Party Leaders

The latest Welsh Political Barometer poll featured questions about a range of political leaders in Wales – of the recent past, the present, and potentially also of the future. There was a question asking people directly about their preferences between the three candidates to succeed Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader; I discussed the results from this here. However, the poll also ran a question that has been used in many Barometer polls, whereby people were asked to rate politicians on a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 means ‘strongly dislike’ and 10 means ‘strongly like’; respondents could also select a Don’t Know option.

 

A first thing to note is who we asked this question about in the latest poll. Past practice has normally been to ask about the main UK and Welsh party leaders. For November’s poll, our list was a little longer. In addition to the leaders of the main GB-wide parties (Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable), we also asked about the current UKIP leader, Gerard Batten. We then added various Welsh politicians. For Labour, we asked about the current party leader Carwyn Jones, and the three candidates to succeed him: Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan. For Plaid Cymru we included their new leader, Adam Price, and his predecessor Leanne Wood. For the Welsh Conservatives, we again asked about the new leader and his predecessor: Paul Davies and Andrew RT Davies. For UKIP in Wales we similarly enquired about Gareth Bennett and Neil Hamilton. And finally we also included the Welsh Lib-Dem leader Jane Dodds.

What, then, did we find? A first set of findings concerns the visibility of leaders. As I have commented on at various times in the past, while some respondents can offer a Don’t Know because they are genuinely undecided, in the aggregate the proportion of respondents offering this answer for any leader appears a good measure of that individual’s visibility (or rather anonymity) with the public. So how many respondents chose Don’t Know for each of the leaders (or ex-leaders, or putative leaders) that we asked about in the most recent poll? Here are the figures:

 

Leader                         % Don’t Know

Theresa May                 7

Jeremy Corbyn            9

Vince Cable                  30

Gerard Batten              74

Carwyn Jones               24

Mark Drakeford            59

Vaughan Gething          56

Eluned Morgan             62

Adam Price                  72

Leanne Wood               30

Paul Davies                   72

Andrew RT Davies         46

Gareth Bennett            75

Neil Hamilton               31

Jane Dodds                   74

 

Clearly, the main two UK leaders are a long way ahead of any other political figures. There is then a second category, comprised of Vince Cable, Carwyn Jones, Leanne Wood and Neil Hamilton. All the other figures lag a long way behind, with the highest levels of anonymity being attained by the relatively new leaders: Gerard Batten, Adam Price, Paul Davies, Gareth Bennett and Jane Dodds.

Most of these results should not surprise us. The main UK party leaders have consistently had the highest levels of public visibility in Wales in all polling. It is striking how far the new Plaid and Welsh Conservative leaders lag behind their predecessors: the party leadership contests clearly did not impact much on the consciousness of the Welsh public. It will presumably take Paul Davies and Adam Price some time to become known to the majority of Welsh voters. Many Plaid supporters evidently expect their new leader will communicate very effectively with the Welsh people. He may well do, in time – but at present few have much idea who he is. Shortly after the poll was published, Plaid’s Westminster leader Liz Savile-Roberts, tweeted that “Adam has greater public recognition than Jane Dodds, Paul Davies, Gareth Bennett, Vince Cable, Mark Drakeford, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in poll.” Purely in terms of public recognitionthat is incorrect. (If Liz actually meant public popularity amongst those with a view then, as we will see shortly, this poll suggests that she was correct).

What about those who did have a view about each leader? How did they rate in terms of popularity? Here are average ratings out of ten for each of the politicians we asked about:

 

Leader                         Average /10

Theresa May                 3.9

Jeremy Corbyn             3.9

Vince Cable                  3.9

Gerard Batten              3.1

Carwyn Jones               4.5

Mark Drakeford            4.0

Vaughan Gething          4.4

Eluned Morgan             4.5

Adam Price                  4.3

Leanne Wood               4.4

Paul Davies                   3.7

Andrew RT Davies         3.8

Gareth Bennett            3.0

Neil Hamilton               2.2

Jane Dodds                   3.8

  

No-one averaged even five out of ten – but then it is hardly news that politicians in general are, to pick a topical image, about as popular as a neighbour’s gaudy Christmas laser lights.

A first notable feature of these results is that all the main UK party leaders do rather poorly. This represents a notable fall since last year by Jeremy Corbyn: after his popularity rating surged during the general election, it has now edged downwards consistently. His rating has fallen by a full point on the 0-10 scale since June 2017.

It is also notable that, amongst those with a view on the potential First Ministers of Wales, that Mark Drakeford is the leastpopular of the Labour candidates. This, as I discussed here, has been a consistent finding across three polls and two different question formats; while the Welsh Labour front-runner has convinced many of his colleagues to back him, he has yet to win over much of the Welsh public.

For some years now, Carwyn Jones and Leanne Wood have led the field in most Welsh opinion polls as the most popular figures. They remain relatively popular, although Vaughan Gething, Eluned Morgan, and Adam Price attained very similar ratings in our new poll.

 Neil Hamilton is still bottom of the popularity list. In these times of great political change and unpredictability, when much conventional wisdom has had to be flushed down the tradesman’s toilet, it is good to know that there are still a few constants that we can absolutely count upon. People disliking Mr Hamilton is something, at least, that is always true.