Almost half pro-independence voters chose Labour at Senedd election
Almost half of pro-independence voters chose Labour in the recent Senedd elections, according to the findings of a new study.
A team of academics including, Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Dr Jac Larner and Paula Surridge, revealed data from a major study into voter attitudes during the devolved elections in May, at a webinar hosted by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.
The research from the Welsh Election Study 2021 found that out of voters who said they would vote ‘Yes’ in an independence referendum, which is 28% of the sample, 45.8% voted for Plaid Cymru, and 41.7% voted for Welsh Labour.
The numbers of pro-independence voters opting for the Welsh Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats were negligible.
According to Dr Jac Larner, record levels of support for Welsh independence are being driven mostly by voters who are opting for Welsh Labour at Senedd elections. At previous elections Plaid Cymru has attracted a far higher percentage of independence voters.
A wordcloud analysis of themes associated by voters with the campaigns of specific parties shows that independence did cut through in Plaid Cymru’s messaging, but the wider data also reveal that independence was not a priority issue for voters.
Dr Jac Larner said: “Support for Welsh independence is at record levels thanks to Welsh Labour voters, rather than because of Plaid Cymru converting new voters to their cause. Despite favouring a unionist party, a growing share of Labour voters are saying they would vote Yes in a referendum.
“This is linked to those Labour voters feeling more politically Welsh, trusting the Welsh Government ahead of Westminster, and supporting Mark Drakeford’s leadership.
He added: “It might seem counter-intuitive for independence supporters to vote for a unionist party, but the answer to this lies in the fact that independence is not in itself a priority issue for those voters compared to supporting a party that is seen as standing up for Wales more generally.
“Plaid Cymru did emphasise independence at this campaign and voters recognised that.
“This did not lead to any growth in the party’s vote, and had the effect of rearranging support for the party. It might partly explain why Plaid bulked up their support in their existing heartland areas, but went backwards in some more traditionally Labour areas.
“This might leave some room for Plaid Cymru to target pro-independence Labour supporters, although doing so would require an understanding that independence is not in itself the salient issue for those voters.
“Even though independence isn’t a priority in Wales, it is now firmly part of the landscape and is linked to questions around national identity and social values.”
Further data from the Welsh Election Study remains to be published, with the Wales Governance Centre saying that more events will be held during the year. The Centre added that a video of today’s webinar will be published by Cardiff University next week.