I’m convinced that there exists a picture, taken the day after the first National Assembly elections in 1999, of a small group of beaming young politicos, each clutching a fistful of notes. It’s possible that my memory is playing tricks, and at some point I’ll check the archive, but by my recollection the story was that some Plaid staffers, buoyed by their phone canvassing data, decided to put a few quid at stratospheric odds on their party to win
What’s missing, of course, is information; the sort of information that comes with polling. While there have been solid studies of questions such as attitudes to devolution, reliable voting-intention polling just doesn’t happen. Wales-only polls appear only sporadically, generally at Assembly election time, sometimes undertaken by NOP for ITV Wales. Back in ’99, the few opinion polls that were carried out had Labour cruising to an overall majority, and their record has scarcely improved since. Neither has their frequency. The BBC aren’t allowed to do polls which include intention to vote questions, ITV Wales hardly do any political coverage any more, and the Trinity Mirror-dominated Welsh press don’t seem to want to help either. We do have Beaufort Research, which can add a political question to its regular ‘caravan’ surveys of Welsh opinion (sometimes at Plaid’s commission), but all this is a far cry from a robust polling methodology. Extrapolating trends from tiny regional sub-samples or council by-election results is even more of a mug’s game.
Things might be about to change. YouGov have established a Welsh panel, and will unveil the first findings on Tuesday morning. The numbers have been crunched by Richard Wyn Jones and Aberystwyth psephologist Roger Scully, and Peter Kellner will be on hand at the launch to discuss methodology. All very interesting. I hope to get the results pretty quickly, and I’ll update this thread if and when. Apparently, they’ll also be unveiling results on attitudes to the Assembly having full legislative powers, and the Labour leadership contest (for which current betting odds are here).
I suppose we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much. It takes time to work on the methodology, and
But for what it’s worth, this year’s marginals poll indicated Conservative gains in Aberconwy, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Gower, Newport West, Vale of Clwyd and Vale of Glamorgan. Plaid was projected to gain Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, and the new seat of Arfon, which is notionally Labour but where Plaid have a sitting MP.
Some quite interesting seats weren’t polled – including both the main Lib Dem targets of Swansea West and Newport East. In addition, the European election results (which in
So there may be some betting value out there in the under-researched Welsh constituencies, and if readers wish I’ll put up a couple more articles on the prospects in the marginals over the next few weeks.