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The May Welsh Political Barometer Poll: the European election numbers

20 May 2019

The Brexit Party are on course for a huge European election victory in Wales – while both Labour and the Conservatives face historic defeats. These are the headline findings that come from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll.

Our new poll once more provides the latest assessment of the political state of play in Wales. As usual, the poll covered a wide range of matters. But with only three days to go until polling day for the European election, it is the findings about voting intentions for the European Parliament election that are of the most immediate interest.

Among those indicating that they would vote, and giving a party preference, these are the levels of support for each party that YouGov found (with changes from our previous Barometer poll, in April, indicated in brackets):

Brexit Party: 36% (+26)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (+4)
Labour: 15% (-15)
Liberal Democrats: 10% (+4)
Greens: 8% (+5)
Conservative: 7% (-9)
UKIP: 2% (-9)
Change UK: 2% (-6)
Others: 1% (no change)

If these results were to be replicated in the election itself, then Wales’ four seats in the European Parliament would be allocated as follows:

Brexit Party: 2 seats
Labour: 1 seat:
Plaid Cymru: 1 seat

These new polling figures clearly show huge changes from our previous poll. That, we should recall, was conducted before the Brexit party had even officially launched, and a great deal has changed in the political landscape in just a few weeks.

The most obvious change is in the fortunes of the Brexit Party. Just a few weeks old, they are now apparently well in the lead in Wales – have leapt from fifth place in our previous poll. Part of this success has come from the marginalisation of UKIP, whose support has largely disappeared. But much has also come from former Conservative supporters. The detailed findings of our poll shows the Brexit party winning 68% of the support of those who voted Leave in 2017, and also 68% of those who voted Conservative in the 2017 general election.

If our new poll is great news for the Brexit Party, it is the very opposite for both Labour and, to an even greater extent, the Conservatives. Labour have long been our dominant party, but now face the realistic prospect not only of being defeated in Wales but even potentially finishing in third place! Meanwhile, according to our poll the Welsh Conservatives are very likely to lose their current seat in the European Parliament, and may actually be on course to finishing in sixth (!) place in the election. These would be truly unprecedented results for both the traditionally dominant parties.

Compared to both Labour and the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru’s performance in our new poll is much stronger. Plaid now have a very realistic chance of finishing ahead of Labour for the first time ever in a Wales-wide election. However, even on the most optimistic interpretation of this poll, Plaid are a long way short of winning two MEPs. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have made some progress since our last poll. However, their progress has been more limited than many other polls have indicated has been happening recently in England: perhaps reflecting the fact that, with Plaid Cymru in the race, the pro-Remain section of the electoral marketplace is more crowded in Wales. As in previous European elections in Wales (such as 1999, 2004 and 2009), the Liberal Democrats may poll very respectably but still fall some way sort of the votes required to win a seat.

Of course, Plaid and the Lib-Dems are not the only explicitly pro-Remain parties in Wales. Our new poll shows a relatively strong performance from the Greens. However, they look very unlikely to return one of the four MEPs – even if they might conceivably finish ahead of the Conservatives in vote share. Nor do Change UK look to have much chance of winning a seat in Wales: indeed, their brief moment in the political sun may already be coming towards and end.

Overall, if we compare support for the ‘hard Brexit’ parties (Brexit Party plus UKIP) and the unambiguously pro-Remain parties (Plaid, the Lib-Dems, Change UK and the Greens), then our new poll suggests the two sides are very evenly balanced in Wales: some 38 percent are planning to vote for parties endorsing a hard Brexit, and 39 percent for those favouring the UK remaining in the EU. But given the way European elections operate in Wales, the figures in this poll suggest that there could be two seats for the Brexit Party and only one for all those parties supporting Remain.

These poll results clearly have immediate potential implications for Thursday’s election. But there is a broader historical context here. Since Lloyd George’s victory in the December 1918 general election, there have been 39 Wales-wide electoral contests. (These comprise twenty-six general elections, eight previous sets of European elections, and five National Assembly elections). The Labour party have come first in 38 of those 39 contests – the sole exception being the 2009 European election when, at the absolute lowest point of Gordon Brown’s unhappy period as Prime Minister, Labour finished narrowly behind the Conservatives in Wales.

Unless our poll is horribly inaccurate, or Labour stage an astonishing resurgence in the last few days of the European election campaign, we are going to see Labour defeated in Wales for only the second time in the last one hundred years. Mark Drakeford’s first electoral test as Welsh Labour leader will have been failed. We don’t yet know what political implications might follow from such an outcome, but this result in itself would be truly historic.

YouGov interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,009 adults in Wales online between 16-20 May 2019. The poll was conducted for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University.


