Labour: 27 (+5)
Conservatives: 9 (-5)
Plaid Cymru: 4 (no change)
The projected Labour gains from the Conservatives are (in order of marginality from the 2019 general election) Delyn, Bridgend, Clwyd South, Vale of Clwyd and Ynys Mon; of the swathe of Welsh Conservative gains in the December 2019 general election, only Wrexham is now (very narrowly) projected to remain blue.
The picture for devolved voting intentions is not quite so stable as for Westminster. Here are the findings of our new poll for the constituency ballot (with changes in support from September’s poll once more indicated in brackets):
Labour: 38% (+4)
Conservatives: 27% (-2)
Plaid Cymru: 20% (-4)
Brexit Party: 5% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 3% (no change)
Greens: 3% (no change)
Others: 4% (+1)
Here we see a rather greater strengthening of Labour support, alongside a weakening for Plaid Cymru and (though to a lesser extent, and within the standard sampling error margin) for the Conservatives. These are once again Labour’s best numbers since December 2018. It is also interesting that there is also no improvement for the Liberal Democrats from their historically poor figure in our last poll.
A uniform swing projection of the changes in party support since May 2016 indicated by this poll suggests that only one constituency seat in the Senedd would change hands, with the Conservatives very narrowly gaining the Vale of Glamorgan from Labour.
And what about the regional list vote? Here our new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since September’s poll again indicated in brackets):
Labour: 33% (no change)
Conservatives: 24% (-3)
Plaid Cymru: 20% (-3)
Abolish the Assembly: 7% (+3)
Brexit Party: 5% (+1)
Greens: 4% (no change)
Liberal Democrats: 4% (+1)
Others: 3% (+1)
Unlike for the constituency vote, we see here no improvement in Labour’s support. But there are similar declines for both the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru. And, perhaps most strikingly of all, there is a further rise in support for the anti-devolution Abolish the Assembly party. Their seven percent support in this poll is their highest ever figure registered in a Barometer poll and equals the highest level of support they have registered in any public poll – matching their score in the December 2018 Sky Data poll. Along with the five percent support scored by the Brexit Party, this does emphasise that there is a significant constituency of support in Wales for Euro- and devo-sceptic populist political options; were such voters to have a single clear option to unite around in next May’s election they might well deliver a significant number of seats to such a party.
Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once again assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Senedd’s regional list seats:
North Wales: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Abolish the Assembly
Mid and West Wales: 2 Labour, 1 Conservative, 1 Abolish the Assembly
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Abolish the Assembly
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Abolish the Assembly
From all these figures we thus produce the following overall projected result for the Senedd:
Labour: 28 seats (26 constituency, 2 regional)
Conservatives: 16 seats (7 constituency, 9 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 11 seats (6 constituency, 5 regional)
Abolish the Assembly: 4 seats (4 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)
Overall, our new poll certainly does not suggest that Labour in Wales are suffering negative political consequences from the firebreak lockdown. If anything the opposite would appear to be the case, with the party’s support appearing to strengthen more substantially for the Senedd constituency vote than for Westminster. In addition to factors common to politics across Britain – such as declining ratings for Prime Minister Johnson, dissatisfaction with the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and the impact of Sir Keir Starmer on perceptions of Labour – the persistence of a major crisis in an area of devolved competence like health has brought devolved politics to the fore. At present, this appears to be playing to Labour’s advantage in Wales. But it may also be helping an explicitly anti-devolution party like Abolish the Assembly harvest additional support from some of those who resent the distinct approach to handling the crisis taken by government in Wales.
The Welsh Political Barometer poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,013 Welsh adults aged 16+ and was carried out online by YouGov from 26-30 October 2020. Figures for Westminster voting intention include only those 986 respondents aged 18 and over.