EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members think about nuclear power, fracking, tuition fees and online pornography

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Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

In advance of this year’s federal conference in Glasgow, we asked about a number of hot-topic issues that are going to be discussed here over the next few days. here’s what you had to say about the issues being debated today, Sunday…

65% say yes to nuclear power

Do you believe that nuclear power, alongside oil and gas and renewable sources, should be part of the UK’s energy mix?

    65% – Yes, nuclear should be part of the mix

29% – No, nuclear power should play no part in the UK’s energy mix

6% – Don’t know

Two-thirds of Lib Dem members in our survey back nuclear power, by a more than 2-to-1 majority. This is in line with the previous two occasions when we’ve asked about nuclear power: in April 2011, 58% backed it; in August 2010, 68% were open to nuclear power (though the phrasing of the question was different). Increasingly within the party in recent years, nuclear power has come to be seen as the least bad, practical way of lowering the UK’s carbon emissions while assuring the UK’s energy supplies.

46% back ‘fracking’; but 36% opposed

“Fracking” is the method of fracturing shale rock under high fluid pressure using water, sand and chemicals to allow oil and gas to be freed for energy use. Based on your knowledge of this method, do you support or oppose fracking for shale gas in Britain?

    46% – Support
    36% – Oppose
    17% – Don’t know

‘Fracking’ for shale gas is much more controversial with Lib Dem members. Though a plurality of 46% support it, more than a third of members (36%) are opposed. Clearly as a relatively new technology, pretty much untested at scale within the UK, there is much more caution – that’s also reflected in the high figure of Don’t Knows (17%, or 1-in-6 Lib Dems). Today’s policy motion F10 – Green Growth and Green Jobs will be debated from 10.20 to 11.50 am – offers a guarded welcome. Given the closeness of this survey finding, much may hinge on the debate itself.

By 54% to 39%, members say drop pledge to scrap tuition fees

Current Lib Dem policy remains to scrap university tuition fees. At the party’s Glasgow conference it will be proposed to keep the tuition fees system introduced by the Coalition as “the best deal for students and taxpayers currently available”, but with a commitment to review the policy in the next parliament. What is your view?

    54% – I think we should drop the party’s commitment to scrap tuition fees
    39% – I think we should keep the party’s commitment to scrap tuition fees
    6% – Don’t know

A small but convincing majority of Lib Dems in our survey think the party should now abandon its commitment to scrapping tuition fees. I think there are probably two factors at play here. First, there’s a recognition that – whatever the follies of the U-turn – the Coalition’s new fees system is fairer (or at least less unfair) than the Labour system it replaced. And secondly, that the party risks derision if it goes into the next election campaign once again promising to scrap fees. However, free undergraduate education excites passionate debate within the party, so this afternoon’s debate promises to be an interesting one. It takes place from 3.25-5.00 pm as part of Policy motion F16, Learning for Life.

Children seeing online pornography: 55% support filters, 42% opposed

To what extent, if at all, do you think children seeing pornography on the internet is damaging to them?

    26% – Very damaging
    28% – Fairly damaging
    28% – Not very damaging
    5% – Not damaging at all
    11% – Don’t know

First, we asked whether party members think children seeing pornography on the internet might damage them in some way. A majority, 54%, think it could do so to a fairly or very damaging extent. A significant minority, 28%, thought children seeing pornography online would not be very damaging. 5% thought it would cause no harm at all, with 11% saying they don’t know. We then asked what, if anything, should be done to protect children…

Some people have called for Internet Service Providers to offer a service that filters internet sites and automatically blocks pornographic sites from people’s home internet service. Some people think that customers should have to choose to have their internet service filtered (an opt-in service), other people think that internet services should all be filtered unless customers ask for their service to be unfiltered (an opt-out service). Do you think internet filters should be opt-in or opt-out?

