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The New Welsh Political Barometer poll: Party Leader Ratings

30 July 2019

Among other questions asked in the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll was one on the ratings of party leaders. This question followed our standard format of asking people to rate a set of politicians on a 0-10 scale, where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’, with a Don’t Know option also available.

This question was asked about the main Britain-wide leaders for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Brexit Party and the Greens. (Actually, strictly speaking, we were asking only about the co-leaders of the England and Wales Green Party, as the Scottish Greens are a separate party). We also then asked about the main party leaders in Wales.

As I have observed previously on the blog, a first useful thing to examine in the findings is the proportion of people who answer Don’t Know for each leader. While some might choose this response because they are genuinely undecided – and others might bluff an answer for a leader about whom they know nothing – in the aggregate the percentage of people who say Don’t Know for a particular leader is a fair rough-and-ready measure of their public visibility. More high-profile UK-wide leaders nearly always attract low proportions of survey respondents saying Don’t Know about them; with more anonymous figures we often find a majority of respondents choosing this option.

Here is what the Barometer poll found in this regard:

Leader               % Don’t Know
Boris Johnson              9
Jeremy Corbyn            10
Jo Swinson                  51
Nigel Farage                11

Sian Berry                    78

Jonathan Bartley          81

Mark Drakeford            52
Adam Price                  72
Paul Davies                  78
Jane Dodds                 76
Neil Hamilton                37

There is very clearly a large difference in the public visibility of the three most well-known UK-level leaders – the new Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and Mr Farage – and all the other individuals here. It is no great surprise that many people are not yet familiar with Jo Swinson, or the co-leaders of the Greens. What is more striking is the anonymity of the devolved-level politicians: the only one whom most respondents felt able to give a view about was Neil Hamilton. In recent years, most respondents to Welsh polls were able to give a view about Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood; their respective successors have not yet attained similar public profiles.

What about he answers given by those respondents with a view? Here are average ratings of those who did offer an opinion about each of the leaders.

Leader                       Average /10
Boris Johnson              4.0
Jeremy Corbyn            3.0
Jo Swinson                  4.3
Nigel Farage                3.5

Sian Berry                    4.0

Jonathan Bartley          3.6

Mark Drakeford            3.5
Adam Price                  4.7
Paul Davies                  3.3
Jane Dodds                 4.1
Neil Hamilton                2.3

A few things stand out from these results. A first is just how terrible are the ratings for Jeremy Corbyn. His surge in public popularity during the 2017 general election campaign now appears long gone, and he lags well behind all the other UK leaders. Boris Johnson’s ratings are significantly above the 3.3 average recorded by Theresa May in our last Barometer poll, but are hardly stratospheric; as political honeymoon periods go, this is fairly tepid. Jo Swinson seems to have made a reasonable first impression on at least some voters. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s average ratings disguise his ‘marmite’ status: he averages over eight out of ten among supporters of his own party, and above five among Conservative voters, but 1.5 or below among supporters of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru.

Looking at the devolved-level leaders, Adam Price now stands well ahead of the field, having seen his ratings leap from 3.9 in our last poll. This may simply be an ‘outlier’ finding; if not, however, then it suggests that Plaid’s leader is now making quite a favourable impression at least on those voters sufficiently politically aware to have a view on him The twin challenges for Plaid would then be for him to become known to more voters; and for them to convert favourable ratings for their leader into compelling reasons for people to vote for the party. The latter was something Plaid never quite achieved with Leanne Wood.

While Neil Hamilton continues to poll poorly with the public, probably of much more political importance are the poor ratings for Mark Drakeford. For almost two decades, Welsh Labour benefitted from leaders – Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones – who had both a high public profile and consistently high levels of popularity. Now, the Welsh Labour leader appears to have neither. He has been First Minister for most of a year, but most of the people of Wales seem to have little idea who he is. And those who do feel able to offer a view about Mr Drakeford do not generally feel very positive about him. This is problematic for him personally, but perhaps even more so for his party.


  1. John Ellis

    I’m wasn’t surprised that Mark Drakeford won the Labour leadership contest – he’s on the left of the party and a Corbyn loyalist, and that was always going to give him an edge given the current prevailing sentiments among Labour party members. But I’m also not surprised that he hasn’t succeeded in making much of an impact here in Wales; he may well be ‘a safe pair of hands’ in the eyes of rank-and-file Labour members, but to me he comes over as too much of a party ‘apparatchik’ to much enthuse or inspire folk beyond the ranks of Welsh Labour’s core loyalists.

    In a media age a political leader needs at least a measure of charisma – which the late Rhodri Morgan, and even Carwyn Jones to a degree, arguably did possess – whereas Mr Drakeford, earnest, modest and even diffident, is something of a ‘grey man’, in personality if not in politics not too unlike John Major. Welsh voters tend not to take too much notice of Welsh politics, as successive turn-outs for Assembly elections demonstrate, and it takes a more luminous personality than Mr Drakeford to really catch their attention. Personally I thought they migh have done better with Eluned Morgan, but as I’m neither a Labour member nor a Labour voter it’s really not my business!

  2. Michael Murphy

    If there is to be a UK GE before next WA GE then Adam Price would get a significant publicity boost compared to other Welsh Party Leaders in the same way as Leanne did last time. This should then give Plaid a further boost by the time the WA elections come around.

    • John Ellis

      Agree. This poll suggests that he’s significantly ahead in the ‘visibility and recognition’ competition. Plus there are those other recent polls which suggest more voters are presently contemplating lending Plaid their vote at the next Assembly election.

      My own instinct, though, is that Plaid should be cautious about beating the independence drum too persistently: Welsh patriotism is real enough, but my sense is that it’s still more local rather than national. For instance, Cardiff, Swansea and the southern valleys are routinely no less ‘remote’ in the eyes of many folk in Flintshire and Gwynedd than are Leicester and Newcastle! And vice versa; the sense of ‘the nation as a whole’ is as yet less developed here than is the case in Scotland.

      If we were to get a Plaid majority government at Bae Caerdydd next time round, my feeling is that its main thrust would more fittingly focused on using the powers that it already has effectively and impressively, and seeking incrementally to extend them. Your average voter will only start to think of independence as a serious option when s/he starts to hold how the Welsh government exercises its functions in higher esteem, and therefore of greater interest, than what Westminster does.

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