Ashcroft’s latest poll: a couple of interesting findings about the Lib Dems

Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft — who spends more on polling than all three main political parties combined — published the latest of his surveys yesterday.

It contained little good news for his party: ‘Perceptions of the Conservatives have been eroded further … This is the price we have paid for spending half a year talking amongst ourselves.’ And none of the party leaders would’ve been much chuffed by public perceptions of them, though Nick Clegg comes off worst, ‘[combining] the weaknesses of the other two, being “weak”, “out of his depth”, and “out of touch” all at the same time.’

One finding caught my eye, asking which outcome at the next general election the public would most like to see:

ashcroft coalition poll

In total 31% of the public would like to see the Lib Dems involved in a Coalition government after the next election. On the face of it that’s pretty encouraging news — almost 1-in-3 people want to see the Lib Dems continuing to govern.

But there is a sting in the tail. That 31% is divided between those who want to see the Lib Dems govern with the Tories (13%) and those who want to see the Lib Dems govern with Labour (18%). If the Lib Dems are in a position to be in coalition after the next election, and if we strike a deal with either party, it will antagonise whichever group wanted the other option!

Finally, it’s interesting to see what attributes are associated with the different parties. We trail Labour on all of them, but lead the Tories on two: we’re seen as more united, and being for everyone, not just the better off:

ashcroft party perceptions poll

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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This entry was posted in News and Polls.


  • Interesting statistics.

    Not very good news for the Liberal Democrats though, only managing to beat the Tories on being united & for everyone.

    The figures for
    Competence, Idea’s to deal with Britain’s problems & shared values are pretty dismissal, especially when considering the 2 main parties have decades of history of being in government for those polled to be “dissatisfied” with the 2 main political parties.

  • The best gloss that can be put on these findings is, it could be worse. Considering the strategy for going into Coalition was to prove to the electorate our competance , our ability to govern, and to sort out the nation’s perilous financial state, it seems that a long cold glass of failure all round seems to be required quaffing for all sensible LibDems

  • Could our party’s and in particular our leader’s negative image perhaps have something to do with being slagged off viciously and continuously for three years by virtually all mass circulation newspapers, from both the left and the right?

    At the moment, we are only able to get our message across in a few constituencies where we have teams working to deliver it directly on the ground. It will only be when we stand a chance of doing this through mainstream media again i.e. in a general election, that we can begin to redress the most virulent media onslaught the party has ever seen.

  • RC

    Can you name the newspapers from the left ? Hope you are not considering the Guardian there as they are very nice to Clegg (although the readers are less impressed) and Cameron.

    The real hatred comes from the right which is ironic as he is allowing them to get most of their policies through

  • LOL, Labour for everyone? errrrrm. OK. Just not if you were a 10p rate tax payer or you believe in liberty.

  • Peter Andrews 8th Jun '13 - 3:01pm

    @bcrombie, I read the Guardian and to describe the Guardian as being nice to the LIb Dems since we went into the coalition is a joke.

  • Peter Andrews

    I do as well and think you are completely wrong – some of the columnists are great fans but editorially they are. Up until last year Julian Glover was leader writer and he just loved Clegg and the Coalition

    Lucas, no not at all but should people like me vote for you again when you are colluding with a very right wing Government?

  • @bcrombie
    Makes no sense for the right wing press to attack Clegg as he’s supporting their policies.Agreed none whatsoever.So maybe he isn’t.Surprised you haven’t read that in your pro Clegg,Coalition,LD Guardian!!

  • Do not confuse the often hysterical accusations below the line with the actual content of Guardian articles. The paper is regularly accused of being pro Lib Dem, but that is mostly by those who would only be satisfied if it were nakedly a militant propaganda rag.

    John Kampfner has been fairly consistently supportive of the Lib Dem position. Martin Kettle is resolutely Blairite Labour, but as a consequence often enrages CiF luvies and is accused of supporting Lib Dems.

    Most of the regular commentators are polemicists for Labour. Julian Glover is long gone and in any case was obviously Tory. I think anyone who claims that Lib Dems do not get a rough press cannot see reality. Lib Dems and Nick Clegg in particular are the favourite whipping boys for most of the Press.

  • bcrombie whether you vote Lib Dem (did you last election?) would rationally depend on your constituency, which party is the incumbent and which is the main challenger.

  • Martin

    Julian Glover was a Lib Dem – people who know him personally on here said so quite categorically. Mind you how you tell the difference these days is difficult

    The Editorials are definitely Lib Dem sympathetic from my view and are frequently anti-Miliband in tone.

    The media is overwhelmingly Tory and some of the personal attacks on Gordon Brown at the last election were far harsher than anything about Clegg. Didn’t seem to bother the LD though did it and to be honest the disgraceful way your party treated your last two leaders yourselves suggest you are not particularly innocent

    Actually I voted for you at the last election, and everyone since 87 except 97, was because I believed what you said and thought you were a liberal-left party. I was wrong and won’t be doing the same in 2015

  • bcrombie: Cameron’s speech writer (and civil partner of Mathew Parris) a Lib Dem? I think you will find he is a (moderate) Conservative who has been enthusiastic about a coalition.

    You say “The Editorials are definitely Lib Dem sympathetic from my view and are frequently anti-Miliband in tone” – I think this reflects your ‘view’ more than the Editorial content, which have failed to be unremittingly fawning and have usually offered constructive and sympathetic advice.

    As I wrote before, you have to make your judgement as to how to vote, however where I vote, not voting LIb Dem would only help the Tories. If from your ‘view’ it makes no difference, that again would say more about your view than the realities at stake.

  • Martin

    People on here told me he was a Liberal Democrat and they knew him personally – do you know him as well? Also, Cameron is the head of a Government that you are a member of – he speaks for the Government and not for the Tory Party (although I concede you can’t tell the difference – another indictment of the LD)

    Secondly, what relevance ar his partner’s politcs? Since when do couples have to be politically aligned? Rather a weak and sad argument

    Finally, by what measure do you say that the Guardian editorials are anything but LD sympathetic apart from your own view – no more relevant than mine? All I can say is that the paper backed the LD at the last election – what evidence have you that they have changed their stance? They are becoming less sympathetic to the Government (about time) that is true but usually by supporting the LD line rather than the Tories

    If you suggest that the Guardian is fawning over Miliband then I think you must read a different version to mine?

  • I did not suggest the Guardian editorials fawn over Miliband, I suggested some would only be satisfied if they did. Did The Guardian back the Lib Dems? I think it was only in particular circumstances (i.e. where they had a chance of beating the Tories). My impression is that they were hoping for a Lib Lab coalition.

    Yes, the politics of a partner is not so relevant, however I mentioned it in this case because their political positions are very similar.

    I am sure that I have read from Glover himself, not long before leaving The Guardian, that he is Conservative member.

    It may surprise you that do not happen to be a member of the government. Nevertheless if you cannot tell the difference between Liberal Democrats and Tories, you are not seeing things straight.

  • Martin

    Read some of the comments on here regarding Glover – apparently used to be an active Lib Dem and definitely not a Tory

    So the fact that the paper supported the LD at the election is not relevant as you have put your own interpretation on it.

    As to the LD in Government – no I cannot tell the difference. Alexander is close to Osborne, Laws has just come up with a ridiculous idea about soldiers becoming teachers (a Tory policy in anything but name) and the less said about Clegg the better.

    Anyway, you said all the press is (from left to right) is ever so nasty to the poor little Lib Dems – I was pointing out that there is no real left-wing press in the UK (the Mirror perhaps but hardly worthy of calling a newspaper) as those who claim to be are centre rather than left. All the hate comes from the right from what I can see

  • Peter Watson 8th Jun '13 - 11:05pm

    According to Wikipedia Julian Glover was a Bond villain and a general in the Star Wars evil empire, so must be a tory! 😉

  • Peter Watson

    was David Laws one as well?

  • bcrombie; I looked at your link and then found the commentator who said that Glover was a member of the Liberals at university: indicative rather than persuasive.

    I do have a link that affirms Glover’s support for the Conservatives while a journalist at The Guardian which I think is rather more persuasive evidence.

    Of course the UK media is chronically lop sided and not helped when the BBC decides that neutrality is to be somewhere in between media opinions..

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '13 - 1:29am

    @Martin “Did The Guardian back the Lib Dems? I think it was only in particular circumstances”
    From The Guardian’s editorial in April 2010: “If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats.” (
    That sounds pretty unequivocal.

  • Martin

    As I said it is difficult to tell the difference nowadays – Laws has conservative sympathies as well, doesn’t stop him from calling himself a Lib Dem. The indications from someone who knew him in my link was that he was still a LIb Dem. We are splitting hairs though

    What is true though is that there are those in the press who support the coalition very strongly – whether from a wet Tory or a right-wing Lib Dem perspective. Ex-Blairite supporters have a very sympathetic view of the Coalition as well

    The gist of my argument is that there are very few attacks from the left – as there is very little left-wing press. Some Guardian columnists but not all. Miliband gets a harder time than Clegg does.

    The main attacks are from the rabid right but you will get no sympathy for me on that as your party walks through the lobby with people who also have these views

  • I would like to counter all this discussion with one observation: the circulation of the one paper that might conceivably, some of the time support us is TINY in relation to those of the ones that hate us or simply ignore us:
    Guardian: 204,000
    Sun: 2,400,000
    Daily Mail: 1,900,00
    Daily Mirror: 1,100,00
    Daily Telegraph: 556,000
    Daily Express: 530,000


    Not exactly an even match, is it?

  • @ bcrombie

    “The main attacks are from the rabid right but you will get no sympathy for me on that as your party walks through the lobby with people who also have these views”

    What are we supposed to do? We are part of the only government that it was possible to form after the last election. How many times does this have to be repeated before it sinks in?

  • bcrombie: I must admit that I tend to see very little of the right wing press and what I do see (often little more than UKIP mouth pieces) scarcely encourages me to look for more.

    Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the press deal with Miliband now that he has begun to give indications of future politics. Up to now the argument has been ‘I wouldn’t clear up the mess like that if I were you’ against ‘if you hadn’t left such mess, I wouldn’t have had to clear it up’.

    Lib Dems position has been that they are in government to deal with the economic crisis and to provide a brake on more extreme Tory tendencies. As parties reposition for 2015, I suspect that despite calls of ‘not enough” there will be grudging credit that this is what they have done.

  • @ Martin

    With 9% in the opinion polls, the voters seem prepared to give us no credit whatsoever, grudging or otherwise.

    They are simply unaware of our role in government. That is the problem. We make the mistake of assuming most people are politically informed or interested, whereas for 80-90% of the voters, that is simply not the case.

    We score very weakly in terms of competent and capable and having clear ideas, despite most of the more incompetent and weak headed ideas (free schools anyone?) coming from our partners in Coalition. That is solely down to press coverage of Lib Dems in power being either absent or overwhelmingly hostile.

  • Gareth Wilson 9th Jun '13 - 9:48am

    @ Tony Harms

    Demonstrates we should go into the next election effectively fighting 50 odd by elections. Mobilise local activists to campaign on what the MP has done for the constituency and take what we can from the national picture.

  • RC; I agree with you, however when Labour find they have to acknowledge the difficult decisions, who will lose out and will not benefit that much, they will not so easily maintain the ‘no different to Tories’ and ‘worse than vermin’ lines.

    If Labour are in the process of defining their position, then the Lib Dems need to do the same. As well as specific policies there needs to be clear statements of principle and direction of travel.

  • David Wilkinson 9th Jun '13 - 12:22pm

    He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon

    In Cleggie’s case he’s dri nking tfrom the cup as the Tory devil and all the wrong doings of the Tories are also the fault of the Lib Dems. He is seen by most of the public as a weak person and a Tory puppet.
    Clegg’s legacy for the party is a 50%+ drop im membership,30%+ loss of councillors etc.
    Ask a ordinary Lib Dem member what are the successes of the party in government and they will struggle to give you answer because while Clegg and Co are busy being in Government, they failed to keep members informed and they have now lost the PR battle resulting in 3 terrible years of election results
    2014 more losses of councillors and Euro MP’s, 2015 more councillors lost and 20 + MP’s.?
    Nick will hope to dear god that there’s a hung parliament to cling onto the trappings of power.

  • Simon Banks 9th Jun '13 - 2:56pm

    I’m not too bothered about some of the negative findings. The figures are still quite respectable and better by far than our opinion poll figures on voting intention. We’ve never scored very well on things like “competent and capable”, however well we were running local authorities, and the worst message from that is that not many people have realised Liberal Democrat ministers are quite able. The thing most to work on is “clear ideas to deal with Britain’s problems”.

    Nor am I hugely worried about the split between those who want a Con-LD coalition and those who want Lab-LD. It doesn’t follow that, for example, people who’d prefer the former would be alienated by us going in with Labour if they were clearly the largest party. There is more risk the other way around because a second five-year Con-LD coalition would begin to look like a permanent alignment. It’s relevant that we’ve shown plenty of basically Labour voters will still vote for us in local contests if they perceive that only we or the Tories can win. Eastleigh suggests that this may also apply to some national contests, but it’s not something we can take for granted.

    I don’t agree with David’s central charge that the leadership has failed to keep the rank and file informed. I’ve seen loads of information, some of it, for example on the pupil premium, welcome. The problem is rather that there have been too many concessions to the Tories on things we could have stopped and too many brave stands that have been taken only after Cameron’s people seem to have been given the impression we’d go along with them. As for 20+ MPs, analysis of local election results by constituency suggests it’ll probably be 20+ quite a lot, 20+20 or more. We’ll see.

  • paul barker 9th Jun '13 - 3:06pm

    This is the first time Ive seen these figures & they look pretty good for us, especially part 3. British voters are extremely tribal, on any survey like this they vote for their own team.
    Of the 6 “virtues” in part 3, all but one fall in the range of 24 to 31% – for the third party thats pretty good. We even come 2nd in 2 of the categories.
    Add to that that 1 in 3 voters want to see Libdems in Government & we have a lot of reasons to be cheerful.

