EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members think about the Lib Dems and the Coalition

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. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 80% to 17%

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives?

    80% (+1%) – Support

    17% (n/c) – Oppose

    3% (n/c) – Don’t know / No opinion

No matter what the travails of the Coalition — and there have been plenty in the past three-and-a-half years — the high support for the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives hasn’t shifted significantly. We’ve asked this tracker question 18 times, and the range has been 74% (September 2012, after Lords reform was blocked) to 85% (November 2010, our first post-tuition fees U-turn survey). This month’s is pretty much bang in the middle of those, at 80%.

Clegg’s leadership: net +12% satisfied

What is your view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader?

    13% – Very satisfied
    43% – Satisfied
    Total satisfied = 56% (+7%)
    25% – Dissatisfied
    17% – Very dissatisfied
    Total satisfied = 42% (-6%)
    1% – Don’t know / No opinion

Satisfaction among members with Nick Clegg’s leadership of the party has recovered this month: having plunged to just +1% in September, it now stands at +12%. As you can see, the afterglow of Cleggmania has long since been snuffed out, with his net ratings fluctuating in the range c.0-20%.

ldv clegg ratings dec 2013

62% of Lib Dems say party on “right course”

Do you think, as a whole, the Liberal Democrats are on the right course or on the wrong track?

    62% (+6%) – The right course

    33% (n/c) The wrong track

    5% (-5%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The overall net satisfaction rating of the Lib Dems according to party members has recovered to +29% – it had dipped to just +23% last time we asked before the Glasgow conference in September. It’s a long way off the +49% of February 2012, though: the month before the NHS Bill row. But it’s just as far off the +9% recorded in September 2012 after the collapse of Lords reform.

Net +27% approval rating for Coalition’s record

Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date?

    58% (+2%) – Approve

    31% (-1%) – Disapprove

    10% (-1%) – Don’t know

There has been a small but noticeable shift in approval for the Coalition’s record in the last 9 months: the net +27% approval rating is the highest since June 2012 (+28%).

93% of party members expect Lib Dems to lose seats in 2015

How many Lib Dem MPs do you think will be elected at the next general election (expected in May 2015)?

    3% (n/c) – More than current 57 MPs

    15% (+1%) – Between 50 and 57 MPs

    34% (-2%) – Between 40 and 49 MPs

    29% (n/c) – Between 30 and 40 MPs

    15% (+3%) – Fewer than 30 MPs

    4% (n/c) – Don’t know

This is the fourth time we’ve asked this question. The first, in March, was immediately after the Lib Dems’ tightly-fought hold in the Eastleigh by-election: back then, 28% of party members expected the Lib Dem to hold at least 50 seats. That proportion now stands at 18%. A majority do, though, expect the party to hold at least 40 seats: 52% now compared with 56% last March; 44% expect us to have fewer than 40 MPs.

64% of Lib Dems say party achieving influence in Government

How would you rate the extent of the Liberal Democrat influence within the Coalition Government, where 10 is highly influential, and 1 indicates no influence.

    1 = 0%
    2 = 4%
    3 = 13%
    4 = 11%
    5 = 7%
    Lacking influence = 35% (-7%)
    6 = 17%
    7 = 27%
    8 = 14%
    9 = 4%
    10 = 2%
    Achieving influence = 64% (+6%)

By a pretty solid 2:1 majority Lib Dem members are more likely to rate the Lib Dems as achieving influence within the Coalition – the 64% saying this is the highest figure since June 2012. A year ago, December 2012, 49% thought the Lib Dems lacked influence while 50% thought we were achieving influence. Party members seem to be buying the differentiation strategy – the question is whether the voters will like it, too.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 749 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 18th December.
  • 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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    18 Comments

    • Yes, what is the opinion on the rise of food banks?

    • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 19th Dec '13 - 11:03am

      @Caracatus and @Simon,

      The view on food banks? It’s a shame that they’re necessary, but what question would you ask, and what would you expect/hope to learn from asking it?

      The art of surveys like this is seeking to elicit an opinion on contentious issues, so that we learn something – even where some of us might not like the outcome. But, if there are questions that you would like to see included, why not let Stephen know for next time?

    • @Paul

      National vote share and seats won are two different things…also, the voting public don’t want to see Stephen Tall streaking down Whitehall if we don’t get 40+, so they are that reason to vote LibDem even if nothing else works.

      Perhaps a way of gauging opinion on issues such as food banks would be to ask groups like Liberal Reform, Social Liberal Forum etc. to come up with a shortist statement about how the party should respond to an issue and allow members to vote on which option they prefer or ask whether they approve, disapprove, don’t know etc..

