Do Lib Dem members think the Coalition will collapse early? And what the public thinks about Nick Clegg…

Channel 4 News has conducted an interesting YouGov poll surveying former and current Lib Dem members about their views on the Coalition. Their political editor Gary Gibbon gives the skinny on his blog:

We have a YouGov poll, taken from 396 Lib Dem members and 118 former members, on the programme tonight. It found that 52% of (396) members sampled thought the coalition wouldn’t run the full five years, though 63% thought it should. The poll suggests 35% think Nick Clegg shouldn’t lead the party into the next election (against 45% saying he should) – worth remembering he only won the leadership election narrowly. The membership splits 50/50 on whether the Deputy Prime Minister is performing well or badly. Interestingly, on policy issues, 73% of the party members YouGov polled think that the Coalition is handling the NHS badly (that’s a similar figure to the 77% who think the government handled tuition fees badly and way above any other policy area in the disapproval stakes).

A little naughtily, though, Channel 4 News led on a seemingly more sensational finding: Exclusive: a YouGov poll for Channel 4 News finds more than half of Lib Dem supporters believe the Coalition will collapse before a general election.

When I first saw this, I was surprised. One of the most consistent findings from our own surveys of Lib Dem members has been the confidence in the Coalition lasting til 2015: in our last two surveys of 500+ members 72% each time have said it will last the full five years.

But then I looked at the options offered to Lib Dem members by YouGov, and the breakdown shows that 42% think it will last the full five years, and 33% think the Coalition will ‘end just before the 2015 election’. That last option seems to me a false choice: what does ‘just before’ mean, and would it be by mutual consent of both the Lib Dems and Tories?

The finding doesn’t seem to justify Channel 4’s spin of Lib Dem members thinking the Coalition will ‘collapse’. The most that can be claimed is that some 75% of current and former party members believe the Coalition will continue for at least another three-and-a-half years.

Public views on Nick Clegg

On satisfaction (or not) with Nick Clegg, by the way, I was interested in this slide from Ipsos-Mori, who’ve just conducted a poll, The Coalition’s First Year: the public’s verdict.

What’s interesting about it is that it separates out public perceptions of party from those for the leader: it’s quite possible to (dis)like a politician because of their party label, or in spite of it. Most polls about how the public rate political leaders ask something along the lines, ‘How do you think X is doing in their job as leader of Y’ — which mixes up what respondents think of Person X and Party Y.

What the Ipsos-Mori findings show is that Nick Clegg is overall better liked than Ed Miliband, but less well-liked than David Cameron. Perhaps more importantly when judging his effectiveness as party leader, the poll indicates Nick is liked just as much as the party. In contrast, Labour is liked more than Ed Miliband, but David Cameron is liked more than the Tories.

That 51% of the public now likes neither Nick Clegg nor the party is an odd position for Lib Dems to be in: we have grown used over the years to being generally liked by most people, in part because of what we stand for, but also in part because we’ve never had the power to do things that either seriously pleases or antagonises the public. Now that we are in government, the public is taking a stance.

Overall, I think the poll’s findings back up the view I’ve expressed here before — that the Labour/media line that Nick Clegg is universally unpopular isn’t backed up by the evidence.

What is more the case, I think, is that he is divisive in a way that’s unusual for Lib Dem leaders: there is deep antipathy to him among staunch Labour voters, and some current and former Lib Dems; he remains generally popular among moderate Tories and at least half Lib Dem voters.

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14 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 12th May '11 - 9:30am

    “Nick Clegg is overall better liked than Ed Miliband, but less well-liked than David Cameron. ”

    This is a totally irrelevant and meaningless statistic. Who cares if members of the blue rinse brigade think Miliband is atrocious and Nick is cuddly? Or if Trots despise Cameron?

    The only group worth considering regarding considerations of perceptions of (a) our party and (b) our Leader are those who we canvass as ‘Probs(S) and ‘Soft Labour’. My daughter, a Party Member till last year has a view of our Leader which is unrepeatable and hers is the nicest among those of her friends at Uni.

