by Prof Roger Scully
Labour remains well in the lead for May’s National Assembly election, while the continued rise of UKIP threatens a three-way fight for second place. Those are key findings from this week’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll, which provides the first measure of public support for the political parties in 2016.
As we approach the start of the campaign for this year’s National Assembly election, we sought to assess how well each of the main parties are currently doing. As with all our previous Barometer polls, we asked respondents how they intended to vote on both the constituency and regional ballots for the National Assembly election. Here are the figures for the constituency vote:
Since the last poll in December, there's been a 1% drop in support for the three largest parties, well within the standard ‘margin of error’, but a more significant 3% upwards move for UKIP. Having also increased their support in our previous poll, UKIP are now some 5% up on where they were in the September Barometer poll.
Applying the changes since 2011 indicated by this poll uniformly across Wales, the figures project three constituency seats to change hands: the Conservatives would gain Cardiff North, Plaid Cymru would take Llanelli, and the Liberal Democrats would capture Cardiff Central. All three gains would be at the expense of Labour.
The figures for the regional vote were like this:
Labour are down 3% since December and UKIP up 2%. No other party has seen more than a 1% change.
Again assuming uniform swings since the 2011 election across Wales, and after taking into account the distribution of constituency seats, this gives us the following projected distribution of the regional seats:
North Wales: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru
Mid & West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 UKIP
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru, 1 UKIP
South Wales Central: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru
South Wales East: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru
Combining both sets of figures produces the following overall outcome for the National Assembly:
Labour: 27 seats (25 constituency seats +2 list seats)
Conservatives: 12 seats (7 constituency seats +5 list seats)
Plaid Cymru: 10 seats (6 constituency seats +4 list seats)
UKIP: 9 seats (9 list seats)
Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)
Labour thus remain a long way ahead of the field. But after our December poll witnessing the rapid deflation of the ‘Corbyn bounce’ that we saw in September, this poll again has their support slipping a little further. At this point before the 2011 National Assembly election, the most recent poll had put Labour on 45% for the constituency vote and 41% for the list vote; in the following poll they would hit 48% and 45% respectively. So Labour are currently running ten percentage points or more below where they were five years ago, and seemingly heading in the opposite direction.
Labour’s saving grace continues to be the divided nature of the opposition to them. The two main opposition parties in the Assembly are essentially stagnant in this poll, a finding that does not bode well for the chances of either the Conservatives or Plaid Cymru making the large numbers of constituency gains that they would need to challenge Labour’s dominance in the Assembly. Meanwhile, the fourth party in the Assembly, the Liberal Democrats, have made no progress whatsoever – even though the fieldwork for this poll was conducted in the immediate aftermath of their Welsh conference last weekend. Unless the Liberal Democrats can stage some sort of revival by May even holding two seats may be an optimistic prognosis for them.
The clear gainers in this poll are UKIP. This is, in some respects, very strange: the party has been subject to significant internal divisions recently, particularly in Wales, and has attracted substantial negative publicity. For ‘normal’ parties you would expect such developments to generate a loss in public support. But for UKIP this does not appear to be the case. Indeed, the opposite is true – their support continues to grow. The party continues to be on course to enter the Assembly in significant numbers after May’s election.
More detailed analysis of the poll will be provided in several posts over the next few weeks on my blog, Elections in Wales (http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/).
Professor Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.
The poll for ITV and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre had a sample of 1024 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 9-11 February 2016.