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Welsh Political Barometer poll shows how leaders are rated by voters

As we look forward to tonight’s Wales Election Debate on ITV Cymru Wales, some new evidence is available on the standing of the party leaders here in Wales.

The Wales Election Debate will be shown on ITV Cymru Wales and streamed online

In our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll, YouGov asked respondents to evaluate all of the party leaders on a simple 0-10 scale (0=strongly dislike and 10=strongly like).

Using this scale, respondents were asked to rate all of the five main UK-level party leaders: David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, and Natalie Bennett.

We also asked them to rate those Welsh leaders who will be participating in the ITV Wales debate:

  • Stephen Crabb (the Secretary of State for Wales, who will represent the Conservatives)
  • Owen Smith (the Shadow Secretary of State, representing Labour)
  • Kirsty Williams (Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats)
  • Leanne Wood (Leader of Plaid Cymru)
  • Nathan Gill (UKIP’s Leader in Wales)
  • Pippa Bartolotti (Leader of the Welsh Greens)

Respondents who were unsure how to score any of the leaders were able to choose a "don’t know" option.

Although some people can choose this option because they are genuinely undecided how they feel about a leader, it also seems to function well as a measure of the public visibility of a political leader.

The figures are below as well as the change since the last time we asked this question in March in brackets. (not all politicians were included in both polls)

  • David Cameron: 6% (-1)
  • Ed Miliband: 7% (-1)
  • Nick Clegg: 7% (-2)
  • Nigel Farage: 7% (-2)
  • Natalie Bennett: 35% (-19)
  • Stephen Crabb: 54%
  • Owen Smith: 66%
  • Kirsty Williams: 41% (-2)
  • Leanne Wood: 22% (-17)
  • Nathan Gill: 66%
  • Pippa Bartolotti: 65%(-8)

There are several interesting aspects to these results.

First, for all the leaders included in both the March poll and our new one, we see some decline in the proportion selecting the "don’t know" option.

However much some may seek to tune out the election campaign, it does make people more aware of leading politicians, and help some to decide what they think of them.

Second, we see that the visibility of the leaders of the four main UK-level party leaders is much higher than that of any of the Welsh leaders: this has been a consistent pattern every time this question has been asked in a Welsh poll, and holds true even when we ask about the First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

A third interesting aspect of these findings, however, is that the largest falls in "don’t know" choices since our poll last month have been for Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood. The greater visibility that both women have been given in the election campaign, including their participation in the first UK-level leaders’ debates,appears to have raised their profile among the Welsh public quite substantially.

The figures above tell us something about how well known the leaders are. But amongst those respondents who had a view, how highly did each leader rate with the Welsh public?

Our second set of figures gives the average rating, out of ten, for eachleader. (And, once again, we show the change since our March poll, for all those leaders included in both):

  • David Cameron: 3.8 (+0.4)
  • Ed Miliband: 4.5 (+0.5)
  • Nick Clegg: 3.5 (+0.4)
  • Nigel Farage: 3.3 (-0.1)
  • Natalie Bennett: 3.9 (no change)
  • Stephen Crabb: 3.6
  • Owen Smith: 3.9
  • Kirsty Williams: 4.4 (no change)
  • Leanne Wood: 4.8 (+0.4)
  • Nathan Gill: 3.0
  • Pippa Bartolotti: 3.3(-0.6)

Once again there are several interesting aspects to these results. The first is that no leader averages even five out of ten. But I guess it is hardly news that politicians are not very popular!

Second, however, we do see several politicians improving their ratings since our previous poll: all three leaders of the traditional UK parties have seen their ratings move significantly upwards.

For all that people complain about parties’ election campaigns, they do generally help portray parties and their leaders in a more positive light.

However, this improvement in ratings is not shared by Nigel Farage, whose average score has actually declined marginally. Mr Farage is now the most unpopular UK-level leader in Wales, with significantly more respondents choosing the 0 out of 10 option for him than for any other politician in our entire list.

Third, we also see in our new poll a notable improvement in ratings for Leanne Wood. The election campaign thus far has, it appears, raised both her profile and her popularity. She is now clearly the most popular leader of all those eleven politicians about whom we polled. (Although we should note that in our previous poll Carwyn Jones scored an average of 5.0 out of ten, a rating that would still place him slightly ahead of Plaid Cymru’s leader).

Among the other Welsh leaders, Kirsty Williams continues to poll relatively strongly, given the current unpopularity of her party. Pippa Bartolotti scores the biggest x average ratings among those leaders also included in our previous poll. However, the Welsh leader with the lowest ratings is again that of UKIP, withNathan Gill averaging only 3.0 out of ten.

The ITV Wales debate will, however, give the six Welsh politicians mentioned here a chance to put their party’s case to the voters, and perhaps also change public perceptions of them as individuals. Which ones will take best advantage of this opportunity? It will be interesting to observe.

The debate starts at 8pm tonight on ITV Cymru Wales followed by an hour long Sharp End Special: Rate the Debate at 10.30pm.

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