Skip to main content
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Latest updates.


Emotions Towards the Parties in Wales

25 November 2015

Following on from my previous recent blog post about the potential support levels of the parties in Wales, as measured by the Propensity to Vote (P2V) question in the British Election Study, I thought that blog readers might also be interested in responses to another set of questions from the BES which cover some related ground.

As I discussed in that earlier post, the P2V question measures attitudes to the parties in another, and rather different, way from just probing current voting intentions – it asks people how likely it is that they would ever vote for a party. The questions I am talking about in this current post also probe attitudes in a different way from simply current voting intentions. In this case, they try to get at what broader emotional responses people have to the parties.

They do so by asking the following to survey respondents:

“Now we would like to know something about the feelings you have towards each of the parties. Which of these emotions do you feel about each of the parties? Tick all that apply”

The potential answers given to respondents were:

–          Angry

–          Hopeful

–          Afraid

–          Proud

–          None of these

–          Don’t Know


The set of responses offered is fairly balanced in that two broadly positive emotions are provided, alongside two broadly negative ones. Respondents are also able to select a ‘none of the above’-type option, as well as the Don’t Know one.

This set of questions was asked in the BES post-election wave of their internet panel survey. Here is the pattern of responses received, for main six parties, from the Welsh sub-sample of the BES. The numbers in the table are the percentages of the Welsh BES respondents who ticked a particular response for a particular party. As respondents could choose more than one response for each party it is therefore possible for the total percentages for a party in the table below to sum to well over 100.


  Con Lab Lib-Dem Plaid UKIP Greens
Angry 37 24 26 12 33 12
Hopeful 26 27 15 26 15 27
Afraid 30 16 7 10 26 9
Proud 12 11 4 14 9 7
None 11 24 40 31 21 36

Source: British Election Study On-Line Panel Study, Wave 6 (post-election wave); number of respondents = 1556.


Perhaps the most obvious thing that leaps out of these figures is the disparity between the sentiments expressed and the actual election result. The parties of the right had a good general election in Wales in 2015, but they nonetheless attract by some distance the largest amount of hostile sentiment. Meanwhile, although Labour won more than three times the number of votes that Plaid Cymru did, the two parties attract strikingly similar positive sentiments, while Plaid were actually the recipient of substantially lower levels of negative sentiment.

The table above does provide quite a lot of data to compute mentally. I’ve therefore summarised some of its findings in a second table. This latter table provides some summary information on the data in the table above for each party: the total percentage of positives and total percentage of negatives, and finally a net score (positives minus negatives):


  Con Lab Lib-Dem Plaid UKIP Greens
Total Positive 38 38 19 40 24 34
Total Negative 67 40 33 22 59 21
Net: Pos – Neg -29 -2 -14 +18 -35 +13


I think the findings here reinforce one point that I have made on one or two previous occasions. The relative electoral success of the Welsh Conservatives in 2015 did not occur because large sections of the Welsh population had fallen in love with the party. The Tories had some advantages in perceived economic competence and leadership in 2015; they also ran a very effectively targeted election campaign. But substantial hostility to the party remains in much of the Welsh electorate. Similarly, while UKIP made a significant advance in vote share in Wales in 2015, it nonetheless is also heartily disliked by a considerable proportion of the Welsh electorate.

The other party for which these results are the most interesting, I think, is Plaid Cymru. The numbers in the tables above come, I should perhaps remind you, from a survey done straight after an election where Plaid came fourth in vote share in Wales, winning the electoral support of slightly fewer than one in eight of those participating in the poll. Plaid Cymru in 2015, as in other recent elections, was generally quite well thought of by many people in Wales. But it failed to provide them with sufficiently compelling reasons to vote for it. That remains, as it has been for some years, the main challenge facing Plaid Cymru.


  1. Rhydian Fitter

    This is very interesting stuff. I have to admit that it goes against my instincts to an extent. I would have expected a greater level of animosity towards Plaid as well as high levels of sympathy, leading to a closer result to that of Labour. I think this data highlights the complexity of people’s voting habits. A positive image clearly isn’t enough to win votes, however, by identifying the missing link and fixing that problem before next May, I think Plaid can be hopeful of a greater conversion rate.


