Poll backs Welsh lockdown but anti-devolution party on course for seats in Senedd election

Welsh voters prefer their government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic to Westminster's but the poll also suggests that the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party could win seats in the Senedd. Credit: PA Images

More than half of the Welsh public support the Wales-wide firebreak lockdown which saw the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops.

That is one of the key findings of the latest exclusive poll for ITV Cymru Wales.

The poll, which asked members of the public if they were in favour of the tighter restrictions enforced by the Welsh Government, found 60% backed Mark Drakeford's decision to impose the 17-day lockdown.

Polling began just after the two-week lockdown (26 - 30 October) and the findings show clear support for the Welsh Government's action:

  • 60% support the lockdown

  • 26% oppose the lockdown

  • 14% are neutral or don't know

Some measures have particularly strong support with 81% of people agreeing with the 'work from home' message, and 67% saying they supported the rule of not meeting up with other households indoors to control the spread of Covid-19.

But, just 43% support the ban on meeting other households outdoors.

Less than a third of people supported the closure of non-essential aisles in supermarkets Credit: PA

The most unpopular measure was the closure of supermarket aisles selling goods deemed "non-essential". Just 30% of people said they supported the decision made by the Welsh Government to close supermarket aisles selling these items.

The ban proved controversial with more than 60,000 people signing a petition calling for it to be immediately reversed.

It prompted the Welsh Government to review the guidance and issue an updated list of items that could later be purchased and asked retailers to introduce a "sensible system whereby customers can ask to buy non-essential items by exception under the regulations."

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford proved to be more popular than the prime minister Boris Johnson

The poll results suggest the Welsh Government is doing better than the UK Government at handling the coronavirus pandemic at 57% and 30% respectively - although both have seen their approval ratings fall since the last poll in September.

People were also asked how much they like or dislike the political leaders. The First Minister, Mark Drakeford saw his rating out of 10 drop from 5.4 to 4.9.

But, that is still better than Plaid Cymru's Adam Price on 4.5, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on 3.7 and the Welsh Conservatives' Paul Davies is on 3.4.

Support for Welsh independence remains stable with a quarter of people supporting it

Support for Welsh independence remains stable, with just under a quarter of voters (23%) saying they would want Wales to become an independent country.

Just over half of voters - 53% - said they were against independence.

At the beginning of this year, support was at 21% according to a poll conducted in January 2020.

Support for the Abolish the Assembly party in the Senedd regional list vote is now high enough to put it on course for winning seats.

When it comes to how people say they would vote in a Senedd election, support for Abolish the Assembly is now high enough to put it on course for winning seats.

Polling expert Prof Roger Awan-Scully of Cardiff University says the rise in support for the anti-devolution party is striking.

"Their seven percent support in this poll is their highest ever figure registered in a Barometer poll ... along with the five percent support scored by the Brexit Party, this does emphasise that there is a significant constituency of support in Wales for Euro-sceptic and devo-sceptic populist political options".

Changes since September's poll are shown in brackets.

  • Labour: 33% (no change)

  • Conservative: 24% (-3)

  • Plaid Cymru: 20% (-3)

  • Abolish the Assembly: 7% (+3)

  • Brexit Party: 5% (+1)

  • Green Party: 4% (no change)

  • Liberal Democrat: 4% (+1)

  • Others: 3% (+1)

Professor Awan-Scully added that if such voters had "a single clear option" to unite around in next May’s election, they might well deliver a significant number of seats to such a party. But even the Abolish the Assembly party's present level of support would, Prof Awan-Scully calculates, deliver it four seats on a uniform swing across Wales.

Labour's support has increased in the Senedd constituency vote

Overall, Welsh Labour continues to retain a significant lead over all the other parties in public support.

Here are the findings of the poll for the Senedd constituency ballot, with changes in support from September’s poll in brackets:

  • Labour: 38% (+4)

  • Conservative: 27% (-2)

  • Plaid Cymru: 20% (-4)

  • Brexit Party: 5% (+1)

  • Liberal Democrat: 3% (no change)

  • Green Party: 3% (no change)

  • Others: 4% (+1)

The results are Labour’s best numbers since December 2018 and there is no improvement for the Liberal Democrats from their historically poor figure in the last poll.

Professor Awan-Scully calculates that on a uniform swing across Wales, only one constituency seat in the Senedd would change hands, with the Conservatives verynarrowly gaining the Vale of Glamorgan from Labour.

The overall projected result for the Senedd is:

  • Labour: 28 seats (26 constituency, 2 regional)

  • Conservative: 16 seats (7 constituency, 9 regional)

  • Plaid Cymru: 11 seats (6 constituency, 5 regional)

  • Abolish the Assembly: 4 seats (4 regional)

  • Liberal Democrat: 1 seat (1 constituency)

Labour's increased lead puts all of the Conservatives 2019 election gains at risk.

Voting intentions in the next Westminster election in 2024 show the highest figure for Labour in Wales since December 2018.

The latest figures:

  • Labour: 43% (+2)

  • Conservative: 32% (-1)

  • Plaid Cymru: 13% (-2)

  • Brexit Party: 5% (+1)

  • Green Party: 3% (no change)

  • Liberal Democrat: 3% (+1)

  • Others: 2% (no change)

Small changes in votes can produce big changes in seats, as is shown by Prof Awan-Scully's projection of uniform swing across Wales:

  • Labour: 27 seats (+5)

  • Conservative: 9 seats (-5)

  • Plaid Cymru: 4 (no change)

The projected Labour gains from the Conservatives are Delyn, Bridgend, Clwyd South, Vale of Clwyd and Ynys Mon.

Of the swathe of Welsh Conservative gains in the December 2019 general election, only Wrexham is now projected to remain blue.

"Our new poll certainly does not suggest that Labour in Wales are suffering negative political consequences from the firebreak lockdown", Professor Awan-Scully says.

"If anything, the opposite would appear to be the case, with the party’s support appearing to strengthen more substantially for the Senedd constituency vote than for Westminster."

Factors common to politics across Britain – such as declining ratings for Prime Minister Johnson, dissatisfaction with the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and the impact of Sir Keir Starmer on perceptions of Labour – have combined with a major public health crisis that has brought devolved politics to the fore.

Prof Awan-Scully points out that although this appears to be playing to Labour’s advantage in Wales, it may also be helping an explicitly anti-devolution party like Abolish the Assembly win support from some of those who resent the distinct approach to handling the crisis taken by the Welsh Government.

  • The Welsh Political Barometer poll, for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,013 Welsh voters aged 16+. It was carried out online by YouGov from 26-30 October 2020. Figures for Westminster voting intention include only those 986 respondents aged 18 and over.