The latest Senedd YouGov poll gives all three main parties something to fight for
Ifan Morgan Jones
The last month has felt a little bit like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Senedd polling.
The ICM and Opinium polls felt too positive for Labour and too negative for the Conservatives, while the last two YouGov polls felt too negative for Labour and too positive for the Conservatives.
This latest YouGov poll seems just right and pegs Labour at the kind if result we might have expected, in the 25 to 26 seat bracket.
It’s a very disappointing poll for the Conservatives which has them almost ten points down on the March YouGov poll. In truth, that poll now looks like something of an outlier.
But there was clearly no 9 point margin of error – polls with this sample size have something closer to a three-point margin of error.
So something has happened to lose them that ground. ITV suggest that the UK Government’s vaccine bounce from March is starting to fade.
I’m not quite sure I buy that because there is no indication – yet – on a UK-wide polling level that the Conservatives’ lead is narrowing. If anything they seem to have pulled further away from Labour over the last month.
Such a big shift in the polling and such an apparent divergence from UK wide polls seems to suggest that we may finally be seeing voters judge a Senedd election on the merits of the parties in Wales rather than those across the UK.
If Labour do well in Wales but bomb in England and Scotland on May 6 we may finally be able to answer the question ‘who gets the vaccine bounce in Wales?’ with the answer ‘the Welsh Government’.
This would be a turnaround from previous elections where Senedd results have more closely mirrored UK-wide politics.
However, while the latest poll does not almost guarantee the Conservative a sweep of seats as did the last projection, it also holds a number of close seats just tantalisingly within their reach.
Seats like the Vale of Clwyd, Delyn, Wrexham and Clwyd South are still doable with the right campaign on the ground. Their best ever Senedd election is still within their grasp, if they can take the opportunity.
This poll will also be a relief to Plaid Cymru after what was a very bad poll for them earlier in the week.
That last Opinium poll was methodologically a little funky. There were no 16 / 17 year old polled and it did not prompt some of the most obvious far-right parties.
It also asked about the Senedd after five questions about the UK General Election. These are obviously not the conditions under which the May 6 poll will be held.
This poll shows them on 17 seats – their joint-most ever after their break-out 1999 election.
What it doesn’t suggest is that Plaid Cymru will enjoy the kind of break-out election they may perhaps have expected after the big rise in independence support over the last few years.
That is a wave they don’t seem to have ridden and if they stand still (or even lose Rhondda) why they failed to do so will be part of the post-mortem.
But the thing to stress about Senedd elections however is that as turnout is low, targeted campaigns in seats can have a much bigger impact than at the UK General Election where there is a more general swing.
This new YouGov poll leaves an awful lot of seats across Wales very finely balanced. Labour could credibly defend all of them, as they did in 2016. They could also see a large number topple in one go as in 2019. No outcome would be particularly surprising.
Who comes out of this Senedd election smiling may have less to do with the polling across Wales and more to do with who has the most efficient campaigning and turnout machine on the ground.
With exactly two weeks to go until polling day, the election is on a knife-edge, and there are still big prizes to be won for all three of the main parties if they can muster one last heave.
Perhaps all three will be smiling on election night – Plaid and the Tories with their best ever results, Labour with relief that it could all have been much worse for them.
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