  • I’m as inclined to be optimistic as anyone can be but I’m mystified that anyone can think these are good findings.

    What matters at the end of the day is voting intention and at 9%, all the good opinions in the world will count for nothing if we can’t get our voters out. Meanwhile, Labour, with a lousy leader, an appalling record in government and almost zero in terms of policy are up at 40% and set to sweep a large chunk of our MPs from power in two years’ time.

    That’s how things are and we’ve got to deal with it. We’ve got a comeback fight on our hands and we’re not even close to being in the ring yet.

  • paul barker 9th Jun '13 - 8:08pm

    The one thing we should take no notice of is Voting Intention Polls. The question asked is always some variant on “how would you vote if a General Election were held Tomorrow ?”
    In other words if there was an Election with no Notice, No Campaign, No Debates, Leaflets, TV coverage etc etc. Its a stupid question & gets stupid answers. The idea is to generate News for media outlets not to provide a predictive tool for political geeks like us. Newspapers pay for VI Polls & they get what they want – headlines.

  • Paul Barker

    Change the record please

  • One interesting point is the relatively small difference between those favouring a con/lib dem coalition (13%) as against a lab/lib dem coalition (18%) as the best outcome of the next election.

    Perhaps those Lib Dems or former Lib Dems who have since 2010 been vilifying our leadership for forming the current coalition and often implying if not actually saying how overwhelmingly popular it would have been if we had attempted to work with Labour (ignoring the utter impracticability of such a course given the arithmetic thrown up by the electorate) might just reflect on these figures.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '13 - 9:52pm

    @paul barker “Add to that that 1 in 3 voters want to see Libdems in Government & we have a lot of reasons to be cheerful.”
    It certainly is interesting that apparently 31% want to see Lib Dems in coalition government (if not allowed to consider a Lib Dem, UKIP or Other alternative), especially when compared with the voting intention figures: 37 (Lab) 27 (Con) 9 (LD) 15 (UKIP) 12 (Other). It suggests that, when forced to choose from a CON – CON+LD – LAB+LD – LAB spectrum, either many UKIP voters are not natural tory supporters or many tory voters quite like the LD influence.

  • David Allen 9th Jun '13 - 11:15pm

    “One interesting point is the relatively small difference between those favouring a con/lib dem coalition (13%) as against a lab/lib dem coalition (18%) as the best outcome of the next election.

    Perhaps those Lib Dems or former Lib Dems who have since 2010 been vilifying our leadership for forming the current coalition and often implying if not actually saying how overwhelmingly popular it would have been if we had attempted to work with Labour (ignoring the utter impracticability of such a course given the arithmetic thrown up by the electorate) might just reflect on these figures.”

    Perhaps it would help if you tackled the reality instead of knocking down the straw man. Until Clegg, we preached equidistance, we said we could work with either the Tories or Labour. Clegg has been more unrelentingly negative about Labour than most Tories. He has taken one side only. That is what is grossly unpopular, the devious, deliberate betrayal of our promised centre-left position.

  • david thorpe 10th Jun '13 - 11:32am

    @ rc

    yopu miised the paper which traditionally supports us-the indepdent.

    also thew newwspaper which is read by the greatest proportion of lib dem voters is the dauly mail-its their guilty pleasure

    the lack of power on newspapers can also be seen in the fact that in 2005-the gaurdian didnt back us- in 2010 it did-yet the percentage of its readers who voted lib dem fell in 2010 relative to 2005

    The reason we struggle on the ‘values question is that we dont have any-0our oparty is a collection of local campiagners and very many of our eletced Mps have bno intel;elctual grasp of what liberalism is-was or ever should be-and this gets transmitted to vioters-wgho hear Mps voting for and adviocating non liberal solutions every day of the week whilst claiming to be in a liberal party-until that stops we can never beat tghe others on ‘values’ quesitions…

  • I think David Allen is failing to understand the realities of coalition. I agree with him about equidistance in approaching a general election but once a decision has been made (and I am glad to see that David is not arguing that there was any practical prospect of a coalition in 2010 with Labour, much as many of us would have wished it otherwise) then there must be a strong degree of coherence within government during the 5 year period to which we have signed up. How on earth could we participate in coalition while maintaining equidistance between our coalition partners and the main opposition party?

    The crucial statement Clegg has made is that he is fully willing to contemplate negotiating a coalition with Labour if and when the 2015 election throws up the appropriate figures. No-one must paint the Lib Dems as in some way wedded to the Conservatives beyond the current arrangement.

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