Support for the Labour party has dropped in Wales, the results of the latest political poll shows.
The first Welsh Political Barometer poll of this Senedd election year suggests a close three-way contest between Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru is scheduled for May.
A previous poll, carried out in November, showed Welsh Labour holding a significant lead over the other parties - which was the party's best numbers since December 2018.
It showed strong support for Wales' 17-day firebreak, but criticism of the banning of essential items in supermarkets.
Since then, another national lockdown has been imposed in Wales as cases of Covid-19 rose exponentially across the county following the presence of a new variant of coronavirus.
Two new vaccines have been approved, but this has come with criticism of the government for not rolling out the programme in Wales fast enough.
Wales has been in alert level 4, the highest level of restrictions under its Coronavirus control plan, since Christmas day. All non-essential retail have closed with tighter restrictions on household mixing enforced. A review of the current measures is due on January 29.
So, what does support for the political parties look like in Wales ahead of the next election?
Changes in support levels for each party since November are brackets:
Labour: 34% (-4)
Conservatives: 26% (-1)
Plaid Cymru: 22% (+2)
Greens: 6% (+3)
Reform UK: 5% (no change on Brexit Partylast time)
Liberal Democrats: 4% (+1)
Others: 4% (no change)
Polling expert Prof Roger Awan-Scully of Cardiff University said that although these numbers appear to show a clear weakening of Labour support since before Christmas, a note of caution is needed.
"Before we get carried away with interpretations of such an apparent change, (for instance, attributing it to the Welsh Labour Government’s handling of Covid-19 in recent weeks), we should note that this change simply reverses a four-point Labour rise in the last poll.
"However, with Labour’s rating apparently down, and Plaid Cymru’s support level apparently edging up slightly (although again by an amount well within any sampling error), the picture is of a much more serious thee-way contest for the Senedd than November’s poll suggested.
"Then, Labour’s reported support was almost twice that of Plaid Cymru; now there are only just over ten percentage points separating the top three parties."
The poll indicated that no other party appears to be a serious contender to gain constituencies, with the failure of the Liberal Democrats to improve their poll ratings leaving their one remaining seat in doubt.
Education minister Kirsty Williams is standing down in Brecon and Radnorshire at this election.
But, a uniform swing projection of the changes in party support since May 2016 would leave the Lib Dems with their one constituency.
Three seats would change hands, with the results showing Conservatives narrowly gaining the Vale of Glamorgan and Vale of Clwyd from Labour - and Labour losing Llanelli to Plaid Cymru.
On the regional list vote, the poll produced the following results - with changes since November indicated in brackets.
Labour: 30% (-3)
Conservatives: 25% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 23% (+3)
Abolish the Assembly: 7% (no change)
Greens: 5% (+1)
Reform UK: 4% (-1)
Liberal Democrats: 4% (no change)
Others: 1% (-2)
These figures reinforce the suggestion of a close, three-way contest for the Senedd. Prof Awan-Scully said out that only eight percentage points separate the three leading parties on the regional vote.
Support for the anti-devolution Abolish the Assembly party seen in the November poll has been sustained into 2021.
Allowing for the constituency results and again assuming uniform national swings since 2016, the new poll projects the following overall results for the Senedd’s regional list seats:
North Wales: 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 Conservative, 1 Abolish the Assembly
Mid and West Wales: 2 Labour, 1 Conservative, 1 Abolish the Assembly
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid Cymru
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid Cymru
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid Cymru
Overall, this would give Labour 26 seats, Conservatives 16, Plaid Cymru 15, Abolish the Assembly 2 and the Liberal Democrats 1 seat.
What about if there was a Westminster election?
The last poll had suggested that Labour were possibly extending their lead in Wales for a Westminster election.
But, the latest results show a striking decline in support for Labour in Wales - notably larger than for the devolved level - with a drop of 7% points.
The main apparent beneficiaries of Labour’s slump in Westminster support are Plaid Cymru - with an increase in support of 4% points.
Labour: 36% (-7)
Conservatives: 33% (+1)
Plaid Cymru: 17% (+4)
Reform UK: 5% (no change)
Greens: 4% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 3% (no change)
Others: 2% (no change)
"Their 17 percent support in our new poll is actually the highest they have ever recorded for Westminster in any Welsh poll this century", Prof Awan-Scully said.
"Other than this, all apparent changes in party support levels since November are small, and well within any margin of error".
Only two seats are projected to change hands, with the Conservatives narrowly gaining Alyn and Deeside from Labour but the Tories narrowly losing Ynys Mon to Plaid Cymru.
These projections are based on the current constituency boundaries, with 40 Welsh seats. That number will very likely be reduced to 32 by the time of the next general election, with substantially revised boundaries.
The Welsh Political Barometer poll, for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,018 Welsh voters aged 16+. It was carried out online by YouGov from 11-14 January 2021. (Figures for Westminster voting intention include only those respondents aged 18 and over).