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Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour voters ‘extraordinarily similar’ academic study finds

13 May 2022 3 minutes Read
Mark Drakeford and Adam Price

Plaid Cymru is struggling to make a breakthrough at elections because their voters and Welsh Labour’s voters are “extraordinarily similar,” an academic study has found.

The study published in Parliamentary Affairs found that even on constitutional issues of devolution and independence, the differences were “less substantial than might be imagined”.

The study found that the biggest difference between the two sets of supporters were the ability to speak Welsh and that this was both “a great strength” to Plaid Cymru in their own electoral stronghold but a weakness beyond it.

The study was carried out by Jac M Larner, Richard Wyn Jones, Daniel Wincott and Ed Gareth Poole of Cardiff University, and Paula Surridge of the University of Bristol.

“Plaid Cymru’s problem is that in almost every way but one, the profile of its support is extraordinarily similar to that of Welsh Labour voters,” the paper says.

“In terms of their relative positions on the left-right and liberal-authoritarian scales as well as in terms of patterns of national identity, the overlap between both sets of supporters is very substantial indeed.

“Even the differences with regards to the desired constitutional future for Wales are less substantial than might be imagined.

“The one thing that most clearly differentiates between supporters of the two parties is ability to speak Welsh, with Plaid Cymru tending to be the party of choice for those who can.

“Paradoxically, this is both a source of great strength for Plaid Cymru as well as a source of serial weakness. In constituencies where Welsh is widely spoken the party’s position is dominant.

“For a relatively minor party operating within an electoral system with an important first-past-the-post dimension, this serves the very valuable function of providing it with a solid, geographically concentrated base of support.”

‘Successful’

The paper adds that Plaid Cymru’s problem is its “continuing inability” to persuade non-Welsh speakers to vote for them.

“This challenge is made all the more formidable by the fact that Welsh Labour is so comfortable with its own form of Welsh nationalism,” it says.

“It is therefore perhaps not surprising that Plaid Cymru has struggled to make the fundamental breakthrough that seemed possible after its very strong showing in the first devolved election in 1999.”

Welsh Labour meanwhile has bedded down in a “goldilocks zone” where the party broadly aligns with the national identity of the majority of the population, while the Conservatives tend to attract those who identify as British and Plaid Cymru as Welsh only.

“What remains, then, is a Welsh Labour party that emphasises its Welsh credentials and distinctiveness from the UK party, while remaining, at least for now, committed to the union,” the paper says.

“Maintaining this ‘Goldilocks’ positioning on national identity and Wales’ median constitutional preferences across six devolved elections means that Welsh Labour party is now by some margin the most successful electoral force in the UK.”


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Dai Rob
Dai Rob
1 month ago

Go on “Welsh Labour”…break away from UK Labour….you know you want to….
It’s coming………

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Dai Rob

yep we do and we are gonna lol whether Starmer wants it or not 😉 #WelshLabour #IndyWales

Glyn Jones
Glyn Jones
1 month ago

Dw i’n pleidleisio dros y Blaid bod tro, ond ni fuaswn fyth yn rhoi croes dros Lafur, nid dros fy nghrogi. Hen blaid unoliaethol ydyw, yn rhoi croes ar gefn Cymru gyda’i Chynlluniau Dablygu Lleol a’i ‘Hamcanestyniadau Poblogaeth’ felltigedig sy’n hyrwyddo gwladychu Cymru.Ysgymun.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
1 month ago

I’m not a Welsh speaker and am a Plaid member. I never considered not voting for them based on the language. To me, me speaking it or not was always irrelevant to wanting my country to be independent.I don’t see why the language is still an issue for voters, that should have been forgotten about decades ago.

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
1 month ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

I’m an English speaking Scottish incomer to Wales, and the Welsh language movement here has only ever seemed to be warmly encouraging and inclusive as far as adult learning goes.
I feel like there’s an element of subconscious, post-colonial guilt involved when those who identify as British express fears that Cymraeg is going to be forced upon them in some way.
That, of course, is giving the benefit of the doubt that the expression of these fears are in any way genuine……

Mike
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

Spot on GW. Although i am learning Cymraeg. Often thought our (Plaid) policies are in line with Labour, if not a bit more to the left.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

I am in that position too. I only started learning Cymraeg (Welsh) since 2014. I wasn’t taught Welsh at school. I only wish I was. My home is Wales. I am now a member of Plaid Cymru and support Welsh independence. I cannot see a British Isles federal democratic system in the near future as that would largely depend on whether the England votes for the Liberal Democrats – the only party there that seems to want it. I still stand in solidarity with the Liberal Democrats in England because it will be best for England and Welsh relations with… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Where I agree that Plaid & Welsh Labour voters have more in common than divides, in the sense they are Pro-Devolution, Keen supporters of the Welsh NHS, Workers rights. Who are more likely to be socially aware regarding issues affecting Welsh language , poor and working class communities in Wales. That differs greatly to the Welsh Conservatives. Who actively undermines Wales and Welsh devolution at any opportunity. Care not about our national aspirations often championing England to the detriment of Wales . Are hostile to the teaching & promotion of the Welsh language, Favour privatisation and a deregulated free-for-all. Hate… Read more »