    39% – Opt-in (someone’s internet service should only be filtered if they ask for it)
    16% – Opt-out (people’s internet service should be filtered unless they ask for it not to be)
    33% – Neither – the focus should be on better sex and relationship education in all schools to help build resilience to the effects of internet pornography and other media
    9% – Neither – I don’t think internet pornography causes any/enough harm to justify further measures
    2% – Don’t know

The proposal in Policy motion F17, Protecting Children from Online Pornography – to be debated today from 5 to 6 pm – is for the second option – arguing that ‘adults wishing to view pornographic material should be required to opt in to websites containing such material by providing verifiable proof of age’. (Confusingly, the motion refers to opt-in though the system recommended is usually referred to as opt-out.) It gets short shrift from party members, with just 16% backing it. A plurality instead favour a system of opt-in, meaning the internet would only be filtered if adults specifically request that it should be. Overall, 55% support some form of filtering.

However, there is significant opposition to such measures. One-third of members in our survey say filtering is not the answer and that the emphasis must be instead on better sex and relationship education in all schools – after all, no matter how clever the filtering devices children will still get access to online pornography in some way. A further 9% say that they oppose any further measures as they don’t think there is sufficient evidence of harm to children from seeing online pornography. Overall, 42% oppose any form of filtering.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 696 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 13th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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39 Comments

  • Jesus Christ I really AM in the wrong party. Terrifying results there, especially on online porn. And fracking scarier than nuclear? Just makes me think keeping the pledge to drop tuition fees is MORE important – clearly some of the people who voted in this are being educated by the media.

  • I agree with Jennie. I am clearly out of step with those that remain. I haven’t moved to the left but the party has clearly moved to the right. How much longer do you stay inside, trying to argue for our old values? This was my party. Where did it go?

  • I don’t know, Growler. I genuinely don’t.

  • Just watching your so-called ‘leader’

    Can someone tell me where he differs from a Tory? Even Marr spotted he is so similar to Osborne

    I must say I find him a remarkably unimpressive figure and there are a few, how do I say, playings skirting around the edges of truth in his interview.

    Pensions going up but ‘welfare’ being such a problem – tell me Nick what is the major contribution to so-called ‘welfare’?

  • David Blake 15th Sep '13 - 9:18am

    Some pretty disturbing views there. My party has certainly changed.

  • Did I just hear Clegg criticise Labour for having no policies after refusing to say what the policies of the LD are?

    What is your policy on tuition fees?

    What is your policy on taxation?

    What is your policy on civil liberties?

    What is your policy on immigration?

    What is your policy on energy?

    All I see is the 2010 manifesto.

    What does you party believe in?

  • Dave Eastham 15th Sep '13 - 9:27am

    Jennie/Growler, Broadly agree with what you say, However, did either of you participate in the poll?. Secondly, Stephen remarks that the results of the results of the question on Nuclear Power did vary with the phrasing of the question when it has been asked in the past. And there I think is the essence of these polls. For some time I have had the feeling that the questions asked in these polls can be, shall we say a little imprecise?. Too often, and especially lately, I have increasingly felt the need for a “none of the above” option. That is, the “don’t know” button is not enough and none of the questions reflect a response I for one feel to be a true reflection of opinion and in which the ability to “nuance” the answer through the comments field, is just not there.

    I do appreciate that it is no easy job to construct such questionnaires, in order to get a response that can be meaningfully be analysed – but there is also the temptation to unconsciously construct a questionnaire that may be more “leading” than true opinion seeking of the participants. I am beginning to have concerns that the latter a trend that is beginning to emerge in these regular questionnaires more and more.

  • Daniel Henry 15th Sep '13 - 9:52am

    Jennie, with the porn one, only 16% backed Cameron’s proposal. The highest option, “opt in” is more or less what we have already where most providers ask new customers if they’d like a filter.

    With the others, I think many of us have come to feel that opposing nuclear and fracking outright is unrealistic, so are instead opting for the tightest relation of them.

