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The Conservative Party poll record levels of support in Wales
As the UK stands on the verge of leaving the European Union, voters are currently rewarding the man who has led them to this point, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His Conservative Party are at historic levels of support in Wales, and potentially on course for a major breakthrough at the next devolved election. There are the key messages to emerge from the first Welsh Political Barometer poll of 2020, the first since the general election.
Our new poll, as is typically the case, asked about voting intentions for both Westminster and the National Assembly. For the first time, though, and in light of the recent legislation that has given 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in devolved elections in Wales, our sample included a representative number from that age group; they are not included in the vote intention estimates for a general election discussed below, but they are included in the estimates for the Assembly.
First, Westminster. After the strong Conservative performance in December, and the further boost they have had in post-election polls conducted across Britain, it is no surprise to see the Tories doing well in our latest poll. Here are the numbers (with changes on our last pre-election Barometer poll, conducted in early December, in brackets):
Conservatives: 41% (+4)
Labour: 36% (-4)
Plaid Cymru: 13% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-2)
Greens: 2% (+1)
Others: 1 (no change)
These are historically good figures for the Conservatives in Wales. Their 41 percent support equals the highest rating they have obtained in general election voting intention this century. Labour, by contrast, see their support slip since the general election. Plaid Cymru will be reasonably pleased with a modest rise in their support; all other parties, however, are at very low levels of support.
What might such support levels for the parties mean in terms of parliamentary seats? Using the standard method, of projecting the swings since the last general election indicated by this poll uniformly across Wales, gives us the following outcome in terms of seats (with projected changes from the December result in brackets):
Labour: 18 (-4)
Conservatives: 18 (+4)
Plaid Cymru: 4 (no change)
In short, this poll projects the Conservative to retain all six seats that they gained from Labour at the general election, and on top of that to gain four more ones: Alyn and Deeside, Gower, Newport East and Newport West. All other seats are projected to be won by the party that was victorious in December.
But it is not only changes at Westminster that are suggested by our new poll. As well as Westminster, we also asked once again about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional ballots in a devolved election. Here are the figures for the constituency ballot (with shifts in support since our December Barometer poll once again in brackets):
Conservatives: 35% (+4)
Labour: 33% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-2)
Brexit Party: 4% (-3)
Greens: 3% (no change)
Others: 1% (no change)
These numbers (which include figures for 16 and 17 year old voters, something that marginally reduces the Conservative lead) show that the current post-election boost to Conservative fortunes is not just confined to Westminster. The 35 percent support reported for the Conservatives is actually their highest ever reported vote intention for the constituency vote in an Assembly election. If we again assume uniform national swings since the last National Assembly election our new Barometer poll projects the Tories to gain eight constituency seats from Labour: these are (in order of current marginality) the Vale of Glamorgan, the Vale of Clwyd, Gower, Wrexham, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Newport West, and Delyn). There are no other projected constituency seat changes.
For the regional list vote, the new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since our December poll once again in brackets):
Conservatives: 32% (+4)
Labour: 32% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (no change)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Greens: 3% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-4)
Others: 5% (+1)
These regional vote figures once more have the Welsh Conservatives equalling their best-ever showing, from early May 2017. Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once more assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Assembly’s regional list seats:
North Wales: 3 Labour, 1 Plaid
Mid and West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 Conservative
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
These figures therefore generate the following overall projected result for the National Assembly:
Labour: 24 seats (19 constituency, 5 regional)
Conservatives: 22 seats (14 constituency, 8 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 13 seats (6 constituency, 7 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)
Since the inaugural election to the National Assembly in 1999, Labour have always much been the largest party in the chamber. Our new poll indicates that, around fifteen months from the next devolved election in Wales, we are currently on course for a rather different type of politics in what will soon to be known as Senedd Cymru/the Welsh Parliament.
Overall, our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll suggest that these are good times in which to be a Welsh Conservative. Indeed, those times have never been better: on all three vote intention measures, the party is equalling or exceeding the best ratings they have ever scored before. But if nothing else, the last few years in politics should have taught us to take nothing for granted. Last May the Welsh Tories scored only 6.5 percent of the vote in the European elections; now they are buoyant. Within another few months, who knows where things will be?
Professor Roger Awan-Scully is the a member of the Political Studies Association and the Head of Politics and International Relations and Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University. This article was first published on Cardiff University's Election in Wales blog and has been reposted with the permission of the author.
The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University, had a sample of 1,037 Welsh adults (including a small number of respondents aged 16 and 17) and was carried out by YouGov from 20 to 26 January 2020. Image credit: CC by Number 10/Flickr.