Lib Dem members’ support for Coalition still high… but approval of Government hits new low

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum before conference to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

74% of members continue to support Coalition with Conservatives

LDV asked: Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Comparison with August 2012′s figures)

    74% (-3%) – Support
    21% (+3%) – Oppose
    5% (n/c) – Don’t know / No opinion

Support for the Coalition remains high, at 74%, in spite of, well, everything. The net support rating, at +53% (down 6% on August), is the lowest we’ve yet recorded: as recently as February it was +71%. So while overall support for the Coalition is still solid (amazingly so, in fact, considering all that’s happened), the trend over the past few months is markedly down.

Approval of Coalition Government’s record dips to just +4%

LDV asked: Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date? (Comparison with August 2012′s figures)

    47% (-11%) – Approve
    43% (+8%) – Disapprove
    10% (+3%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The net approval for the Coalition’s record to date has taken a further big hit, down to just +4% now: that’s down an astonishing 19% since August, and is by far the lowest figure we’ve yet recorded in these surveys. As recently as February, net approval stood at a far healthier +40%. Again the trend, perhaps unsurprisingly at the government’s mid-term mark, is downwards.

We shall see in our next survey whether this week’s conference, generally reckoned to have been a low-key success for the party, provides a boost to these figures.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. More than 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 22nd September. NB: most responses received before Nick Clegg’s apology broadcast.
  • 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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    9 Comments

    • Tony Dawson 29th Sep '12 - 5:03pm

      The summary appears, therefore, that Coalition was the right thing to do but has been performed badly. In a way, the logic of Coalition is so strong that it would take an earthquake of a poor performance to shift people from the view that it was the right thing to do. But, anything under net 30 per cent positive for performance from your own Party members is appalling. I wonder what the Conservatives’ memberships’ view is?

    • Simon Titley 29th Sep '12 - 5:36pm

      Once again, this poll insists on a stark ‘support’/‘oppose’ choice and doesn’t allow for more nuanced opinions.

      But if we compare the results for the two questions, we get a more interesting picture (and here, I’m assuming that everyone who approves of the government also supports the coalition, while everyone who opposes the coalition also disapproves of the government):

      47% support the coalition and approve of the government (down 11% on August).
      27% support the coalition but disapprove of the government (which implies that the coalition is viewed as the pragmatic or least worse option rather than anything to feel enthusiastic about) (up 8%).
      21% oppose the coalition and disapprove of the government (up 3%).
      5% can’t answer either question (no change).

      So I would not trust anyone who tries to spin the headline figure of 74%!

    • David Evans 29th Sep '12 - 7:56pm

      I think this shows the truth that many of us have known over our period in coalition – our leaders are actually doing very well for the country Government, but are doing poorly in coalition and appallingly badly in the party as a whole.

      In 2010 the mess the nation’s finances were in made it essential that a new government took power that people believed were capable of steering the country away from the brink of bankruptcy. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, ably assisted by their advisers throughout Labour’s years in government Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, had increased the annual deficit from under £50billion to nearly £200billion in an orgy of “Spend now and leave it to our kids to pay for.”

      In government, we stepped up to the crease and set to it with the Conservatives, the only two parties that were prepared and capable of doing the work. Since then the spending spree has begun to be reined in, amid enormous squeals from Labour. However, the state that Labour left the wider economy in, depending largely on enormous state handouts to survive (including the bailout to the banks), and a mess of a tax system making it ever easier for mega rich companies and individuals to move their income and profits offshore, has meant that tax income has still a long way to go. Bur still we have offset the effects of the cuts wherever possible in key areas (Tax threshold rises, benefit and pension rises, pupil premium etc).

      In coalition however, our leaders have not performed anything like as well, accepting a referendum on AV, which no Lib Dem with half a brain really wanted; caving in on tuition fees; dreaming we could constrain the worst of the Conservative ideologues in charge of the NHS, through tweaks to the NHS legislation. All this shows a complete naivety in the party hierarchy about what people think of our performance. Our leaders may believe they are doing a great job, but their total failure to convince the public betrays their lack of experience. The comment “And be in no doubt, if we secure our country’s future, we will secure our own,” shows this naivety. Sorting the economy will take much more than 5 years and anyone foolish to rely on this mantra will discover their foolishness, but sadly too late to save the ship from sinking.