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
1 month ago

As a Plaid Cymru voter, I don’t see this as a situation that currently needs to change. The day will come when Llafur Cymru will have made every reasonable demand of Westminster for a better devolution deal for Wales. I do not believe that Westminster (whether Tory or whatever Labour coalition it would take to get shot of the Tories) will be forthcoming on any kind of enhanced devolution agreement that would come close to home rule. If Llafur do not then pursue a policy of full independence, then Plaid’s day will have come. If Llafur do turn towards full… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doctor Trousers
Marc
Marc
1 month ago

The problem for Plaid is not the perception that it is the party of the Welsh language, Dafydd Iwan ably demonstrated that non Welsh speakers no longer fear, indeed have embraced the language as part of their own identity, when he sang ‘ Yma o Hyd’ at the Cardiff City Stadium when Wales played Austria in the World Cup qualifiers . Plaids problem is that a significant number of supporters for independence and the ‘Indy’ curious believe Welsh Labour, especially Mark Drakeford are Nationalists in Unionist clothing

Last edited 1 month ago by Marc
notimejeff
notimejeff
1 month ago

Many of the people in the Anglicized Labour areas of South Wales came originally from England, esp the West Country, and Ireland, attracted by the plentiful industrial work. They had no indigenous Welsh heritage and many are still suspicious of the language. They have no reason to be and they may change when they see that it is not a threat. I vote Plaid and am not a fluent Welsh speaker.

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  notimejeff

I agree with you on the origins of the South Welsh. Much of my father’s family came to Cymru from Devon (via Newfoundland), but by my generation they were as proudly Welsh as any. I don’t recall any suspicion of the language. But perhaps that’s because my mother’s family were Welsh 1st language speakers who can trace our heritage in Cymru right back

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

A very lazy and predictable outcome that in fact as very little attachment to the under 50s. This could have been written in 1979. Labour and Plaid voters are indeed very much more mixed in views and electorate motivations as indeed the Brexit vote 🗳 showed. The divide between the Plaid & Lab and Cardiff, Aber and Bangor intellectual 🧐 elite is small but examine the views of Plaid voters in Penllyn with those of some eastern valley areas and they are worlds apart. Language, Europe, immigration and Union power !! Wow no way are they similar. The younger folk… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago

Annibyniaeth?

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago

The main difference I suspect is plaid voters will be slightly more middle class than a lot of labour, although labour will also be in that demographic.
It tends to be the case that Welsh speakers are wealthier demographic than non Welsh.
The other issue is brexit. Wales voted for brexit but neither party seems to respect that.

(Nid y) Y Mab Darogan
(Nid y) Y Mab Darogan
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Wales voted to leave, yes. But did the Welsh vote to leave?

Doctor Trousers
Doctor Trousers
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Yet somehow Wales continues to vote for Welsh Labour and is broadly supportive of their collaboration with Plaid Cymru, despite both parties being pro-EU and overtly critical of brexit. In fact, Mark Drakeford, who has been consistently, vocally against leaving the EU all along, is thoroughly well liked, even by supporters of other parties. That does not exactly paint a picture of a country of disenfranchised brexit voters grimly carrying on voting Labour as the only option. Meanwhile, the UK Labour party, with their weasel words about “legitimate concerns” about immigration and their failure to take any kind of principled… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Just not true. E. g. lots of Welsh speakers in the Wrexham area are ‘working class’, likewise Carmarthenshire, unless I’m mistaken.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
1 month ago

If support for independence continues to rise, particularly in the South, Welsh Labour cannot expect to maintain a “soft nationalist” stance forever.

They may be riding high for now (low turnout excepted – and which tells its’ own story), but they will have to make a choice sooner or later, as to whether they nail their colours to the mast of unionism or to independence. Those two options will be the only ones available. Something Scottish Labour has found to its’ cost.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

If Drakeford wishes to maintain his current position of hegemony in Welsh politics, he is going to have to continue to work towards increased independence from London, both in government (Westminster) and in party politics (Labour HQ). Otherwise it will all come apart, which personally I think would be a pity, as we are better governed than England. What killed Labour in Scotland was the perception that they were an out-station of a London political party. Specifically it was choosing to appear on the same platform as the Tories in the Indyref. I simply do not know what Labour’s political… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by John Davies

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