Exclusive survey results: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition so far

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

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 79% to 18%

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Changes since last time question asked, September 2014).

    79% (-1%) – Support
    18% (+1%) – 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 four-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 21 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 79%. The net support of +61% is the lowest since March 2013.

Clegg’s leadership: net +1% satisfied

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

    12% – Very satisfied
    37% – Satisfied
    Total satisfied = 49% (-1%)
    22% – Dissatisfied
    26% – Very dissatisfied
    Total dissatisfied = 48% (n/c)
    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

Satisfaction among members with Nick Clegg’s leadership of the party stands at a net +1%, his lowest rating since September 2013 — though the lowest figure we recorded was -2% in March 2013.

56% 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?

    56% (+2%) – The right course
    37% (+1%) – The wrong track
    7% (-3%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The overall net satisfaction rating of the Lib Dems according to party members stands at +19% – up 1% since September, but still down significantly on April’s +27%. In February 2012, the net satisfaction rating stood at whopping +49%: the month before the NHS Bill row. On the plus side, it’s a little way off the rock bottom +9% recorded in September 2012 after the collapse of Lords reform.

Net +26% approval rating for Coalition’s record

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

    58% (+2%) – Approve
    32% (=) – Disapprove
    10% (-2%) – Don’t know

Approval of the Coalition Government’s record has recovered a little since September: up from a net +24% to +26%. It’s still down considerably since April (+34%), though better than the +4% of September 2012.

76% want the Coalition to last well into 2015

When would you like the Coalition to end?

    13% (+4%) – As soon as possible
    8% (+3%) – It should end early in 2015
    39% (-2%) – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans
    37% (-3%) – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election
    3% (=) – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election
    1% (=) – Don’t know / No opinion

As you might expect, given the strong continuing overall support for sticking with the Coalition, three-quarters (76%) of party members actively want the Coalition to last well into 2015 — though there is a pretty even division on whether it should continue right up to the dissolution of parliament, or cease a decent interval beforehand to allow for full-on differentiation. Interestingly, there has been a 7% increase in the proportion of members wanting the Coalition to end immediately (13%) or within a couple of months (8%), probably reflecting the fact that the Coalition is in its final phase.

80% of party members expect Lib Dems to slip below 40 seats in 2015

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

    1% (-1%) – More than current 57 MPs
    2% (-4%) – Between 50 and 57 MPs
    13% (-8%) – Between 40 and 49 MPs
    43% (+6%) – Between 30 and 40 MPs
    37% (+7%) – Fewer than 30 MPs
    4% (=) – Don’t know

This is the seventh time we’ve asked this question. The first, in March 2013, 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 just 3%. In December 2013, a majority (52%) expected the party to hold at least 40 seats. Now four-fifths of Lib Dems (80%) expect the party to slip back below 40 seats in May 2015.

60% 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 = 1%
    2 = 4%
    3 = 14%
    4 = 12%
    5 = 8%
    Lacking influence = 39% (-1%)
    6 = 19%
    7 = 24%
    8 = 13%
    9 = 3%
    10 = 1%
    Achieving influence = 60% (=)

By a pretty solid 3:2 ratio Lib Dem members are more likely to rate the Lib Dems as achieving influence within the Coalition – the 60% taking a positive view is in line with our survey findings since March 2013. Party members, in the main, seem to be buying the idea the Lib Dems are making a real difference – the question is whether the voters will do so by May 2015.

  • 1,500+ Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 747 completed the latest survey, which was conducted between 22nd and 26th November.
  • 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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    40 Comments

    • 97% – the Coalition should NOT continue beyond the 2015 general election

      Stephen, without any spin, would this be just as accurate a statement ? as your —
      3% – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election

    • Paul In Wokingham 28th Nov '14 - 8:42am

      The “Do you support coalition with the Conservatives” gave me no choice but to say “Yes”. That isn’t because of any joy in the arrangement. It is because the electoral arithmetic would have made any other arrangement unsustainable and the country requires a stable government. The issue has been Mr. Clegg’s mismanagement of what should have been a cold, business-like relationship but all too often looked like the Dave and Nick love-in.

    • John – strict answer no! You’re making an assumption about the “Don’t know / No opinion”. Accurate answer would be 96% 🙂

    • Roland
      Good point — the only mystery is — who are the tiny handful, the 3% who want the Coalition to continue beyond May?

      Are we to assume that Clegg, Laws and Marshall spend their time filling in LDV Surveys ?

