Research by the team behind the Welsh Election Study - undertaken by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University - has found that the pro-independence vote in Wales was split between Plaid Cymru and Labour during May's Senedd election.

Around 28 per cent of voters sampled for their latest study said they would vote ‘Yes’ in an independence referendum.

Of those, 45.8 per cent voted for Plaid Cymru and 41.7 per cent voted for Labour, while the numbers of pro-independence voters opting for the Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats were negligible.

According to Dr Jac Larner of Cardiff University, record levels of support for Welsh independence is being driven mostly by voters who are opting for Welsh Labour at Senedd elections, while at previous elections Plaid Cymru has attracted a far higher percentage of independence voters.

A word cloud analysis of themes associated with the campaigns of specific parties shows that independence did cut through in Plaid Cymru’s messaging, but the wider data also reveals that independence was not a priority issue for most voters.

Dr Larner said: “Support for Welsh independence is at record levels thanks to Welsh Labour voters, rather than because of Plaid Cymru converting new voters to their cause. Despite favouring a unionist party, a growing share of Labour voters are saying they would vote Yes in a referendum.

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“This is linked to those Labour voters feeling more politically Welsh, trusting the Welsh Government ahead of Westminster, and supporting Mark Drakeford’s leadership.

“It might seem counter-intuitive for independence supporters to vote for a unionist party, but the answer to this lies in the fact that independence is not in itself a priority issue for those voters compared to supporting a party that is seen as standing up for Wales more generally."

Prior to the election, YesCymru refused to back any single party in the campaign, saying their movement cuts across party lines. 

This research shows that is the case, and it suggests it has benefitted Labour at the ballot box far more than Plaid Cymru. 

Plaid's strategy of 'creating a bridge' to Labour voters appears not to have lured enough of those voters across, while Labour are now comfortable on the ground of nationalism, even if they are cautious in admitting it.

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Dr Larner continued: "Plaid Cymru did emphasise independence at this campaign and voters recognised that. This did not lead to any growth in the party’s vote, and had the effect of rearranging support for the party.

“It might partly explain why Plaid bulked up their support in their existing heartland areas, but went backwards in some more traditionally Labour areas.

“This might leave some room for Plaid Cymru to target pro-independence Labour supporters, although doing so would require an understanding that independence is not in itself the salient issue for those voters.

“Even though independence isn’t a priority in Wales, it is now firmly part of the landscape and is linked to questions around national identity and social values.”

Expect constitutional wrangling to continue throughout this Senedd term, both between the Senedd and Westminster, and within our national parliament.

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