    I’ve never opposed tuition fees. :)

  • I agree with all contributors above. Dave Eastham, I did take part in the poll, and I imagine had my answers represented the majority, Jennie, Growler etc would have regarded it as a continuation of “our party”. But Stephen Tall, being a Cleggite representative (I hesitate to call it “Orange Booker”), naturally will want to contrast Orange Book type views with traditional Liberal Party / early Lib Dem values. There is no doubt that the composition of the Lib Dems has changed since the mid 90s. It could clearly be argued that now, with so many leaving membership, and predominantly from the radical side (“left”) of the party, the balance of views would be different when conducting a poll of actual members. It has always been a feeling of mine that those on online forums have always tended to the right – especially on economic matters (that applies to predecessor forum to this, which, of course, Stephen will remember very well).

    The topic on two of the questions Stephen analyses above is energy, and I find it extremely depressing that Lib Dems (yes, Lib Dems) are going with the “big energy” solutions. In the world we find ourselves in, we should be working out, like the Transition Town movement, for instance, how to reduce energy need and use, how to save by better insulation, more local production etc, how to specifically reduce fossil fuels. The idea that Lib Dems (yes, Lib Dems) should see nuclear as a solution to anything, a year after the Japanese had Fukushima and abandoned nuclear, the Germans could see the problem and did the same, is just ins*ne. Looked at from any angle – safety in an uncertain unpredictable world, economic, speed of approval and construction, disposal of waste, – it is the worst option.

  • Peter Watson 15th Sep '13 - 10:12am

    Still confused about Lib Dem policy on tuition fees.
    We opposed “unfair” fees in 2010 and then our MPs broke willingly and publicly made pledges to vote against increasing them. Later, Clegg was so so sorry about something; whether that was for making or breaking a promise was unclear, but one could charitably choose to believe that he was apologising for not being able to deliver what Lib Dems wanted. Now it seems that it is not what Lib Dems want and they (definitely no “we” for me these days) are happy with the new “fairer” system. To be honest, I think that Stephen’s second point is more accurate: Lib Dems would look ridiculous campaigning against tuition fees under the current leadership who showed no reluctance to reverse their position on this issue.
    As with so many issues though at the moment I find myself asking, “What do Lib Dems stand for?”. This is soon followed by “What is the point of the Lib Dems?”.

  • @bcrombie
    “Pensions going up but ‘welfare’ being such a problem – tell me Nick what is the major contribution to so-called ‘welfare’?”

    I agree with you.

    I am getting really annoyed at this government and their friends from the right wing media.

    Whenever anyone from the coalition talks about welfare and pensions, they always talk as if the 2 are separate departments.
    They boast that that they are protecting pensions and increasing them.
    They then go on to talk about welfare and how it is spiraling out of control, quoting welfare figures as if these figures solely represents those of working age. It is always followed by how we have to get this welfare spend under control, giving the impression that this is all down to unemployment and disability benefits.

    It is in my opinion appalling that the government uses this shameful tactics to skew public opinion.

    I am appalled that Liberal Democrats have fitted so snugly into this kind of right wing political tactics.

    Liberal Democrats in government should be arguing for Welfare and Pensions to become two totally separate departments, That way we can have some honesty on the welfare bill.
    If Pensions had it’s own department, which makes up over half of the current welfare bill. People would actually see where the increase in government spending is coming from.

    Of course this will never happen, because it would not fit into the Tory Mantra of vilifying the the unemployed, sick and disabled.

    I did not give my vote to Liberal Democrats at the last election for them to behave like this. I gave my vote to a party that had promised a more open, honest and transparent government.

  • In the world we find ourselves in, we should be working out, like the Transition Town movement, for instance, how to reduce energy need and use, how to save by better insulation, more local production etc, how to specifically reduce fossil fuels.

    A goal that is not incompatible with the answers to either of the two energy questions asked. I answered no to nuclear and yes to fracking with conditions I put in the comments box: such as the gas replacing not supplementing imports and the new tax revenues to be invested in renewable infrastructure and energy reduction. We have to be practical. We’re not going to transform into a low energy or carbon free society overnight, gas is going to be used for the next few decades whether we import it from Russia or extract it from our own land.

  • @bcrombie
    “Pensions going up but ‘welfare’ being such a problem – tell me Nick what is the major contribution to so-called ‘welfare’?”

    I agree with you.

    I am getting really annoyed at this government and their friends from the right wing media.

