At Coalition half-time, 77% of Lib Dem members continue to back deal with Tories

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

Support for Coalition edges up to 77%

LDV asked: Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Comparison with September’s figures.)

    77% (+3%) – Support
    18% (-3%) – Oppose
    5% (n/c) – Don’t know / No opinion

Support for the Coalition continues to hold firm in spite of the buffeting the Lib Dems have taken over the first half of this parliament. Indeed, that 77% still support the current alliance with the Tories — the equivalent figure was only a little higher, at 84%, when the Coalition was freshly minted in 2010 — is pretty remarkable. Though the figure of those who oppose the Coalition has crept up steadily over that time, from 11% to 18%, it is still by some distance a minority position within the party.

The half-way point of the Coalition feels like as good a point as any to make this point, by the way… The fact that LibDemVoice has been able to track the views of party members about the Coalition — and found that, in spite of everything the vast majority of members remains supportive — has, I think, been a significant reason why the party has remained broadly united. Without these surveys there would be a vacuum of our knowledge about the mood of party members.

Uptick in approval of Coalition Government’s record to +12%

Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date? (Comparison with September’s figures.)

    52% (+5%) – Approve
    40% (-3%) – Disapprove
    9% (-1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The net approval for the Coalition’s record to date stood at just +4% last month — it’s recovered a bit since then to stand now at +12%. However, that’s still down markedly on August’s +23%, let alone last February’s +40%. Is this simply a sign of mid-term blues for the Coalition? Or does it perhaps signify that Lib Dem members perceive the two Coalition parties pulling further apart, with the Tory right-wing increasingly asserting itself within Government?

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th and 31st October.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’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
  • * 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 LDV Members poll.


    • It looks to me as if there are the beginnings of a real cultural shift in the Lib Dem membership. I hope not, because if that is so, we are heading rapidly for 1950s level relevance in British politics. This would be a tragedy. More polls are now showing us drifting equal with or below UKIP as the third party. That is a disaster. We had maintained a distinct, different, green, but practical image. We now, increasingly, line up with the establishment thinking. This is not where our support comes from, and suddenly telling people we have changed radically (but not in a radical direction) is very unlikely to attract very much new support.

      I accept the leadership have been making some efforts in one or two policy areas to show that we have elements of the old principles, and perhaps key swinging members (sorry about this US political double take) are convinced or desperate enough to allow themselves to think the party is returning to where it had been.

    • Simon Titley 5th Nov '12 - 10:00am

      Once again, a misleading spin has been put on these figures. Yes, a majority of members “support” coalition, but that can cover anything from wild enthusiasm to reluctant acceptance.

      The coalition was a creature of circumstance and most members take a pragmatic view. Certainly, most members I know accepted coalition in 2010 as the least worst option in the circumstances. Today, most believe that premature withdrawal would cause even more problems than staying in. But the poll does not allow for any such nuanced opinions. You either “support” or “oppose”.

      The difference between the support/oppose and approve/disapprove results suggests there is a less simplistic picture. But until and unless Liberal Democrat Voice conducts a poll that allows respondents to express more nuanced views, we won’t really know what that picture is.

    • Off topic, but I noticed a death announcement for George Jacob Bridge, no age stated, in The Times the other day. I assume that this was the individual of that name who contested Southgate as a Liberal at seven successive general elections between 1955 and 1974 : can any one confirm ?
      This raises the more general point, now that we are not going to have Liberal Democrat News, as to how the deaths of such party stalwarts are to be reported.

    • paul barker 5th Nov '12 - 11:35am

      A big vote of thanks to all the LDV team for running these polls, without them the anti-coalition minority would claim to be the majority – certainly they shout the loudest. One of the clearest results of those questions where you allow extreme or moderate positions is that the extremists are mostly anti- coalition/leadership & have been for some time.

      On Tims point about the polls can I repeat that midterm polls have no predictive value, they always overestimate the “main” opposition & others while massively underestimating the Libdems.

    • I don’t support the coalition, I left the Liberal Democrats over the whole tuition fee debacle.

      “I’m not sure how else I can report a poll question which asks ‘Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives?’ ”

      You need to put it into context. I don’t support the coalition, I left the Liberal Democrats over the whole tuition fee debacle. Few Liberal Democrats I know are members anymore, many left over the NHS reforms.

      ” Indeed, that 77% still support the current alliance with the Tories — the equivalent figure was only a little higher, at 84%, when the Coalition was freshly minted in 2010 — is pretty remarkable.”

      The above quote sounds a lot like spin. You’re putting your own slant on the figures, which is fair enough but it’s not an accurate reflection of what’s going on in your party. When you put it into the context of the members who’ve left, it is not remarkable at all, it’s to be expected.

