That nice man from ITV Wales, you know, the one who’s on Sharp End, Adrian Masters, well he tweeted yesterday that the results of a recent poll were available over on the ITV website, so I went to check on the findings. Some of them are, quite frankly, difficult to believe. Others, disturbing for the lack of engagement displayed by respondents.
One part of the survey asked people for their views on the performance of the current Labour Government down Cardiff docks. On the NHS, schools and the economy Labour’s approval rating was 24 and 25 per cent for non-Labour voters, but not much higher, only 36 – 41 per cent, among their own supporters. Perhaps more worrying from a neutral perspective was that the Don’t Know / Don’t Care / Ew Wha’? response ranged from 31 to 44 per cent!
Despite this lack of support for, or interest in, the Labour Party the YouGov poll nevertheless predicted that in the 2015 UK general election Labour will gain eight seats, five from the Conservatives, two from Plaid Cymru and one from the Liberal Democrats. Seeing as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are the parties of the current UK coalition government, this is not entirely surprising, but why should Plaid Cymru also suffer? The seats the poll suggests Plaid will lose are Arfon and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.
While the Arfon prediction is difficult to fathom, but plausible, the prediction for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr seems impossible. Let us consider the facts. Plaid Cymru had a majority in 2010 of 3,481. The seat lies wholly within the county run by the most dysfunctional council in Wales. A council in which Labour is in coalition with a gang of so-called ‘Independents’, many of whom are Tories, others just in it for themselves, plus a few flakes. Yet the council is actually run (or was until very recently) by the chief executive. The poll was conducted 10 – 12 of February, two weeks after the publication of the damning Wales Audit Office report into spectacular and expensive wrongdoing at the council. A resident of Carmarthenshire would have had to have been abducted by aliens not to have known about this report. (Though I bet even aliens would have been talking about it.) So does anyone seriously believe that Labour is going to take this seat next year?
The predictions for Plaid are questionable, but what about the Tories, tipped to lose five Welsh seats in next year’s UK general election? They can surely expect wipeout in the Welsh Assembly elections of 2016. Well, no . . . because according to respondents to YouGov Conservative support at Assembly elections is up two points to 21 per cent! With Labour, predicted to almost sweep the board in 2015 remember, down one point for the Assembly elections in 2016!
So how do we make sense of all this? We could of course be dealing with a very sophisticated electorate, able to make subtle distinctions and different judgements for different contexts. Or, we could be dealing with people who know little and care less; an increasingly apathetic electorate that has given up on politics, which for me would be a more plausible explanation for the inconsistencies.
People who no longer give enough thought to politics and politicians to hold coherent views, so they’re confused, or they revert to the comforting default position of the traditional ‘Donkey Labour’ voter: ‘Don’t understand politics? – Vote Labour!’ Because even when pressed on specific subjects for a simple Yes or No over a third could still only offer ‘Dunno’, suggesting they knew absolutely nothing about Labour’s policies and performance in Wales. Did I say ‘disengagement’? I guarantee that some of those questioned could not have known less about Hungary’s agricultural policies.
The only caveat, and it’s a big one, is that I am suspicious of opinion polls in general, and YouGov in particular. I believe that many people – shall I say, the more ‘suggestible’ among us – can be influenced by opinion polls into joining the ‘winning’ side . . . which of course means abandoning (what the polls suggest is) the ‘losing’ side. In Wales, in order to promote a certain constitutional outlook, the winning side has to be Labour for the ploy to be credible.
Then again, I could be entirely wrong, and this is an authentic and accurate vox populii. In which case, Wales is in more trouble than even I had feared.