The darkening days have been brightened by the arrival of a new Welsh Political Barometer poll. This will be one of our most interesting polls ever, providing detailed evidence on public attitudes to Brexit and to the new party leaders (and candidates for the Welsh Labour leadership) in Wales.
Let us start, though, with the electoral state of the parties. With the Brexit process apparently getting ever more difficult, and all the main political parties having their own internal problems, what effect has all this had on voting intentions? We once more asked about both Westminster and the National Assembly.
First, let’s look at party support levels for a UK general election. Our new poll puts support for the main parties as follows (with changes on the last Barometer poll, in July, in brackets):
Westminster Voting Intention
Labour: 42% (-2)
Conservatives: 33% (+2)
Plaid Cymru: 10% (-3)
Liberal Democrats: 7% (+2)
UKIP: 4% (+1)
Others: 3% (no change)
It is obvious that our new poll shows only small changes in party support from that in early July: indeed, all the changes seen since July are within the normal polling ‘margin of error’, and so may represent little more than random fluctuations.
Yet this relative lack of change is actually a major story. In Wales, as across the UK, there has been remarkable stability in party support levels since last year’s general election. That election had seen the very opposite of stability – instead, witnessing some of the biggest changes during the formal campaign period that have ever been seen in a major election across any established democracy. But since then, hardly anything has changed. Across Britain, and in Wales, Labour support has gently edged downwards a few points, but otherwise we see almost no movement. All the turmoil in UK politics is having little impact on levels of party support. Nonetheless, while the changes shown here are small, Plaid Cymru will surely be disappointed that the installation of their new leader has not generated any momentum for them at all.
Using the standard method for projecting electoral results from poll figures, computing uniform national swings since the last general election, the figures from our latest poll suggest that three seats would change hands between the parties at a general election. The fall in Labour support since June last year is sufficient for both Wrexham and the Vale of Clwyd to be projected to be gained by the Conservatives; meanwhile, the minor rise in Liberal Democrat support suggested by our new poll is enough for them to be projected to regain Ceredigion from Plaid Cymru. That would give a general election the following overall outcome:
Labour: 26 seats
Conservatives: 10 seats
Plaid Cymru: 3 seats
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat
What about voting intentions for a National Assembly election? YouGov found the following support levels for each party on the constituency ballot in a devolved election (with changes since the July Barometer poll once again indicated in brackets):
National Assembly Constituency Voting Intention
Labour: 38% (no change)
Conservatives: 28% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (-2)
Liberal Democrats: 6% (no change)
UKIP: 6% (+2)
Others: 3% (no change)
As with Westminster, for the National Assembly we see limited changes since our last poll. The modest decline in Labour support witnessed for Westminster is not replicated in the devolved context. They retain a substantial lead, and are still more than three points ahead of the vote share they achieved in the May 2016 Assembly election. There is little change for the other parties too: the Conservatives continue to hold firm at a support level higher than they have ever secured in a devolved election. Plaid Cymru will again likely be disappointed; their support for the Assembly has edged downwards, just as it has for Westminster.
Using uniform national swing to project changes since the 2016 Assembly election, our new poll suggests that two constituencies would change hands: the Conservatives would gain both the Vale of Clwyd and Vale of Glamorgan from Labour.
And what about the regional list vote? Our new poll generated the following results (with changes on the July Barometer poll once again in brackets):
National Assembly Regional Voting Intention
Labour: 37% (no change)
Conservatives: 26% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 18% (-4)
Liberal Democrats: 6% (+1)
UKIP: 5% (no change)
Others: 9% (+2)
Making allowance for the constituency results already projected, and using once again the assumption of uniform national swing since 2016, these poll findings produce the following projected results for the Assembly’s regional list seats:
North Wales: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 Labour
Mid & West Wales: 3 Labour, 1 Conservative
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 3 Conservative, 1 Plaid
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid, 1 UKIP
These figures, in turn, generate the following overall result for the National Assembly:
Labour 29 seats (25 constituency, 4 regional)
Conservative 18 seats (8 constituency, 10 regional)
Plaid Cymru 11 seats (6 constituency, 5 regional)
UKIP 1 seat (1 regional)
Liberal Democrats 1 seat (1 constituency)
Such a result would clearly leave as still very much the dominant party in the National Assembly. But it would also be by far the best ever outcome for the Welsh Conservatives, putting them in a clear second place.
Overall, the new Welsh Political Barometer poll is in line with recent Britain-wide polling, shows broad stability in support levels for the main parties. Labour has continued to lose a little ground since its high point after the Corbyn surge in last year’s general election. But in Wales Labour remain well ahead. The UK government’s Brexit travails have not yet had any notable negative impact on support for the Conservatives. Perhaps the party with most reason to be disappointed in the results of our new poll is Plaid Cymru. The significant publicity attracted by their new leader, Adam Price, has yet to yield any electoral benefits for them. To the contrary, this poll reinforces the huge scale of the political task facing Plaid’s would-be First Minister.
The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, had a sample of 1,031 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 30 October–2 November 2018.