    The most frustrating thing about Plaid is that it does not address the myths about the party which are mainly engineered by the big 3. The party is only for Welsh speakers, it is too small to make a difference. All parties start small especially Labour which finally from small beginnings replaced the Liberals in opposition.
    Labour is a mess but we will not win by talking about independence. We need to win hearts and minds first otherwise we will never progress. Even in Scotland they realize that a second lost vote might come from the people. The valleys still have a tribal voting tradition and until they understand that to continue to vote Labour will only give us more Tory years of rule.

  3. Graham Hathaway

    I have not seen data of this sort before and found it fascinating and by some measure a test for the progressive parties to translate good feelings into actual x on the voting paper. It may not be the huge hurdle that it appears when looking up the steep hill that the smaller parties face at each election.

    A clear problem is the first past the post election system that favours the two main electoral parties at Westminster . But the Welsh Assembly voting system allows for regional lists based on volumes of votes. It makes for greater optimism in efforts made in the election and outcomes.

    From the interesting and easy to understand data there is a striking mirror of outcomes for the Plaid Cymru and Green Party. Clearly the less disliked in voter emotions. It must give great heart to these parties although Plaid out scored the Greens on the Proud question as you would expect. Plaid out scored all other Parties in this category and should be an interesting theme in elections to capitalise on. For proud read happy with state of Wales and its nationhood. It’s a question of Barrack Obama speak of yes we can, and don’t ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

    It’s emotional but can stir and make you think do I believe enough in Wales and make a difference in my usual voting /tribal way.

    The issue of familial historical voting patterns seems to remain a strong feeling and is in some way a case of being a traitor or deceitful back stabber to a cause of historical solidarity that brought so much transformational social and health improvements, if you consider different voting intentions.

    It’s a form of emotional blackmail but now exists only in those old coal mining areas. The case for greater objectivity and reflection of what change can bring is vital. It’s reflected to some extent in the question of hopeful. Plaid again with Greens scored very well when compared to the larger parties , a subject area where you would not expect it to do so. This again is an open door to maximise in the way you campaign. Hope is a fundamental emotion to all of us as without it we wither.
    Hope for example, is a reason on its own to vote for a party. What gives hope is usually of the future. Is there a sea change in attitudes perhaps where the Wales brand is a rising sun. Should the brand be maximised? If so how. It must be cleverly done and America is a classic example where this is exploited by all Parties.
    There is no alternative other than strong credible leadership that addresses people’s needs across the whole spectrum of society without favouring any one group. It’s probably called middle ground , if it ever existed with special attention to vulnerable groups, become anti austerity and promote the vexed issues of an under performing economy that lags well behind others in the UK.
    It can be fixed by de regulation and the promotion of those best positioned to bring change , away from politics. A healthy economy will allows greater public spending.
    The fact remains that being governed by Westminster does not allow the impact that political decisions are best made close to the communities it aims to serve. As more policies are devolved to regions and the introduction of English votes for English laws with the spectre of a much stronger Scottish bill soon on the statue book , the prospects of Wales bring further sidelined must soon be reversed as a priority by a strong vote for change.

    It’s there in this set of data.

    The case now needs to be made of the resources , advantages like water wind and tidal resources we have on offer, the top universities , the need to build our infrastructure and capital projects , our skills set need to be maximised ,
    Investment in youth, our own legislature, proper care for the vulnerable and disabled, a need to remain in Europe. And much more.

    Yes it needs prioritising and funding. But what is wasted through needless wars, trident, corruption at the heart of Goverment with greed from large corporations and tax avoidance from the very rich.

    Yes Wales can prosper if given the chance and the political structures to make the changes from a Party not associated with Westminster.

  4. J. Jones

    It’s strange how different people will interpret a piece of data. The first thing that I thought related to the sentence from Roger above:- ” As respondents could choose more than one response for each party it is therefore possible for the total percentages for a party in the table below to sum to well over 100.”

    So I added up the total of all the answers leaving out “none”. The result is; Labour 78, Con. 105, UKIP 83, Plaid 62, Libdem 52, Green 55.