    • paul barker 5th Nov '12 - 1:29pm

      A supplementary to my earlier comment – I suggested comparing like with like, polls now ith the same polls 5 years ago. I have done that for ICM & Yougov & both suggest we are 3% down, on average. Hardly the collapse that our enemies beleive they see.

      Adam Moniz makes a reasonable point but how are we supposed to know what ex-members think ? Anecdotes arent evidence. I cant think of a legal way to sample ex-members. Any suggestions ?

    • Paul Holmes 5th Nov '12 - 2:18pm

      You could ask a still simple question that would give more useful results eg a) Are you an enthusiastic supporter of the Coalition? b) Are you a reluctant supporter of a Coalition based on the electoral reality of the 2010 election outcome? c)Are you opposed to the Coalition?

      The ‘Right Course’ question could easily be differentiated in the same way.

      I’m a reluctant supporter of the Coalition out of necessity but currently can only tick your positive box.

      PS The significant number of members who have left the Party since 2010 cannot vote in your survey -but have perhaps expressed their opinion already?

    • @paul barker

      “Hardly the collapse that our enemies beleive they see.”

      You regard Labour supporters as enemies?

      Wow this party is getting more and more tribal by the day.

    • paul barker 5th Nov '12 - 3:14pm

      @Matt. OK – opponents would have been better but I wasnt so much thinking of labour/tory supporters as “journalists”/the establishment & obsessed bloggers. I never mentioned labour.

      On the ex-members. We cant just assume we know why they left. Assuming they all left because they oppose the coalition is like the old anarchist trick of assuming that non-voters are protesting against “the system”.
      Above all we have to remember the context – a 60 year trend of decline in party memberships across the political spectrum, interrupted by occasional booms, usually around elections.

    • Peter Watson 5th Nov '12 - 6:19pm

      @paul barker
      I’m surprised that you give so much credence to what is essentially a straw poll of a self-selecting group of LDV contributing Lib Dem members (the composition of which has probably changed since 2010), but at the same time seem quite dismissive of the more rigorous efforts of the polling companies. When disregarding the fall of the Lib Dems in the polls since the election, perhaps we should contemplate why conservative support has not dropped to anything like the same extent despite the apparent rise of UKIP. Similarly, the belief that between elections our support is always at its lowest and that opposition support is always at its highest cannot be relied upon now that we are no longer a party of opposition. This is particularly relevant to the methods of some polling companies, who attribute “dont know / won’t say” responses based upon previous voting: our record in government might mean that there are more shy Lib Dems than before (good news) or it might mean that former voters won’t return (bad news). At the end of the day though, we can only interpret the polling (and membership) figures that we have, which don’t look good for Lib Dems, and we should not assume that past polling performance is a good guide to the future now that so much has changed for the party.

      I would also challenge your assertion that “the extremists are mostly anti- coalition/leadership” (though if you mean the activists then that must be worrying for the party). This is not a single group. Many share the view, expressed regularly and eloquently on these pages by Matthew Huntbach, that one can support coalition (it would be silly to support a minor party without accepting the notion of coalition and that we cannot always choose our partners) but feel completely let down by the behaviour of our leadership within that coalition. This is why interpreting the headline of this article is quite misleading, and why there is a mismatch between supporting the coalition and approval of its actions. The best approach is probably that followed by Stephen Tall: report the responses to the two binary questions and wait for the reaction (lighting the blue touch paper and retiring seems an appropriate metaphor today!).

    • Simon Titley 5th Nov '12 - 6:23pm

      @Stephen Tall – The reason I keep alleging spin is that you keep spinning! By failing to allow for a range of views, you are presenting a false picture of opinion in the party. That 77% is not homogenous and no-one should encourage that perception.

      You claim there is only a “binary choice”, citing a hypothetical conference vote. But this is a false analogy. A binary choice would be fair if your question were phrased along the lines of the professional pollsters’ regular opinion poll voting questions, i.e. “If there were a conference vote on the coalition tomorrow, how would you vote?” However, the answers wouldn’t be very useful since there will almost certainly not be a conference vote on this issue between now and the next general election.

      Instead, you simply ask people whether they “support” or “oppose” the coalition, outwith the context of any conference vote. Given that most members’ views are not that simple, my criticism is valid.

    • s Simon Titleyy – a few days ago you were proudly telling me that a LDV survey showed 2/3 of party members were social liberals, yet another poll showing large support for the coalition is dismissed.

      You can’t have it both ways.

    • Simon Titley 6th Nov '12 - 12:09am

      @Tabman – Your comparison is completely wrong. The LDV poll in April 2011 that asked respondents how they would describe themselves offered a range of options, not a binary choice, and respondents could also choose as many descriptions as they thought applied, not just one. This poll, on the other hand, offers a stark choice that does not reflect opinion within the party because it does not distinguish between the very different types of “support” for coalition. This gives a misleading impression and can be spun to exaggerate members’ enthusiasm for the coalition.

