Welsh Political Barometer: Labour retain lead while Plaid Cymru move up ahead of Assembly election

Professor Roger Scully analyses the findings from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll.

Labour retain a clear lead for next month’s National Assembly election, but declining support for the Conservatives has allowed Plaid Cymru to move into second place.

Meanwhile, UKIP appear to remain on course to win multiple seats in the National Assembly on May 5th.

These are the headline findings from the latest Welsh Political Barometer poll.

As we enter the formal campaign period for the Assembly election, our latest poll asked respondents their voting intentions for both the constituency and regional ballots for the National Assembly election.

Here are the figures for the constituency vote (with changes on the previous Welsh poll, conducted for the Welsh Election Study last month, in brackets):

  • Labour: 35% (+1)

  • Plaid Cymru: 21% (no change)

  • Conservatives: 19% (-3)

  • UKIP: 17% (+2)

  • Liberal Democrats: 6% (no change)

  • Others: 3% (no change)

So here we see a very modest apparent strengthening of support for Labour, and slightly more for UKIP, since our last poll.

But the largest change is clearly the slide in Conservative support – and one, moreover, which builds on a further modest fall in our February Barometer poll from the 23% support the party enjoyed in December.

Applying uniformly across Wales the changes since the 2011 National Assembly election indicated by this poll, the figures project three constituency seats to change hands: Plaid Cymru would take Llanelli from Labour, while the Liberal Democrats would capture Cardiff Central from Labour. Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru are also projected by this poll, on uniform swings, to win Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire from the Conservatives.

The figures for the regional vote were like this (with changes from the previous Welsh poll again indicated):

  • Labour: 31% (no change)

  • Conservatives: 20% (-2)

  • Plaid Cymru: 20% (-2)

  • UKIP: 16% (+2)

  • Liberal Democrats: 5% (no change)

  • Greens: 4% (no change)

  • Others: 3% (no 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 Plaid Cymru, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP

  • South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 1 Plaid Cymru, 1 UKIP

  • 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: 28 seats (26 constituency seats + 2 list seats)

  • Plaid Cymru: 12 seats (7 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

  • Conservatives: 10 seats (5 constituency seats + 5 list seats)

  • UKIP: 8 seats (8 list seats)

  • Liberal Democrats: 2 seats (2 constituency seats)

Labour thus remain some way ahead of the field.

But their support levels are far short of where they were at the same stage in the electoral cycle five years ago.

At roughly this point before the 2011 National Assembly election, a YouGov poll put Labour on 49% for the constituency vote and 44% for the list vote.

So Labour are currently running fourteen percentage points below where they were five years ago for the constituency, and thirteen points lower for the regional list vote.

However, this poll does indicate that Labour’s support level has steadied, after some slight declines in recent months.

And the big advantage that Welsh Labour continues to have is the divided nature of the opposition.

Plaid Cymru, after showing gains in the March poll, have held those gains for the constituency vote, but seen their support slip marginally for the list vote.

This is hardly the #PlaidSurge of their supporters’ dreams.

Yet Plaid move into a clear second place on the constituency vote here (for the first time in a YouGov poll since December 2013) because of the eroding support levels of the Welsh Conservatives.

The political difficulties of the UK party in recent weeks appear to be having some effect on the Tories’ prospects in the Assembly election.

The news remains unremittingly grim for the fourth party in the Assembly, the Liberal Democrats.

Meanwhile, having seen their support fall significantly in the last Welsh poll UKIP here move back up a couple of points on both ballots.

This poll reinforces expectations that UKIP are likely to make a significant breakthrough in terms of seats in this year’s Assembly election.

The party would need to suffer a major collapse of support in the last three weeks of the campaign, or fail abysmally to have their support turn out, for UKIP to not win several Assembly seats on May 5th.

The poll for ITV and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre had a sample of 1011 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 7-11 April 2016.