    Whenever anyone from the coalition talks about welfare and pensions, they always talk as if the 2 are separate departments.
    They boast that that they are protecting pensions and increasing them.
    They then go on to talk about welfare and how it is spiraling out of control, quoting welfare figures as if these figures solely represents those of working age. It is always followed by how we have to get this welfare spend under control, giving the impression that this is all down to unemployment and disability benefits.

    It is in my opinion appalling that the government uses tactics to skew public opinion.

    I am shocked that Liberal Democrats have fitted so snugly into this kind of right wing political tactics.

    Liberal Democrats in government should be arguing for Welfare and Pensions to become two totally separate departments, That way we can have some honesty on the welfare bill.
    If Pensions had it’s own department, which makes up over half of the current welfare bill. People would actually see where the increase in government spending is coming from.

    Of course this will never happen, because it would not fit into the Tory Mantra of vilifying the the unemployed, sick and disabled.

    I did not give my vote to Liberal Democrats at the last election for them to behave like this. I gave my vote to a party that had promised a more open, honest and transparent government.

  • I have never joined the members’ forum, but I obviously need to because these do not represent my views either. As many have pointed out, lots of those who share my view (and Tim13, Jennie, Growler etc) have already left the party. I am not going to do that: when we get obliterated in 2015 and the careerists jump ship to the Tories there will still be a need for a left of centre party which embodies liberal views, and a need for people to rebuild such a party from the wreckage that Clegg is going to leave us with.

  • Alexander Whattam 15th Sep '13 - 11:11am

    The main issue with fracking is the release of greenhouse gases, if steps are taking to reduce that there isn’t a problem. Similarly with nuclear power, the only real issue is nuclear waste. New reactors are producing less and less waste. While I wish we could replace all our energy needs with wind power, solar and tidal I don’t think that’s plausible while keeping energy costs down.

  • Jennie – agree with you about online porn – those results are what I would have expected from a poll of Tory members.

    Tim13 – I was opposed to nuclear, but I’ve come round to it being the least bad option. The plants will be built in the UK, meaning jobs, and economic security for ‘nuclear’ communities like West Cumbria, and the carbon emissions are far less than gas, coal, etc. Plus we import those fuels from countries of dubious democratic standing like Russia. I want us to invest in renewables to the degree that Germany is, but even they are only targetting 30% by 2030. What else takes up the shortfall?

  • @Simon Shaw

    “They are normally lumped together by right-wing newspapers who are trying to make a point. I don’t think you should emulate them.”

    Simon, as you can see from my post, I clearly said that they should be separate departments.

    Did you watch Clegg’s interview today on the Andrew Marrs show?

    It is Clegg and other members of this government who are deliberately misleading people as I set out in my previous post.

    Take today for instance.

    First Clegg spoke of being proud that Liberal Democrats had protected pensioners by increasing pensioner benefits.

    He then went on to talk about welfare and the spiraling costs of welfare which needs to be brought under control, as if Pensions where not included in those welfare costs.

    That is deeply misleading and dishonest in my opinion.

  • John, you also need to be realistic about the functioning of economies – opening up new sources of fossil fuels will skew the decarbonisation (and as I say, energy reduction) playing field over decades. Sometimes you have to say “no” to something offering, because of long-term problems. If we all think we can just continue with our upward resource use trend lines, there is absolutely nothing wrong with increasing fossil fuel sources, particularly if we think we can control it more democratically and effectively if produced in the UK. However, we know that is not true, and it would surely be better if we took a more aggressive approach now to energy saving and decarbonisation, rather than leaving it to our grandchildren’s generation who (speaking for one “young OAP” here) are already being hit by many very difficult challenges. I seem to remember people speaking of borrowing in those terms, although I have to say, I see financial borrowing now as a way of moving more swiftly to meet decarbonisation and other resource challenges which are the real crisis in our world today.

  • For those asking: Yes, I did complete the poll. I always do. And I regularly rib Stephen about the wording of the questions on twitter too.

    My major disappointment with the online porn one was not really the split on how filtering should occur, but that less than 35% thought education was the answer.