  1. Trevor Payne

    It’s maybe not about parties per se, but about which parties support Brexit and which support Remain. I suspect that once the EU is out of the way (if ever!), voting patterns will return to normal. Discounting the ambiguous Labour and Tory party’s positions on Brexit, presumably this poll indicates a distinct move towards Remain in Wales since the referendum?

    Another interpretation is that as neither Labour or Tory parties support a no deal Brexit; and The Brexit and UKIP parties unambiguously do support this outcome, then 63% of voters are against a no deal exit?

  2. Harry Hayfield

    Local Area Forecasts: Brexit 14, Plaid 6 (+2), Labour 2 (-8)
    Too close to calls: Conwy (24 vote Plaid lead over Brexit), Caerphilly (192 vote Brexit lead over Plaid), Denbighshire (129 vote Brexit lead over Plaid), Neath (2% Lab lead over Plaid), Merthyr (3% Brexit lead over Lab), Cardiff (5% Brexit lead over Plaid)
    Likely: Pembrokeshire (Brexit GAIN from Con), Rhondda (Plaid GAIN from Lab), Powys (Brexit HOLD), Bridgend (Brexit GAIN from Lab), Swansea (Brexit GAIN from Lab), Blaenau Gwent (Lab HOLD), Wrexham (Brexit HOLD), Vale of Glamorgan (Brexit HOLD), Torfaen (Brexit GAIN from Lab), Flintshire (Brexit HOLD)
    Certain: Monmouthshire (Brexit GAIN from Con), Newport (Brexit GAIN from Lab), Carmarthenshire (Plaid HOLD), Ynys Môn (Plaid HOLD), Ceredigion (Plaid HOLD), Gwynedd (Plaid HOLD)

  3. Jacques Protic

    IMO Plaid figures are highly exaggerated and mainly down to YouGov’s sampling approach that to my thinking includes a disproportionate number of Welsh speakers. Have seen it before and expect Plaid support to be around 10%!

  4. William Dolben

    Dear Roger,

    What is your estimate for actual turnout?

  5. Chris Johnes

    Trevor, I see where you are coming from but I’m not sure how we ever return to “normal”. Any Brexit “solution” will leave the UK immersed in long term negotiations about its future (Leaving with a Deal); in potential economic and social turmoil (no deal exit) or a hugely divided country (Remain either with or without a Referendum). In a sense this IS the new normal and both the traditional large parties have tried to straddle the divide (the Conservatives to be fair haven’t tried very hard in this election) with disastrous results. With evidence that voters now see themselves as Leavers or Remainers any new dynamic will probably come from how the two big parties react to Thursday’s rout

  6. Jac Pro-biotic

    The key thing is for every Welsh person who values democracy, liberty, peace and the Health Service to maximise the anti Far-right-rage vote.

    Talk to your friends, family, neighbours + anyone you can. Make sure they all know what is at stake.

    The far-right Brexit extremists have made thus into a proxy referendum, and they are steaming to victory, aided by a compliant media.

    Make sure that Wales does not suffer the same ignominy as England as being seen to support these wreckers.

    Speak to people about the alternatives – Plaid, Lib Dems and Green – and explain that the system is complicated and they need to choose carefully.

  7. William Dolben

    Hi Roger, you didn’t answer my question about turnout but 2014 was 30%. If it’s 30% or less… this time that means a thumping victory for abstention: >70% around twice the Brexit party projection.

    UKIP got 27% in 2014 so the true comparison is that people who are angry about foreigners, politicians, gay marriage, bin collection etc have increased by 9% from 27% to 36% after 3 years of the most chaotic and pathetic scenes in living memory in the U.K. parliament

    They are still only 10% of the electorate so they should be careful about claiming that they are the voice of the other 90% in these Euro elections who will not vote for them.

    Despite the hype U.K. society seems dominated by moderation and above all indifference to politics

  8. Peter

    The ITV Poll of 8th May 2017 taken before the last General Election predicted
    Cons 41% and Labour 35%.A combined total of 76%.

    The actual result of that election gave Labour 49% and the Cons 34%.A combined total of 83%

    The poll above gives Labour 15% and the Cons 7%.A combined total of 22%.

    I appreciate the European Elections are not so important to the Welsh people has the General Election.Probably in importance to the Welsh people is the General Election first with the European Elections second just ahead of Local Council Elections.

    Will have to wait till Monday for the exact figures but this is going to be a massive drop in support in Wales for the 2 main parties

  9. Trevor Payne

    Chris, I fear you are right. However, before Cameron made his self interested decision to offer a referendum, the EU figured around tenth on people’s lists of concerns. I admit this this was probably through indifference, rather than positive approval. As a committed Remainer my hope is that somehow we stay in the EU, via a new referendum or by revoking Article 50, rather than accepting a no deal, and that economic prosperity follows, with the issue of our membership again receding into indifference. I can’t decide which cliche to use, to assess the likelihood of this happening: pigs flying or a week is a long time in politics!

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