    So you can see that, love ’em or hate ’em, Con and UKIP are actually in the front of peoples consciousness and Labour is up there too. In fourth place comes Plaid with Greens and LibDems not really on the radar.

    When you look at the score for “None” you are actually finding out how many people just don’t have that party in their minds when it comes to thinking of a party of government so: LIbDems 40, Greens 36, Plaid 31. I think that people view those parties as…”mostly harmless”.

  5. Graham Hathaway

    Interpretation of graphs, tables etc is my very weakest point of reference.
    Can’t challenge an obvious efficiency of the previous poster.
    Yet I base my reasoning on a number of basic tenets.
    First that the sum of the parts make the whole. Is it not the case once you try to disentangle the categories by isolation of one or more category you have a built in distortion of what each party scores. It may well be you can and they lose no authenticity or integrity.

    Yet in any comparison with the major parties you have a major biase of greater publicity and proven competency in actual practice of Government or opposition albeit at Westminster or in the EU.

    There is also the prominence given to the major parties from the London centric newspapers. It’s a daily reporting of items that constantly promotes positively or negatively by regular commentary.

    I do realise that to the question anger that it may not play out well if the Party is regarded as controversial . It will score highly.

    It’s the case that with the Plaid Party that has its distractors over the language issue and general prejudice of a smaller nation or over Nationalism that the question of afraid or angry scored low only the greens were lower. Now I’ve disassembled the findings. Cherry picking I think

    I saw this analysis going in a different direction to what I expected to see.

    But your the “mostly harmless” comment I recognise if you build in one large assumption. And that the particular party will never be in Government to think about or worry about. But this may have been the case for the SNP.

    I think it may be a combination of this or that the party has no,proven track record in serious government. Therefore I can’t possibly comment.

    There is also very interesting behavioural questions that are at the top end of the emotion scale . Angry, afraid , proud. Are not your usual daily thoughts but would serve to illicit some response where you have experienced the sharp end of some policy or other. Or the potential the Party has for example to take you to war.

    The smaller parties are usually out of this orbit unless you see the greens as harmful to say the economy or Plaid to the split of the U.K.

    Like all polls it may throw up more questions than it answers but my goodness it has for me.

  6. John R Walker

    It would be interesting to know how many people, if any, stated that all 6 parties make them angry?

    ‘None of the above’ seems to be quite popular these days. And there are people in Wales who don’t want to vote for any of the pro legislative devolution parties.

  7. J.Jones

    It’s a problem as you say Graham. I’m not saying that there is a right or a wrong interpretation, I am saying that people don’t engage with the actual policies of a party until that party has a chance of power.

    I imagine that people in the SE of Wales don’t concern themselves over much about the politics of Dwyfor Meirionydd. Why would they? Therefore they do not have strong feelings about a Plaid administration; it isn’t likely.

    Who could object to the Greens? They want to save us all and the Planet to boot but we don’t scrutinise their policies and therefore see nothing to get particularly upset about.

    The LibDems? Well they benefited from never being in power and, once they were in power and real-politic caught up with them they were finished.

    And so you are left with the “contenders” and we all have an opinion about them…..but can you predict my vote from what I feel towards my party of choice? (It’s Labour by the way) Am I angry with them? Incanbloodydescent! Afraid of them? Both of them and for them. Proud of them? Nope. Hopeful? I’d like to be but no. So my major response is negative. Am I going to vote for them? Yes.

    • Graham Hathaway

      Understood and recognised all of your narrative on the emotive side of casting a vote. Indeed witness this on a daily basis at the hairdresser, pub and cafe.

      I fully subscribe to the reasonableness of the explanation of the depth of understanding of not wanting to change ( better the devil you know!) than face the wider issues you well outlined. Most might fall into this category.

      I just grieves me that looking at the responses on angry and afraid questions that our politics are now more then ever influenced by fear. The deficite of democratic rule and voting and open and informed debate is fading if not extinct.

      The influence of the media in London is driving the political agendas along with Worldwide multi faceted corporations.

      There must be a luminary somewhere in Wales who can Buck the trend.
      Perhaps the person has yet to be born in which case I will miss the rebirth of this great nation of ours .

      Keep well

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *