EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition as it enters its 4th full year

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. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

(All comparisons are with our most recent survey conducted in March 2013.)

61% 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?

    61% (+3%) – The right course

    31% (-2%) The wrong track

    8% (-1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

There’s been a slight uptake in overall satisfaction with the Lib Dems’ direction, but well within the margin of error. At +30% this is the highest net figure since June 2012. It’s a long way off the +49% of February 2012, though: the month before the NHS Bill row.

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 80% to 14%

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

    80% (+2%) – Support

    14% (-4%) – Oppose

    5% (+1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

No matter what the travails of the Coalition — and there have been plenty in the past three years — the high support for the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives has barely shifted. We’ve asked this tracker question 16 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 stuck right in the middle of those, at 80%. Opposition to the Coalition, which had edged up to the 18-21% range over the past year, drops to 14%. The net figure of +66% is also the highest since the NHS Bill row.

Net +25% approval rating for Coalition’s record

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

    57% (+5%) – Approve

    32% (-6%) – Disapprove

    10% (n/c) – Don’t know

There seems to be a small but noticeable shift in approval for the Coalition’s record: the net +25% approval rating is the highest since June 2012 (+28%).

91% 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)?

    6% (-1%) – More than current 57 MPs

    20% (-1%) – Between 50 and 57 MPs

    33% (+5%) – Between 40 and 49 MPs

    26% (-1%) – Between 30 and 40 MPs

    12% (-1%) – Fewer than 30 MPs

    3% (-3%) – Don’t know

This is the second time we’ve asked this question. The first, in March, was immediately after the Lib Dems’ valiant hold in the Eastleigh by-election. However, there hasn’t been much shift in expectations, though perhaps with some consolidation towards expecting the party to win between 40 and 50 MPs in 2015.

In total, 59% of party members expect to see at least 40 Lib Dem MPs returned at the next election; 38% expect us to have fewer than 40 MPs.

And 91% expect the Coalition to last until 2015

How long do you expect the coalition government will last?

    0% (-1%) – It will end in 2013

    6% (-6%) – It will end in 2014

    91% (+6%) – It will last the full term, until 2015

    2% (n/c) – Don’t know

A decisive result: over 90% of Lib Dem members expect the Coalition to last a full term, into 2015, while just 6% tink it will end sooner. A year ago, in August 2013, the equivalent figure was 75%, with 22% expecting it to end prematurely. But what people expect and what they want can differ, so we asked the next question, too…

With 81% wanting the Coalition to continue into 2015

When would you like the Coalition to end?

    10% (-1%) – As soon as possible

    2% (n/c) – It should end some time later in 2013

    7% (-3%) – It should end in 2014

    37% (n/c) – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans

    40% (+4%) – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election

    4% (n/c) – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election

    1% (n/c) – Don’t know

Given the high overall support for continuing the Coalition it’s not much of a surprise similar proportions are evident here: in total 19% of Lib Dem members would like the Coalition to end prematurely. There is more or less even split over whether the Coalition should continue right up to May 2015 (40%), or whether it should finish earlier to allow full and frank differentiation (37%). The disruption to running government, combined with the evident desire of Nick Clegg to show the Coalition can provide a full five years’ government, means that latter option is likely to remain untested.

6-in-10 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 = 1%
    2 = 5%
    3 = 17%
    4 = 9%
    5 = 8%
    Lacking influence = 40% (-2%)
    6 = 20%
    7 = 25%
    8 = 12%
    9 = 2%
    10 = 1%
    Achieving influence = 60% (+3%)

We’ve been asking this question for 18 months now: it’s the one I think is perhaps most interesting because it shows the array of opinion among Lib Dem members about the Coalition. You can see the hard-core of Coalition sceptics in the 1-3 range (23%) as well as the hardcore Coalition fans at 8-10 (15%). The majority of Lib Dem members lie somewhere in the middle, in the 4-7 range (62%), with a decisive edge towards those who think the party is achieving at least something by being in Government.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • 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 was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    21 Comments

    • I just can’t believe it. It would be instructive to see similar polls of Lib Dem members at the time of the 2010 election, or more starkly, at the time of the 2005 election. But, oh sorry, those were the people Nick Clegg wanted out of the Party. Well, Nick, you can be happy that many of them have gone now. I write as someone who took part in this poll.

