Roger Scully and the Wales Governance Centre do a tremendous service to public life in Wales. But not only through Roger’s excellent blog. He’s also happy to provide a wealth of data for people to wade through in their quest for the truth.
And that’s exactly what’s grabbed my attention, with the full data (pdf) from a survey conducted on behalf of the governance centre in July this year.
Hidden down in the detail is some very interesting information about how the parties are faring in terms of garnering the support from different sections of society. The first of the two aspects of the survey I’m going to focus on relates to party fidelity. That is, how solid the support is for different parties – something that Roger alluded to in this article. A quick health warning – don’t assume you can add up the percentages I’m quoting and get 100%. The results are comparative not absolute.
The ranking of parties in terms of least breadth of electoral appeal is as follows (where a 0 or 1 likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10 is considered to be highly unlikely to vote for this party):
- Conservatives – 52%
- UKIP – 50%
- Lib Dems – 46%
- Greens – 37%
- Plaid Cymru – 33%
- Labour – 26%
I was going to say ‘so far, so unsurprising’, but actually the only unsurprising stats here are that a half of the population of Wales has no intention, ever, of voting for UKIP, and that three-quarters of people would consider voting for Labour to at least a marginal degree. The figure for the Conservatives is jaw-dropping. Being the least preferred (or most-despised) party for people in Wales puts them above UKIP in that chart. The Welsh Conservatives must be thanking their lucky stars the Alternative Vote isn’t in place for Assembly elections. And the Lib Dems only just beat UKIP in the popularity stakes. The Green party will be delighted that 63% of people would to at least some degree consider voting for them, although transferring that broad electoral appeal into votes is where they need to concentrate their minds. The same goes for Plaid – hard antagonism to the Party is limited to just one-third of the population. Were one to imagine (and Plaid would contest this vigorously) that English people living in Wales might be less favourably inclined to the party, and given that 14% of the population considers themselves to be English, the result could indicate that Labour and Plaid are in a genuine two-way tussle for support amongst those people considering themselves to be Welsh.
That’s one end of the scale. Let’s have a look at how high fidelity is for the parties. This time, I’m going to take a scale of 7 to 10 to indicate a high degree of fidelity:
- Labour – 46%
- Plaid – 26%
- Conservative – 21%
- UKIP – 18%
- Greens – 15%
- Lib Dem – 14%
Labour are way out in the lead. Again, rather unsurprising. That’s what accounts for the massive dominance Labour has enjoyed in Wales since 1945. But the fidelity level of Plaid is surprisingly high. Let’s compare this voting intention with the share of the vote in 2011 (average of regional and constituency votes):
- Labour – fidelity 46%, share of vote 40% (-6%)
- Plaid – fidelity 26%, share of vote 19% (-7%)
- Conservative – fidelity 21%, share of vote 24% (+3%)
- UKIP – fidelity 18%, insufficient votes to determine
- Greens – fidelity 15%, insufficient votes to determine
- Lib Dem – fidelity 14%, share of vote 10% (-4%)
Not too much news there, other than the Conservatives having a higher share of the vote than expected. Obviously their message in 2011 helped persuade people who would not otherwise have voted for them to give them a try. Buoyed by the early successes of the UK coalition government, no doubt?! The reason the other parties have a lower share of the vote is because the fidelity scores add up to greater than 100%, whereas the share of the vote can only add up to 100%.
In passing, I’m just going to look at the gender split for the different parties. Labour support has an identifiable bias in favour of men, a pattern not replicated by any other party. The other parties (with the exception of UKIP, which shows no gender trend) have some degree of preference from women, ranging from a clear preference for the Conservatives to marginal for Plaid, the Lib Dems and the Greens.
The final point of particular interest in these stats relates to age category. There are two different aspects to this. First is that people in older age categories are more likely to vote, with pensioners the most likely of all. It stands to reason that it’s good for a political party to be scooping up the grey vote. But any organisation – and political parties are no exception – needs to think about succession. That’s why attracting young voters to a party is absolutely crucial.
The high fidelity pensioner (60+) vote is split as follows:
- Labour – 47%
- Plaid – 29%
- Conservative – 28%
- UKIP – 26%
- Lib Dem – 16%
- Greens – 13%
Conventional wisdom always taught me that people tend to get more conservative as they get older. But that effect doesn’t appear to be tremendously strong in Wales, the increase in fidelity for the Conservatives (+7%) and UKIP (+8%) in this older age category being rather more than that for Plaid (+3%) as compared to all age categories, but not massively so.
So what’s the story at the other end of the scale? Amongst the 18-24 bracket we get:
- Labour – 41%
- Conservative – 27%
- Plaid – 20%
- Greens – 19%
- Lib Dem – 17%
- UKIP – 15%
Labour have succeeded in maintaining their electoral appeal right across the age categories to a spectacular degree. The Conservatives do surprisingly well amongst younger voters (voters untainted by the Thatcher years), Plaid do rather poorly and the Greens can look to the future with some optimism.
But things aren’t quite that simple. Because if we take the fidelity as being those who rank the parties on a 6-10 scale rather than 7-10, we get the following:
- Labour – 51%
- Plaid – 38%
- Conservative – 32%
- Lib Dem – 27%
- Greens – 22%
- UKIP – 19%
As ever, it’s a question of where you define the boundaries. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.