Jeremy Corbyn beats his Labour leader challengers hands down in Wales

Two in three Welsh Labour supporters don't even know who Welsh MP Owen Smith is. 

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Wales has long been one of Labour’s staunchest bastions, and the party managed a result in May’s National Assembly election that surpassed most expectations. Yet evidence from the latest Welsh poll indicates strongly that the troubles of the party at Westminster are having a negative effect on the party’s support levels – and not only for a general election but even in the devolved context.

But what direct impact have the troubles and controversy surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership had on views regarding Corbyn himself? The latest Welsh Political Barometer poll asked two relevant questions about this. First, we directly asked whether people thought Jeremy Corbyn should go: “Do you think Jeremy Corbyn should or should not resign as leader of the Labour party?”

In the table below I’ll show two sets of results: first, those among the entire sample of people in Wales and second those among Labour supporters (for Westminster).

Response

Whole Sample

Labour Supporters

Should Resign

49 per cent

34 per cent

Should Not Resign

31 per cent

56 per cent

Don’t Know

20 per cent

10 per cent

These results show an interestingly mixed picture. Across the whole sample, the balance of opinion has clearly turned against Mr Corbyn. Nearly half of the entire sample think he should go, and fewer than one-third want him to remain in post. But when we restrict our gaze to Labour supporters alone, then a clear majority favour Jeremy Corbyn staying, while barely one-third want him to resign.

Supporters of the Labour leader might well seize on the latter set of results as indicating that there is still substantial support for him from within the party – and not only party members, but also the wider community of Labour supporters. The counter to that might be that Labour supporters are, by definition, the people who have remained with the party during Corbyn’s leadership, and that to be successful the party needs to reach out to those who do not currently feel able to back it.

A second relevant question that we asked in our survey was standard 0-10 scale where our respondents were asked to rate a series of politicians. For Labour we asked about Jeremy Corbyn plus a number of other who, at the time we were drawing up the survey, appears to be plausible Labour leadership contenders.

For this following table of results, I’ll present three sets of figures. The first is the percentage who simply responded Don’t Know for each leader (a broad gauge of their public visibility). The second column is the average rating out of ten for each politician across the entire sample; and the final column is the average out of ten among current Labour supporters in Wales.

 

% Don’t Know

Average /10

Average /10 Labour

Jeremy Corbyn

16

3.9

6.7

Tom Watson

52

3.8

4.9

Dan Jarvis

71

3.4

4.0

Angela Eagle

49

3.5

3.7

John McDonnell

56

3.7

5.6

Hilary Benn

40

4.3

4.0

Owen Smith

69

3.7

4.6

These are fascinating results. One thing that we can see straight away is that, probably unsurprisingly, Corbyn currently enjoys a huge advantage in public visibility over all the other individuals named here. Indeed, it is both striking and surprising that Owen Smith – both an MP for a Welsh seat and a former shadow secretary of state for Wales, who represented his party in the Welsh leaders’ debates at the general election last year – is almost the least known of all the potential contenders listed here.

A second thing which is immediately apparent from these findings is that none of the potential contenders are doing much, if at all, better than Jeremy Corbyn in terms of public popularity. Only Hilary Benn scores a better overall average, among those able to offer a view about the various individuals listed here, than Corbyn. All the other individuals, including those most-often named in the media in recent days as potential candidates, actually do slightly worse with the Welsh public as a whole.

A third thing which leaps out of the findings is that among current Labour supporters, Jeremy Corbyn remains well ahead. Of course, these are the people who have stuck with Labour under his leadership. But it is also notable that his ally, John McDonnell, scores next best, coming in a clear second place. All the ‘rebels’ do much worse in terms of esteem amongst Labour supporters. And, strikingly, Hilary Benn actually scores worse on average with Labour supporters than he does with the Welsh public as a whole!

Of course, this data only relates to Labour supporters as a whole, and not necessarily to those who would vote in any leadership election. But these findings – coming from one of the party’s historic bastions, and a place where “Corbynistas” are not currently leading the party – add to the evidence that defeating Jeremy Corbyn in any leadership contest might prove an uphill struggle.

The poll, for ITV-Cymru Wales and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, had a sample of 1010 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 30 June – 4 July 2016.

Roger Awan-Scully is Head of Politics and International Relations at Cardiff University.