    • Martin Caffrey 12th Aug '13 - 8:36am

      I think you should have asked REAL people, for example the full time worker, the zero hour worker, the unemployed, the disabled, the metally ill, the people affected by the Bedroom Subsidy and the single mother. These people can all be found in my three local pubs I regularly visit, although I don’t drink alcohol. I’m sure the data would be rather different!

    • Andrew Emmerson 12th Aug '13 - 8:57am

      Martin,

      These quetions are regularly asked by pollsters – proffesional ones. This is a poll for LD members … see how it works yet?

    • Simon McGrath 12th Aug '13 - 12:53pm

      @Martin – all the polls shows that amongt voters the benefit changes are one of the most popular Coalition policies. That doesnt make them right, but it is nonsense to say they are unpopular.

    • A Social Liberal 12th Aug '13 - 1:33pm

      Andrew

      with respect, this is not a poll for LD members, just those who regularly visit LDV. Why do you think that this poll is not asked at conference, where there would be a greater representation. Why do you think that a letter isn’t sent to all Lib Dem members asking them to register with LDV and join in the polling?

      LDV do not want a poll of LD members, they want a poll of LDV members.

    • Helen Tedcastle 12th Aug '13 - 1:46pm

      “LDV do not want a poll of LD members, they want a poll of LDV members.”

      Quite. This is poll of members of the forum, not those who comment on the public site, not members in the country. Therefore, one can deduce that most forum members like the coalition and want it to continue. Big deal.

    • If 61% of forum members think that the Liberal Democrats are on the right course, and 91% of members think that the party will lose seats in the coming election, one can therefore fairly deduce that approximately 56% of members think that the right track for Liberal Democrats consists of disastrously losing the next election.

      Perhaps this is the result of taking a long term view — perhaps the best thing for the Liberal Democrats would be to lose the election, get out of coalition, patch up their wounds and move on to reconstructing themselves at the local level? — but given that 80% back the coalition, I think a more realistic conclusion is that 56% of respondents are barking mad.

    • Graham Evans 12th Aug '13 - 3:01pm

      I do not know if it is possible, but it would be interesting to see an analysis of the contributions to LDV from those who broadly favour and those who broadly oppose the Coalition, because my general impression is that the opponents are in a clear majority. And yet these same opponents now suggest that the poll by LDV members is not representative of the Party, because it suggests much stronger support for the Coalition than anyone would believe from reading the open threads on LDV or reading the closed threads on the forum. I accept that the poll may not be representative of the activists, but activists of all parties tend to have more extreme (or let us say fixed) views than members, and members often more fixed views than the electorate in general.

    • Alisdair McGregor 12th Aug '13 - 3:42pm

      @A Social Liberal
      ” Why do you think that this poll is not asked at conference, where there would be a greater representation.”

      Conference is even more self-selecting than the LDV readership is.

    • paul barker 12th Aug '13 - 4:20pm

      There is a simpler explanation for why the balance of LDV polls dont match the comments – comments on any blog usually over-represent those people with most extreme views because they feel more strongly. If you look through the range of results its often the case that the strongly approve/dissapprove figures point the opposite way to the merely approve/dissapprove ones.
      The same thing happens with any contreversial issues, if you relied only on comment columns you would think that most voters hold extreme positions, those who feel most strongly make the most noise.

    • @ David

      Therefore it could be said between 19 and 23 % think the coalition is the right thing to do but are not happy with what it is doing. Also the 91% could be said to be realistic because most political parties lose seats when in government. They are not “barking mad” as implied by David.