  • Tony – because most members of the public are neither blue rinse nor Trots, but on the centre left/centre/centre right, and thus potential Lib Dem voters.

  • Also worth noting the Times/Populus poll (published May 10) which asked respondents to select the three words/phrases that they thought most applied to each leader.

    For Clegg, the most common were: Out of his depth (50%), Weak (35%) and Out of touch (24%) – followed by Likeable (21%), Indecisive (19%), Dishonest (17%) and Doesn’t listen (17%). I’d suggest 17% is not high for “dishonest,” and runs totally counter to the myth – as Stephen says, the unpopularity myth just isn’t backed up by the evidence.

    (Cameron’s top three were “Determined, Arrogant, Smug – none of which Clegg scored highly on. Miliband’s were “Out of his depth, Weak, Smug”.)

  • To be quite honest, what Lib Dem members think about how long the Coalition will last is less relevant than what Conservative members think. Whatever polls say, the stark reality is that the Conservatives came out of the last set of elections strong, and Cameron had his position seriously strengthened. The opposite is true of the Lib Dems and their leader. Ed M probably consolidated, but no more.

    At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much call for a snap election (in public at least). But I do wonder how long is will be before the Conservatives start to see the Lib Dems as weighing them down. To an extent, poor mid-term results are not a problem. But with the Conservatives doing well I really don’t think it can go on like this for four more years because quite frankly at the moment the Conservative Party’s good will is rather more importan than poll figures.

  • I actually did this YouGov poll, and listed myself as a former member (although I’m still a member) as if you declare Lib Dem membership you don’t get asked to do political opinion surveys.

    I chose the “just before” option on the length of the coalition, on the basis that just before the next election the party will by necessity go to campaigning as a separate entity.

  • @Tabman I actually did this YouGov poll, and listed myself as a former member (although I’m still a member) as if you declare Lib Dem membership you don’t get asked to do political opinion surveys.

    I chose the “just before” option on the length of the coalition, on the basis that just before the next election the party will by necessity go to campaigning as a separate entity.

    Brilliant. A Lib Dem lying on an opinion poll. Could it be possible that these polls are overestimating support if other Lib Dem members are acting like Tabman?

  • it depends on the economy and whether or not the Lib Dems can carry their voters. It also depends on whether or not the coalition still looks attractive to the Conservative Party.
    My instinct tells me that as the economy continues to falter the pressure will grow, bad election results will take their toll too. in short a Coalition in The National interest that is also a marriage of convenience can’t survive if it doesn’t deliver either a better economic results or votes.

  • Tony Dawson 12th May '11 - 7:37pm

    “the Times/Populus poll (published May 10) which asked respondents to select the three words/phrases that they thought most applied to each leader.”

    Such a silly thing to do. And silly to take much note of the results.

    Far more sensible would be a true/false (including shades of ‘strongly agree/disagr’ee if you like) on each ‘leader’ for each indicator. Just because an issue is not one of the top three, does not mean it is not strongly-held in a substantial set of the public.

    I am sure that lots of people think that Nick Clegg is Likeable, Out of his depth , Weak, Out of touch, Indecisive AND Dishonest whether or not they think he doesn’t listen.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th May '11 - 8:01pm

    Could it be possible that these polls are overestimating support if other Lib Dem members are acting like Tabman?

    Well, put it this way: there’s been hints in the past that Labour are doing it. Perhaps the more important question is:

    You want us to trust a Lib Dem Voice poll more than a YouGov survey?

    You want us to trust a YouGov survey more than a list of random numbers?

    They’re so riddled with flaws these days that I’m amazed anybody pays any attention. Methodology flaws aside, they’re being lied to by quite a few of their users.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    Your argument is that your hated Labour party might be doing it (with no evidence) so that makes it OK for a Lib Dem member to act the same?

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