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The January Welsh Political Barometer Poll

The first Welsh Political Barometer poll of election year has arrived. This latest measure of public attitudes delivers the very latest evidence on the political state of play, just a few months before the scheduled Senedd election in May. And it shows that contest shaping up to be an increasingly close, three-way contest between Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru.

With fewer than four month to go until the scheduled date for the Senedd election, our new poll once again asked about voting intentions at both the devolved level and Westminster. Polling for the Senedd once again included 16 and 17 year olds, to take account of the newly-expanded franchise; respondents in this age group were, however, excluded from the sampling of voting intentions for a UK general election.

Given the looming devolved election it is natural to look first of all at Senedd voting intentions. Here are the results of our latest poll for the constituency ballot (with changes in support levels for each party since our last poll, published in early November, indicated in brackets):

Labour: 34% (-4)

Conservatives: 26% (-1)

Plaid Cymru: 22% (+2)

Greens: 6% (+3)

Reform UK: 5% (no change on Brexit Party last time)

Liberal Democrats: 4% (+1)

Others: 4% (no change)

These numbers appear to show a clear weakening of Labour support since before Christmas. Before we get carried away with interpretations of such an apparent change, however (for instance, attributing it to the Welsh Labour Government’s handling of Covid-19 in recent weeks), we should note that this change simply reverses a four-point Labour rise in our last poll. That November poll may have thus been a slight outlier, with matters reverting to a more normal reading in our latest measure of public attitudes. However, with Labour’s rating apparently down, and Plaid Cymru’s support level apparently edging up slightly (although again by an amount well within any sampling error), the picture painted by our poll is much more of a serious thee-way contest for the Senedd than November’s poll suggested. Then, Labour’s reported support was almost twice that of Plaid; now there are only just over ten percentage points separating the top three parties.

None of the other parties appear to be pushing themselves into the constituency contest for the Senedd as serious players; while the Greens will be pleased at a relatively good showing, any chances they have of winning a Senedd seat surely come in the list vote. Probably the most important feature of the constituency vote findings for all these smaller parties is the continued lack of significant improvement for the Liberal Democrats. With their national poll ratings being so dire, and with Kirsty Williams standing down in their one remaining seat, there must currently be a very good chance of the party finally losing any Senedd representation in may (or whenever we end up voting).

A uniform swing projection of the changes in party support since May 2016 indicated by this poll suggests that three constituency seats in the Senedd would change hands, with the Conservatives very narrowly gaining the Vale of Glamorgan and Vale of Clwyd from Labour, and Labour also losing Llanelli to Plaid Cymru.

And what about the regional list vote? Here our new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since the previous poll again indicated in brackets):

Labour: 30% (-3)

Conservatives: 25% (+1)

Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)

Abolish the Assembly: 7% (no change)

Greens: 5% (+1)

Reform UK: 4% (-1)

Liberal Democrats: 4% (no change)

Others: 1% (-2)

Just as for the constituency vote, we see for this ballot a notable decline in Labour’s support. With the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru’s rating edging up marginally on this ballot, it again reinforces the suggestion of a close, three-way contest for the Senedd – only eight percentage point separate the three leading parties on the regional vote. It is also interesting that the rise in support for the anti-devolution Abolish the Assembly party seen in the last Barometer poll has been sustained into 2021

Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and as per usual assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Senedd’s regional list seats:

North Wales: 2 Plaid, 1 Conservative, 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, 2 Plaid

South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid

From these figures we generate the following overall projected result for the Senedd:

Labour: 26 seats (24 constituency, 2 regional)

Conservatives: 16 seats (8 constituency, 8 regional)

Plaid Cymru: 15 seats (7 constituency, 8 regional)

Abolish the Assembly: 2 seats (2 regional)

Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)

Labour must still be long odds-on to emerge as the largest party in the Senedd after the election. But our new poll does suggest that they may be pressed harder by their Conservative and Plaid opponents than had looked likely in late 2020.

What about the picture for Westminster? Our final poll of 2020 had suggested that Labour were possibly extending their lead in Wales. Our latest set of general election figures are shown below (with shifts since the previous Barometer poll in brackets):

Labour: 36% (-7)

Conservatives: 33% (+1)

Plaid Cymru: 17% (+4)

Reform UK: 5% (no change)

Greens: 4% (+1)

Liberal Democrats: 3% (no change)

Others: 2% (no change)

These figures show a striking decline in Labour support in Wales – one that is notably larger than for the devolved level. Again, this may be something of an outlier – at the very least it will be something to keep an eye on across future polls. The main apparent beneficiaries of Labour’s slump in Westminster support are Plaid Cymru. Their 17 percent support in our new poll is actually the highest they have ever recorded for Westminster in any Welsh poll this century of which I am aware (narrowly edging out their 16 percent in a July 2016 YouGov poll). Other than this, all apparent changes in party support levels since we last reported in November are small, and well within any ‘margin of error’.

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: 21 (-1)

Conservatives: 14 (no change)

Plaid Cymru: 5 (+1)

Only two seats are projected by this poll to change hands: the Conservatives are projected to narrowly gain Alyn and Deeside (having narowly lost it in the general election), but the Tories are also projected to narrowly lose Ynys Mon to Plaid Cymru. Of course these projections are based on the current constituency boundaries, with forty Welsh seats. That number will very likely be reduced to 32 by the time of the next general election, with substantially revised boundaries.