    • Martin Caffrey 13th Aug '13 - 4:37am

      @Simon – who did you poll, just Libdems or did you poll BNP and EDL members? And what aboutDaily Mail readers?

      When the voters find out that some people probably get more benefits because of the bedroom subsidy, what will the polls be like then? Lol, they’ve just been brainwashed by IDS and Channel 4’s ‘Shameless’.

      And when I say more, let me give you an example: single man in council flat, with two bedrooms, gets a council letter saying he has to pay 14% of housing benefit. His rent is £75 p/w. So over a year that’s £546 per year he has to find, that could be spent on food. Or a asbestos removal course perhaps, to get back into employment. However if he moves into a private sector one-bed flat costing £92.50 p/w then this is all paid for by housing benefit. The total is an EXTRA £910
      paid in housing benefit.

      one-bed flat at a cost of £112.50

    • Martin Caffrey 13th Aug '13 - 4:40am

      Ignore the last line??? I’m typing from a Galaxy S3.

    • @Amalric — my comment wasn’t about whether the Coalition was good, bad, or indifferent; in fact, it was not specifically about the coalition at all, except as a means of interpreting the results. It was about the inconsistency of thinking that one’s party is “on the right course” while knowing that said course leads to a halving of its representation in Parliament.
      Perhaps I make my error in thinking that party members want their party to win elections. If not, then perhaps respondents interpreted the “right course”/”wrong track” question as having the meaning “do you feel good about the party?” or “do you like the Liberal Democrats?” But if so many respondents so drastically misinterpreted the meaning of the question, then the results, of course, have no validity whatsoever.

    • A significant part of thinking about whether a course is the right one, is to evaluate the alternatives. @David I think that this probaly contains the answer to your question?

    • Not really, @Ian — though I can understand an unwillingness to admit that, from certain places, all courses may be wrong ones.

    • John Whitney 13th Aug '13 - 8:44pm

      Unfortunately the the survey reflects badly on the state of the Party.
      Of course, the true social democrates have left the Lib Dems and rejoined the Labour Party.

      God help us and the UK!

      JW
      Norwich South

    • @ David

      “Perhaps I make my error in thinking that party members want their party to win elections.”

      Yes. “The right course” I would expect would be interpreted as doing what is right that is being in government. I thought that was clear from my post. It is not about doing what would win seats. The normal cost of being in government (which members surveyed think is the right course) is that you lose MPs at the next election.

    • @David Really it’s not that difficult.

      A deal with Labour was mathematically almost impossible, key senior Labourites didn’t want it, would have been hugely unpopular (a defending Gvt had polled just 29% of the vote) and would have led us into just as much if not more political difficulty than is presented by the current situation. As an arrangement to rescue us from the economic crisis it would have had less credibility and coherence and would clearly have been the wrong outcome for the country, notwithstanding any long-term common interest we might have with Labour as so-called ‘progressive’ parties (and leaving aside the fact that the sort of society Labour had been ‘progressing’ towards is not one in which I would choose to live).

      A supply and confidence/minority Tory Gvt would have had a worse policy programme and very likely led to a second election and majority Tory Gvt by now. And more instability and uncertainty meanwhile; bad for the country.

      Walking away from a once-in-a-generation (actually an historical over-estimate) opportunity to participate in government would have handed our opponents an enduring “what’s the point” card, made us look ridiculous to the public, probably led to another election and a Tory Gvt as above, and left the entire party agonising over the “what if…” question for the next forty years. Plus uncertainty and instability as above.

      In coalition we have played a lot of our cards right – the fixed term parliament act, the focus on tax cuts for the lower paid, and all the things the Tories would have done that haven’t happened under a coalition (cf Mr Pack’s infographic). We have played the issue of political reform badly, as we all know. And the biggest concern of all is that we are beginning to be sucked back into the “keep an artificial boom going at all costs and hope the parcel explodes in the hands of the next guy” trap that befell the previous government, and exemplifies why the whole British political-corporate system is basically broken and unfit for purpose.

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