  • @Simon Shaw

    It might be easier if you watch the Andrew Marrs show on BBC IPlayer, then you will see exactly what I am on about. But deep down, I think you know what I am talking about here :-)

    I personally do believe that welfare and pensions need to be put into entirely separate departments. The reason I believe this is essential is because of the need for transparency, something that this coalition government is deeply lacking.
    As I have said previously, when anyone from the Government talks about Pensions and Pensioner related benefits, they do so giving the impression that this cost is entirely separate from the welfare bill. They talk of their proud achievements of protecting pensioners and increasing pension related benefits.

    They then talk about the total cost of Welfare bill and the need to bring these spiraling costs down, giving the impression that the welfare bill is only associated with the unemployed,sick and Housing Benefits.

    Are you following me so far, do you get the picture that is being painted? I do so hope you do Simon, because, I really do not have the energy today to argue over old grounds.

    What the government is doing here, egged on by the friends in the right wing media, is to mislead public opinion with this right wing propaganda against the sick and unemployed.

    That is what I am arguing against most passionately. It is not open, it is not honest and it is not transparent.. All the things we were promised by the Liberal Democrats at least.

    As for my opinions on welfare spending, which as it stands (includes pensions) I do think there is a problem. However, I do not believe that savings from the entire department should be on the backs of the unemployed and disabled and protecting the pensioners. After all, if you want to make the argument that the welfare bill needs to come down, then you must look at what portion of the welfare budget is spent on the over 65′s ( which is over half I might add) And where the biggest increases to welfare spending is going, which again is going to the over 65′s.

    I think this Government has made some truly shocking decisions on welfare reforms, that are unfairly targeted at the sick and unemployed and this constant attempt to vilify them.

    Yes the Housing Benefit bill needs to come down, but the way to do that is not by implementing policies that hit the claimant, The government should be introducing policies that are aimed directly at the landlords, introduce rent controls. We also need to have a massive spree on building more social housing. That is the only way you will get the Housing Benefit Bill down.

  • @Simon Shaw

    That’s the whole point though, It is the Government and in particular, Nick Clegg today who “muddy the waters” as you put it, They muddy the waters by including the costs of pensioners and pension related benefits when talking about the entire welfare bill, however they deliberately set out to mislead by giving the impression that this does not include pensions.

    The only way to combat this is for politicians to be open and honest when talking about the total welfare bill and clearly state that this includes pensions and pensioner related benefits.
    Or
    To totally separate the two and put them in different departments. That way the public gets to see exactly what is being spent where, which departments are costing the tax payer more.

    Surely you would welcome this kind of openness and transparency. Surely the country has a right to be informed truthfully, instead of being constantly misled by Government and the right wing media.

  • daft ha'p'orth 15th Sep '13 - 1:08pm

    @Peter Watson
    “As with so many issues though at the moment I find myself asking, ‘What do Lib Dems stand for?’”
    I can help with that one:
    Lib Dems stand for election.

  • @Simon Shaw

    Well maybe Simon it would do you some good to watch the Andrew Marr’s interview today when you get the opportunity.

    And with all due respect Simon, there are plenty of people within your own party who would recognize what I have said with regards to this.

    Having said that, I do not think we are going to agree on this matter, though I do welcome your more measured and welcome approach into disagreeing ;-)

  • Simon: I object to filtering because it varies from pointless to counterproductive in achieving the aims that it’s proponents set it for it. If we were better at educating people on how the Internet works more people would be aware of that.

    So yes I would object to filtering alongside education. Education is the key. As a liberal I would much much rather give people the tools to deal with problems themselves than have nanny state do it for them. I recognise that I am somewhat old failed in this, though.

  • old fashioned, even. Sorry, commenting on phone.

  • Having watched the debate on F17 am feeling much more equitable.

    Terrifying because I think education should be the bedrock of most solutions to most problems and see this as fundamental to my liberalism. So of course I’m not against compulsory education. But I AM against, once people have been educated, and given the tools to make their own decisions, punishing them for taking decisions we dont approve of.

  • I feel lost. This is no longer my party – I need to look elsewhere. How did this happen?

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