The February Welsh Political Barometer Poll: Voting Intentions25 February 2019
The new Welsh Political Barometer poll provides us with the first measure in 2019 of the standing of the political parties in Wales. As is normal, our new poll asked about voting intentions for both Westminster and the Assembly.
First, Westminster. Sampling for the new Barometer poll took place during a period of considerable instability in British politics, with both Labour and Conservative MPs defecting from their parties. Has all the instability, and uncertainty around Brexit, had any impact on party preferences – which have generally been strikingly stable since the general election? Here is what YouGov found (with changes form the previous Barometer poll, published in early December, in brackets):
Labour: 35% (-8)
Conservative: 29% (-2)
Plaid Cymru: 14% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 8% (+2)
UKIP: 6% (+3)
Others: 8% (+4)
Clearly, the long period of near-stagnation in the Welsh polls seems to be over. These figures show a large fall in Labour’s support. Specifically, this poll gives the lowest levels of Labour support for Westminster since early May 2017 (the second 2017 campaign poll). Although their support is only down a couple of points, the poll also gives the lowest level of Conservative Westminster support in Wales % since January 2017. And although their support has only edged up by a single point, the Plaid Cymru figure represents their best Westminster showing since July 2016.
Using our customary method for projecting electoral results from poll figures – uniform national swings since the last general election – the figures from this new poll suggest that five seats would change hands at a general election. Given Labour’s current domination of Welsh parliamentary representation, and the large fall in their support suggested by this poll, it is no surprise that the five projected changes are all Labour losses: with Cardiff North, Gower, Vale of Clwyd and Wrexham all projected to be gained by the Conservatives, and Ynys Mon by Plaid Cymru. That would give the following overall outcome in terms of seats:
Labour: 23 seats
Conservatives: 12 seats
Plaid Cymru: 5 seats
What about voting intentions for the National Assembly? YouGov once again asked about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional list ballots in a devolved election. Here are their findings for the constituency ballot (with changes from the December Barometer poll once again in brackets)
Labour: 32% (-8)
Conservatives: 26% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 8% (+1)
UKIP: 7% (+2)
Others: 5% (+2)
Here again we see a substantial fall in Labour support: to their lowest level for this ballot in any poll since April 2017. Conservative support remains solid, while Plaid Cymru edge up – once more to their highest level in any Barometer poll since July 2016.
Once more using the assumption of uniform national swings since the last election, this poll would project seven constituencies to change hands. As with Westminster, all the projected changes are seats currently held by Labour: the Conservatives are projected to gain Gower, the Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, and Wrexham. Plaid Cymru are projected to pick up Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli. Labour’s projected twenty constituency seats would be by far their worst performance at a National Assembly election.
For the regional list vote for the National Assembly, YouGov generated the following results (with changes from December’s Barometer poll once again in brackets):
Labour: 29% (-7)
Conservatives: 24% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 6% (+2)
UKIP: 6% (+2)
Greens: 4% (no change)
Abolish the Assembly: 4% (-1)
Others: 4% (+2)
These results appear to confirm the sharp fall in Labour support, and a more modest uptick in Plaid Cymru’s ratings. YouGov do not find as high a level of support for the Abolish the Assembly party as the Sky Data poll did in December. Our new poll does, though, suggest that Liberal Democrat and UKIP support may have edged up a little.
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 Plaid, 1 Labour, 1 UKIP
Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 1 Plaid, 1 Conservative
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Lib-Dem
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 UKIP
These figures therefore generate the following overall result for the National Assembly:
Labour: 23 seats (20 constituency, 3 regional)
Conservatives: 17 seats (10, 7 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 16 seats (9 constituency, 7 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (1 constituency, 1 regional)
UKIP: 2 seats (2 regional)
It is a good rule of thumb, in politics as elsewhere in life, that things that can’t go on forever generally don’t. It always seemed implausible that the huge political events currently going on in the UK would continue to co-exist in the long term with stagnant levels of party support. And it now appears that the remarkable stability that has characterised the polls since June 2017 has broken. Labour have suffered most: their very public splits last week may well have contributed to what is a considerable drop in their support. As ever in Welsh politics, though, Labour’s saving grace is the lack of a single strong challenger – their decline has been distributed across several other parties. Although this poll offers some good news for several others parties, all of them have a considerable way to go before they can offer a serious threat to Labour’s dominance in Wales.
YouGov interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,025 adults in Wales online between 19-22 February 2019.
Non-partisan thoughts on elections, voting and political representation from Roger Awan-Scully of Cardiff University.