      However, it is in the party where the problem is worst. Lifelong Liberal Democrats are leaving, simply because of the despair of a leadership that won’t admit even the smallest error – Apologising for making a pledge not for breaking it; hectoring those who believe in Liberal Democracy with quotes like “The choice between the party we were, and the party we are becoming, is a false one. The past is gone and it isn’t coming back.” And then following on with “Fifty, sixty years ago, before I was born, small groups of Liberal activists would meet up to talk politics and plan their campaigns. Stubborn and principled, they ignored the cynics who mocked them.” Mocking those who wish that the past values were still aspired to by current leaders, and then claiming to be the only true inheritor of that principled Liberal history, really takes some gall.

    • David Evans. I beg to differ. I believe the LibDems in government are doing (along with the Conservatives) a dreadful job of economic management of the British economy. In the years preceding the 2010 election no British political party seriously questioned the ‘credit boom’ that infected virtually all of the western world – certainly not the Liberal Democrats, and definitely not the Conservatives. No ‘doom-monger’ who warned of a financial crash (Vince Cable?) were taken seriously – to claim otherwise is to be ludicrously wise after the event. So now the LibDems are complicit in the folly of a government-inspired contraction of our economy. What is needed is a Franklin D. Roosevelt-style expansion of the economy. The LibDems (or Liberals) have had the opportunity to prove themelves in government for the first time in eight decades. They have well and truly blown it. Just ask the electorate.

    • Tony Dawson 29th Sep '12 - 9:13pm

      @David Evans:

      ““The choice between the party we were, and the party we are becoming, is a false one.”

      Yes, whoever said that is postulating a false choice. For the Party is not ‘becoming’ anything. Weakened, maybe. but intrinsically holding to the same principles.

    • “Since then the spending spree has begun to be reined in, amid enormous squeals from Labour.”

      Right. The “spending spree”. It’s interesting to see the progress the right-wing tabloid mindset is making within the party.

    • David, I agree Labour overspent, but ‘orgy of public spending’? They bailed out the banks! You would’ve preferred they went bust?

      Meanwhile, coalition economic policy, driven by (a frankly illiberal) public school antipathy to the public sector, has driven us back into recession, resulting in a deficit which is rising again! When will the middle of our party wake up and see it for the disaster it has been?

    • BIGDAVE. I’m afraid that although you beg to differ, your difference is extremely misguided. As far back as 2003, Vince Cable definitely did warn of the problems and was idly dismissed by Brown with ‘The hon. Gentleman has been writing articles in the newspapers, as reflected in his contribution, that spread alarm, without substance,’ accompanied by the usual NuLabour cat calls and jeers. It wouldn’t surprise me if the two Eds were there doing their bit.

      The problem is that, as all good Keynsians know, it was the Gordon Brown’s abuse of such measures by creating a bubble to develop an unsustainable expansion of the economy that led to the crisis. Sadly, you can’t put out a fire by pouring yet more petrol on it.

      Sadly some of the electorate are swallowing Labour’s lie that it is all down to the Lib Dems. We really know it is all down to NuLabour and sadly sorting it out will take a long, long time.

      When will NuLabour learn you have to earn your money to be able to help the poor and disadvantaged, not just steal it from future generations?

    • Chris,
      I’m afraid you are talking to a lifelong Liberal here who despises much of what the Conservatives stand for as he does Labour’s instinctive authoritarianism and financial incompetence. Do you really think stealing £200billion in a single year from our kids is a way to deal with long term deprivation?

      Real Liberals know that it takes a lot of hard work to make real sustained progress to remove the oppression of poverty, and are rightly dismayed when Labour yet again come along and trash things.

      David

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