Overall, our new poll indicates a tightening of the race in Wales as the next devolved election approaches. Quite when we will be voting, and what sort of campaign the election will witness, remains uncertain. The latest evidence from the Welsh Political Barometer suggests that the outcome of the Senedd election is also rather less certain than some might have thought.

The Welsh Political Barometer poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,018 Welsh adults aged 16+ and was carried out online by YouGov from 11-14 January 2021. Figures for Westminster voting intention include only those respondents aged 18 and over.

Comments

  • Gareth

    How were the possible answers presented to voters.

    I’m staggered that 5% gage even heard of Reform let alone are considering voting for them? Where they given the choice of ‘Reform UK’ or was it Nigel Farage’s rebranded Brexit Party’ etc?

  • Jac Pro-biotic

    This poll shows some interesting possibiities. Although of course the figures are not that reliable when measuring the support for the smaller parties, the rise in the Green vote could be significant. When the blog analyses the figures to predict the outcome in the regional list, it does not take into account the potential for regional differences within Wales. To put it in a nutshell, if the Green vote is larger than the Abolish vote in North Wales and in Mid & West Wales, then the Greens get the fourth regional seat in these areas, not those who wish to do away with our principal democratic institution. It is a long way to May (and of course should the election be delayed, it will be even longer) but there is a real opportunity here for the Green party to establish themselves as a good compromise choice for those voters, in particular in northern, mid- and western Wales, who care about environmental matters, who are passionate about the health and wellbeing of future generations and who want to see Wales’ democracy flourish.

  • Richard Smith

    It’s always good in my opinion to see Plaid Cymru vote increase. It adds texture and depth to a monochrome tradition of constantly voting Labour. It also proves Wales’ distinct culture and language aren’t finished yet!

    Sadly though demographics are not in her favour. A huge tide of retiree “white flight” from England will continue to flow into Plaid’s heartlands, slowly eroding her electoral base, and further undermining the Welsh language. The only winner can be the Conservative party, and of course “Abolish the Assembly!”

    Plaid’s hope is to break into the Valleys which she finally looks like accomplishing. Time is not on her side though. I say these things as an Englishman. Wales needs to lose her “Stockholm Syndrome,” and stop blindly voting Labour.

    It’s not racist to ask something back from people that want to enjoy the stunning scenery. Learn the language, and actually live in Wales if you own property there. Don’t use it to just profit from second homes, and hurting the country you profess to love.

  • Christian Schmidt

    Interesting results, but I still think this points to a Labour-Plaid coalition. The reason for that is that the Tories are still ahead of Plaid, and while the Tories would support a Adam Price for First Minister (just as they sustained Alex Salmond), Plaid would not vote for Paul Davies.

    Concerning the Greens, I wonder if they may they win a seat in South Wales Central? In the early years of devolution the Greens’ relative strength was in more rural areas, but over the last decade they have gained more in Cardiff – similar to their best results in England and Wales being in the core cities of Metropolitan areas. I think most of their gains are concentrated there, and wonder if it enough for a seat. I guess it will depend on the overall proportionality of the results in South Wales Central – that is how many constituencies Labour will wins. Thus a Tory win in the Vale or Cardiff North may lead to a Green gain, not a Tory one…

    Concerning Abolish, I really think their name Abolish is both good an dangerous. Given their target audience I think it is much better Reform UK (just like Brexit Party was a good name). Even better, they will be first on the ballot sheet, so even if without much campaigning their target audience will see them literally just before they can tick the box at Reform or UKIP. But do we actually know by now whether they would take any seats or whether they would boycott the Senedd? If they are planning to take the seats, I think they could quite possible be hurt by an underhand hypocrite campaign – ‘they say Abolish but they want to take the money and then not do any work’ or something

  • Ddirpytnop

    Interesting results but a bit perplexing too. As others have mentioned, Reform UKs vote looks high given the likely absence of any ‘brand awareness’ and the fact that the party name tells one precisely nothing about what the party stands for – unlike the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party for example. However, as also mentioned above, it’s difficult to understand the latter party’s strategy – they stand for election to an institution, the Senedd, which cannot deliver their sole policy, but don’t stand for the one institution that can (Westminister). Can’t see what they ever hope to achieve – or indeed what they will do in the Senedd if elected. But I don’t suppose any of that will worry the particular section of the electorate that they are targetting.

  • John R Walker

    This might be a good time for Abolish to tell the electorate what they propose to do with any seats they win.

    Will they take up their seats?

    Will they vote or abstain permanently? If they vote how will they decide how to vote? Will it be a policy of voting against all future devolved legislation on principle or will it in some way be policy-based? If it is policy-based then the electorate probably need a rough idea what those policies will be.

    Will they take up places on Committees? If they do will they work normally or will they seek to prevent Committees from making even more wrong-headed decisions than they have managed to make so far? Will it be based on non-co-operation or will it be policy-based?

    There’s a limited market for ‘negative voting’ – voting against something. There’s a bigger market for voting for something. Abolishing legislative devolution is something I can happily vote for but I would like to know what other potential benefits I might get from that vote.

    If I have a choice of 2 or 3 parties which claim they want to end legislative devolution then my vote is likely to go to the party which tells me what other policy benefits I might get for my X in the box. Even if they are only going to be used to try and hold the WG to account because the last thing I want is another few years of boring consensus politics, ineffective opposition, and doubling-down on existing failed policies.

    We know the general direction of travel of the existing ‘Rainbow Plaid’ cross-party consensus, we can be fairly sure it will continue to fail the people in Wales, and we need to know which parties are going to stand up and oppose what?

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