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The Parties in Wales: Evidence on their Potential Support

16 November 2015

As readers of this blog will likely be aware, the most common method of looking at levels of support for different political parties in opinion polls and other surveys is simply to ask people which party they would vote for in an election. These ‘voting intention’ questions can be asked for a number of different elections – here in Wales our Welsh Political Barometer polls normally ask about voting intentions for the general election plus the two ballots in the National Assembly; we have also asked, when relevant, about voting intentions for European elections.

However, that is not the only relevant measure of attitudes to, and support for, the parties that can be deployed. There are alternative measures available, as I’ve discussed on the blog on previous occasions. (see, for example here). Among the other measures that can be used is one, developed originally in continental, multi-party systems, which asks people on a 0-10 scale how likely it is that they would ever vote for a party. Scholars generally term this the Propensity to Vote question (or P2V, for short).

As part of the day job, I’ve recently been spending quite a bit of time looking at the data produced by the on-line panel survey of the British Election Study (BES). Their data is all available here; for those of you not too au fait with using SPSS or STATA to analyse such data, they also helpfully provide a ‘Data Playground’ function, which gives a rather more user-friendly way to produce some rather nifty charts and tables. The on-line BES panel included a large number of respondents in Wales, and I’ve been looking in detail at much of the data produced from the immediate post-election survey that was conducted with these respondents in May.

We know how these people voted. But it can also be of interest to look at their attitudes on the P2V question, because this takes us beyond current electoral support towards looking at the broader potential support bases of the different parties. Sure, the data might now be regarded as being a little out of date – for one thing they pre-date Jeremy Corbyn being anything other than a rather obscure Labour backbencher. Still, I think they’re nonetheless interesting. What do we find in Wales?

Below are a series of bar charts – that I produced using the ‘Data Playground’ function. They show responses from Welsh respondents to the post-election BES wave for the five main parties on the P2V question. Respondents were asked to rate each party on a 0-10 scale, where 0 meant that is was ‘very unlikely’ they would ever vote for that party and 10 meant that it was ‘very likely’ that they would.

(Please click on each chat for a larger version)


And here is a summary table of those results:

Mean Ratings %7-10 % 0/10
Conservatives 3.9 35.0 44.5
Labour 5.1 42.8 25.8
Lib-Dems 3.1 18.9 37.8
Plaid Cymru 4.0 29.1 30.0
UKIP 2.9 23.6 52.7


So what does this all mean? I think one thing that we can immediately notice is that, despite the electoral advance of the right in Wales in 2015, there remains much greater hostility to both the Conservatives and UKIP than to any other parties. Far more people give a 0 out of 10 score to them than to anyone else.

Labour remain the party that attracts the most sympathy in Wales, and has the greatest apparent pool of likely supporters (which I have, somewhat arbitrarily, defined as those scoring it at seven or higher out of ten). I will be interesting to see the extent to which Jeremy Corbyn has any impact on these figures.

Plaid Cymru were perhaps the party that was least effective, in 2015, at converting potential support into actual votes. They will need to do better in the context of an Assembly election in 2016.


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