    • Foregone Conclusion 6th Nov '12 - 12:42am

      Oh dear, some of these criticisms are really quite bizarre. Of course this doesn’t include people who’ve resigned from the party since 2010. Nor does it include those who might join tomorrow, those who left the party for one reason or another before we went into government, nor indeed does it get out the ouija board and seek the views of Jo Grimond and Gladstone’s First Cabinet. It is, by its nature, asking a question of the membership at one given moment. Those who have stopped being members since the Coalition have forfeited their right for their voices to be heard as Lib Dems. That’s what resigning the membership means, y’know.

      As Stephen has already pointed out, the yes/no question on staying in the Coalition is the choice we are effectively being offered. It is a difficult choice, but one which we must make, one way or another. There are other questions to ask about how we feel about the government… such as the one immediately below, where we’re asked to make a judgement on the performance of the government. (FWIW, I said that we should stay in the Coalition, after saying no last week, but that I disapproved of the government’s record to date.)

      And Matt, of course Labour are our enemies. We are liberals, they are… well, I suppose social democrats these days, or at least for the moment. We fight them in elections, and we fight to win. This also applies, of course, to the Conservatives, the Greens, UKIP, and any other party we go up against. We have an adversarial party system, that’s how it works. Of course, we are also willing to work with any party which might best advance our cause; I actually happen to think that most of the time, that might well be Labour. But they are still our enemies. And frankly, given the ordure that’s been poured over us, especially in the Mets, by Labour on the ground, I think it’s surprising we’re not a damn sight more tribal than we are.

    • Matthew Huntbach 6th Nov '12 - 12:47am

      The problem is that when we active members of the party who have a realistic sense of politics agree we “support” the coalition, we are quite likely to mean “accept the situation after the 2010 general election made it the least worst option”, but most people outside the party are likely to interpret it as “very happy with what the coalition is doing and in full agreement with the policies coming out of this government”.

      This situation has been made much worse by the leadership of the party, which has deliberately conflated two separate things: 1) Acceptance of the formation of the coalition and 2) Agreement with how the party leadership has chosen to play the coalition. While the leadership has not quite gone as far as a direct policy of stating it is “very happy with what the coalition is doing and in full agreement with the policies coming out of this government”, it has come close to it. The tactic of going on and on about how good it is to be “in power” and exaggerating our influence in the coalition, to the point of using a phrase which was easily interpreted as suggesting the coalition’s policies were mainly Liberal Democrat ones, has not had the desired effect of making people respect us more because they used to think we were a fringe party but now they see us as part of government. Instead it has made us look like people who say one thing to get into power, but act completely differently once we are there – because it is inevitable that this government which is mainly Conservative is going to be pushing mainly Conservative rather than Liberal Democrats policies.

      Most people outside active political involvement have only a vague sense of how the parties balance out, and so are quite likely to think of the coalition as roughly equal Conservative-LibDem, partiularly when they see things like the Rosa Garden love-in. They are unlikely to grasp the argument that the presence of a significant number of MPs who are neither Labour, Conservative nor LibDem means we didn’t have a choice of opting for a coalition with Labour or a coalition with the Conservatives – only the latter was viable. So they see us as first of all having deliberately opted for a coalition with the Conservatives because we preferred their policies, and secondly as the current policies coming from the government being close to our ideal – how could they not see it that way when our leader in his conference speech portrayed the coalition as the Liberal Democrats having finally reached the goals we have been working for over so many decades?

      The balance after the 2010 general election ought to have let us off the hook of being accused of deliberately siding with the Conservatives. However, our leadership has just not taken advantage of that by using the line that there was no other viable option. Rather elements of it seem to have wanted to encourage the idea that it was an ideological coming together of Conservatives who had developed a bit of social liberalism (so long as it did not cost rich people anything) and Liberal Democrats who had “modernised” by ditching any economic views that were in contradiction to what we used to call “Thatcherism”. By deliberately using the tactic of exaggerating our influence, it has thrown away the possible defence line that can hardly be held to blame for this government’s policies when we do only have one sixth of its MPs.

      I’d much rather be thinking of cock-up than conspiracy, but when we’re seeing “sources close to the leader” flying the flag of “Oh, all those votes we used to get were just borrowed from Labour, we’re happy to see them go and somehow we’ll pick up more from economic right-wingers who we now call ‘liberal’ rather than ‘Thatcherite'”, one does start to wonder whether there has been a deliberate plot to destroy our party with active support from the top.

      This is why “support for the coalition” cannot be seen as the simple neutral question that it is being put here it should. It cannot be seen that way so long as the leadership wishes to use the fact of the coalition to push other things in the party which are much more than just an acceptance of the reality of the balance in the 2010 Parliament.

