Labour to fall short of Senedd majority as ex-UKIP voters back other parties, poll finds

Elliot Chappell

The Senedd election is on a “knife edge”, according to new polling, with Labour likely to be the largest party but fall short of an overall majority as ex-UKIP voters back the Tories or the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party next week.

Savanta ComRes has projected that Labour will secure 36% of the constituency vote, ahead of the Conservatives on 27%, Plaid Cymru on 19%, the Lib Dems on 5%, and Abolish the Welsh Assembly and Reform UK each on 4%.

In the regional list ballots, 31% of voters are expected to back the incumbent party, with the Tories polling at 24%, Plaid Cymru on 21%, Abolish the Welsh Assembly on 8%, the Lib Dems on 5%, and the Greens and Reform UK on 3%.

The research organisation predicted that Labour would win a slightly higher share of the vote than it did in 2016 (34.7%) due to the collapse of UKIP, but that the party will end up with the same or slightly fewer seats in the Senedd.

Savanta ComRes political research director Chris Hopkins put this down to the fact that the figures suggest the collapse of UKIP will benefit the Conservatives and the Abolish the Assembly parties more than Labour in the constituency vote.

“Based on our polling, Labour’s vote share is going to be very, very similar to what it was in 2016 whereas the Tories’ is up quite a bit,” he told LabourList. “Labour need to do whatever they can to hoover up those UKIP votes.”

Hopkins said this would have an impact particularly in the constituency ballot because, due to how the electoral system distributes votes, “UKIP not being a factor doesn’t hurt Labour in quite the same way” in the regional list contest.

“Some of the tight constituency battles that they’ve got, it’s going to be worth putting extra resources into those,” the researcher explained.

He drew comparison with ex-UKIP voters in England, suggesting that there is a “different flavour of UKIP voter in Wales” that seem to be more willing to give their vote to the Conservatives or Abolish the Assembly over the Labour Party.

“It’s not quite like those ex-UKIP voters, or those ex-Labour voters that might have flirted with UKIP in 2015 in places such as Hartlepool, which is obviously really pertinent at the moment,” Hopkins told LabourList.

2016 was a breakthrough result for UKIP, which was backed by 132,000 voters (13%) in the list ballot and 127,000 (12.5%) in the constituency vote. It secured seven seats in the Welsh assembly, previously having held none.

The polling on the Welsh Senedd election has been varied. This latest research follows a survey earlier this month by Opinium, which suggested that Labour is on course to secure 29 out of the 60 seats up for grabs next week.

The Opinium research found that 40% of Welsh voters were planning on backing the party in the constituency vote on May 6th. The Tories placed second on 30%, Plaid Cymru third with 19% and the Lib Dems fourth on 4%.

Earlier analysis by YouGov, released in March, forecast the worst ever result for Labour since devolution. It predicted the party would win 32% of the constituency vote and 22 seats in the Welsh parliament.

Another recent poll, carried out by ICM between 28th January to February 21st, reported that four in five voters said that they would back Welsh Labour in May. This is the party’s highest rating since February 2018, when it polled at 40%.

Earlier this month, Welsh Labour launched its manifesto for the Senedd election with several key pledges to help the country recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic and set out a “real plan to move Wales forward”.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer recently praised Welsh Labour’s proposals while on a trip to the devolved nation, arguing that the party and its leader have “the right plan to power the economy with a jobs first recovery”.

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