    • Richard Shaw 19th Dec '13 - 1:10pm

      @Linda Jack

      “I imagine one of the reasons for the opposition within the party to the Coalition dropping to 17% may have something to do with the number of members who have left over the past couple of years. “

      *marks off a square on the LDV Survey bingo card*

      If that was the case then you’d imaging that the number of people on the forum and/or responding to the survey to decrease over time. However, looking at this years surveys we see the current survey has an all-time high of 749 respondents, up from ~550 in January and the members forum is reported as being 1500 strong, up from around 1400 strong. (I’m sure Stephen could provide the precise figures if he was so minded so that we could test your theory.)

      So either:-
      a) Fewer ‘negative’ people are responding to the survey and more ‘positive’ people are responding i.e. a differential turnout;
      b) Any ‘negative’ people who have left have been replaced with more ‘positive’ people (possibly reflecting that our membership figures are increasing at the moment);
      c) People may have actually changed their minds.
      d) Any mixture of the above.

    • @Paul You could say that about any website with party sympathies. The New Statesman and its readers are convinced Ed Miliband will lead Labour to a majority in 2015, despite his dreadful ratings as a potential PM. Similarly, The Spectator believes Cameron won’t need those pesky Lib Dems any more after the next election, again in contradiction to the polls.

      If you say something enough times you end up believing it.

      I agree there is some over-optimism on LDV about the number of MPs we will end up with in 2015 (I voted for 30-40), and I do not believe a loss of even 10 MPs is in any way a vindication for Nick Clegg. Quite the opposite.

      But there is a lot of propaganda from all parties about their 2015 chances, and nobody really knows what judgement will be passed by the voting population – who you claim to speak for.

    • @Linda – I was wondering that too – and @Richard, I think I can figure out where it’s come from. What seems to have been happening (anecdotally, at least) is that as active members who oppose or have fallen out with the coalition drop off one end, they are being replaced by members at the other end who support it or who want to give more vocal support. My real concern about this (as a currently non-active member) is that members who I know have left have got over 20 years experience in campaigning and elections, and the members who are joining are largely newcomers. I still think this will be a problem outside our held seats come the GE in particular.

    • paul barker 19th Dec '13 - 5:38pm

      I am very reluctant to predict MP numbers simply because of our broken Electoral system. In any case those dont matter anything like as much as as our Votes & the Votes of our rivals. I expect both Labour & Libdems to get something around the mid 20s in percentage terms with The Tories in the low 30s. UKIP will do best of all in proportional terms, doubling their vote to 6 or 7% but they will see that as failure. They wont get any MPs of course.

      Everything in British Politics will look very different by the Summer.

    • “If that was the case then you’d imaging that the number of people on the forum and/or responding to the survey to decrease over time.”

      Well, we know for a fact that Lib Dem party membership fell from 65,038 in 2010 to 42,501 last year, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. It’s an extremely obvious point that if membership has decreased by 35%, and if that is the result – at least in part – of disillusionment with the coalition, then the remaining members will tend to be those who were more positive about the coalition in the first place.

    • ” I expect both Labour & Libdems to get something around the mid 20s in percentage terms with The Tories in the low 30s.”

      What’s the point of continually posting this kind of stuff? Nobody knows what’s going to happen at the next election. Everybody knows that nobody knows. So nobody takes any notice of people who pretend they do.

    • Michael Cole 20th Dec '13 - 1:18pm

      It’s not often that I agree with Chris but he’s correct in saying that nobody knows what’s going to happen at the next GE.

      We can actually increase our number of MPs if the right strategy and campaign is followed but on past performance I have no great faith in Nick Clegg’s s ability to deliver this.

    • Chris 19th Dec ’13 – 6:35pm
      What’s the point of continually posting this kind of stuff? Nobody knows what’s going to happen at the next election. Everybody knows that nobody knows. So nobody takes any notice of people who pretend they do.

      Quite right, Chris. It is pointless. A parlour game for people with too much time n their hands.

    • David Evans 22nd Dec '13 - 7:10pm

      I expect Paul Barker’s prediction to be massively over optimistic, as indeed he always is when quoting percentages. The Lib Dems will be lucky to get in the mid teens.

      @ Paul Barker “I expect both Labour & Libdems to get something around the mid 20s”

    • Anyone who does feel confident that they can predict, more or less, how many seats the Party will win at the next GE – they should be able to earn themselves a little [or large] windfall.

      The bookies bet closest to even money at the moment is 34.5 seats. If you believe the Party will keep around the same number of seats 10/1 is on offer – which not that much worse than the 14/1 you will get if you believe the Party will get between 0 – 10 seats.

      http://www.oddschecker.com/politics/british-politics/next-uk-general-election/total-seats-liberal-democrats

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