      Those of us who have looked through how it tends to work elsewhere know full well, and knew in May 2010, that a smallish party with rather spread out and weakly committed supporters which becomes a junior coalition partner almost always does very badly out of it. The sort of “kingmaker” third parties which people tend to raise up as what happens with coalitions are generally those who have a sort of concentrated tribalist support that isn’t going to go away because it isn’t interested in political ideology outside its own narrow obsessions – the Israeli religious parties are the classic example, but in the UK, the Ulster Unionists fit that bill, we don’t. Therefore our party should have played the game very defensively after the election – but it did the opposite, and we are suffering even more than we had to as a result.Playing the game defensively means we should have built in an escape route we could threaten to use, but instead our leaders have locked us in, so that even those of us most unhappy with where we are have to agree there isn’t an easy we we can get out of it right now. That might be expressed as “support for the coalition”, but it’s a far cry from how I think Stephen Tall wants it to be interpreted.

    • William Jones 6th Nov '12 - 10:04am

      How about publishing some of the comments on the question rather than bare statistics. There are lies, damn lies and statistics!

    • Michael Parsons 6th Nov '12 - 10:04am

      Support for the Coalition? Bye-bye LibDems?
      One risk is that those members who remain LSD will indeed be enthusiasts for a Tory Coalition. Then “Coalition Liberals” will emerge as a party like the old National Liberals did, as party to the 1930’s coalition with the Tories. The independent Liberal Party rump then collapsed after endless splits, leaving just 6 Liberal MP’s under Clement Davies by 1955. Their reforming drive was lost to post-war Labour; and the 15 re-elected “National liberals” completed the logic of their electoral pact with the Tories, gave up, and were absorbed by them after 1951.
      Shades of things to come?

    • William Jones 6th Nov '12 - 10:09am

      P.S., I know there are many members like me. Who support the coalition to sort out the economic mess and rebalance the economy but do not support our party pushing through a variety of policies that are very much from a Conservative agenda.

    • if we accept the two questions then the real issue is: what level of opinion is of concern?

      50% support for the coalition and 0% approval for government performance are the measuring bars I look at.

      So currently the leadership is safe, although the significant diference between the two levels indicate that members are unhappy because we don’t see that the leadership is winning enough arguments and how much better we need to do at communicating our successes. For example Tories are now trying to claim credit for raising income tax allowances after they stubbornly resisted!

    • David Allen 6th Nov '12 - 1:13pm

      Stephen Tall said:

      “I’m open to suggestions of wording for an additional question. However, it would need to avoid subjective terms such as ‘enthusiastic’ which mean different things to different people. That’s why most of our questions use value-neutral terms, such as support/oppose. ”

      Well, the so-called “need” not to use words like “enthusiastic” is pretty unconvincing. Let’s try a sincerity test. Given that there is a great deal of demand for a form of question that would allow more nuanced views to be expressed, how hard has LDV tried to find one?

      There is one obvious option which is very widely used in opinion surveys, and that is to offer “strongly agree” and “agree” as separate options, alongside “don’t know / no opinion”, “disagree” or “strongly disagree”. How is it that this obvious option, which clearly is not “subjective”, has been overlooked?

    • David Allen 6th Nov '12 - 1:37pm

      “Frankly, given the ordure that’s been poured over us … by Labour on the ground, I think it’s surprising we’re not a damn sight more tribal than we are.”

      Yawn, sigh. Perhaps the riposte should be that “frankly, given the ordure that we have poured over Labour, it’s surprising they’re not a damn sight more tribal than they are.”

      Who wins most elections in this country? The Tories do. Now why is that? Could it be because they concentrate on winning, they have rather better discipline, and they don’t persistently let petty squabbles wreck their chances?

    • @Paul Barker. Adam Moniz is spot on. Many ‘traditional’ and/or ‘radical’ LibDems are no longer in your Party. There is no doubt that the LibDem membership has lost the support if the brilliant Liberal ‘awkward squad’ as well as the ‘Lefties’ that were rather despised by Messrs Clegg, Laws, Alexander et al. So, the Liberal Democrats are increasingly viewed by the electorate as a Tory-ish, Safe, Uncontroversial sort of an outfit; no longer radical, and no longer united in any particular cause. Very sad, I can recall the magnificent Liberal stands; for example on Apartheid in South Africa.

    • As someone who remained a member despite being very unhappy indeed about the votes of (a minority of) MPs on tuition fees, my positive responses to both questions this time were influenced by (i) the principle that having lost half our supporters by joining the coalition we can’t risk losing the other half by abruptly abandoning it halfway and (ii) the dissatisfaction of so many rightwing Tory rebels must mean the coalition is getting something right.

    • Dean Clarke 9th Nov '12 - 7:35pm

      I would have voted against but have decided that there is little chance of the presently led party representing my Liberalism… so I have voted by withdrawing my subscription. I remain a Liberal but outside the Lib Dem Party

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