    • Adam Bernard 28th Nov '14 - 9:37am

      I am one of those that said in the survey that I supported coalition. I disagree wholeheartedly with the way that coalition has been managed, with new positions being adopted by the leadership on behalf of the party on the basis that the government position makes this expedient, and the leadership whipping to support the govt on matters neither agreed in the coalition agreement nor in line with party policy.
      And frankly Cabinet Collective Responsibility should’ve gone the same way as the right of the PM to call snap elections.

      If I thought that Clegg &c. had absorbed that this has been a problem and would conduct any new coalition agreements differently, I might take a modicum of comfort, but I do not.

    • John – “who are the tiny handful, the 3% who want the Coalition to continue beyond May?”

      I suspect that these are thinking ahead: what is the likely outcome of the May general election?
      1. Conservative majority
      2. Labour majority
      3. Hung – Conservative coalition possible
      4. Hung – Labour coalition possible
      5. Hung – No overall majority government possible
      and then what is the preferred LibDem option, I suggest a LibDem-Conservative coalition; whilst people may not like it, it is an arrangement we (and the electorate) know ‘works’.

    • I’m curious to know what the half who are satisfied with Clegg’s leadership would consider unsatisfactory performance.

      Ditto the just over half who think the party is on the right track. Just how far from established policy does the party have to stray and just how much electoral support does it have to loose?

    • @Roland – “the preferred LibDem option, I suggest a LibDem-Conservative coalition”. I for one would have been grateful if you had made that position clear prior to the last election. It would have certainly influenced how I voted, and a few others, including some ex LD councillors I know.

      However I have had five years to lean my lesson and won’t be making the same mistake again.

    • Helen Tedcastle 28th Nov '14 - 11:15am

      Roland
      ‘ I suggest a LibDem-Conservative coalition; whilst people may not like it, it is an arrangement we (and the electorate) know ‘works’.’

      You’re right, a lot of people don’t. The only reason the poll suggests members back the coalition is because it was the only show in town in 2010 and we thought we could stop their worst instincts. We may have stopped some things but one thing is for sure, the cuddly Tories of 2010 were a figment of fevered imaginations and rose garden love-ins.

      If forced to choose I would prefer a coalition with Labour but on the condition that Tristram Hunt and the Ultra-Blairites running their education policy were replaced by politicians who are not prepared to ape the Tories at every turn.

    • @Helen Tedcastle – Blairites don’t ape the Tories, they are Tories. And to think Ken Clarke was once regarded as hard right! I don’t think his position has changed much, it’s just the spectrum of British politics has drifted so far the wrong way that he now looks like he’s centre left.

    • Helen Tedcastle 28th Nov '14 - 11:45am

      JUF

      I couldn’t agree more. The tone, rhetoric and overall zeitgeist in England, is far too right-wing. Ken Clarke is now such a dangerous leftie, he has be ‘retired’ by Cameron. As for Labour – the likes of Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umuna and the other Blairites only get excited when they’re attacking the Tories from the right or triangulating – in usual Blairite fashion.

    • “who are the tiny handful, the 3% who want the Coalition to continue beyond May?”

      I’d say they were the logical thinkers. The great majority of those polled seem to think that the Coalition can be allowed to continue until, or even during, the final stages of the Election campaign. That campaign, we know, will be based on defending the record of the Coalition and appealing to “soft Tories” for their support. Those who are willing to go along with this approach, and yet deny that its aim is to maintain the Cleggite alliance with the Conservatives in perpetuity, are simply deluding themselves.

    • Daniel Henry 28th Nov '14 - 12:05pm

      I fully agree with Bernard which is why I have always voted on these things that we should be on coalition, but then voted that the party is on the “wrong track” for how badly we’re performing within the coalition.

      I also agree very much with what Helen said for Labour education policy! 🙂

    • Daniel Henry 28th Nov '14 - 12:25pm

      I mean Adam… Sorry Adam, didn’t mean to call you by your surname!

      (it’s times like this when I wish LDV allowed edits!)

    • Jonathan Davies 28th Nov '14 - 12:34pm

      John Tilley and Roland are misinterpreting the result of the How Long should the Coalition last question.

      The current coalition should and inevitably will end at the General Election (if not before). But that leaves open the question whether the Party should enter a new coalition after the Election. That question wasn’t asked. My own view is it depends on the result and the manifestos and red lines of possible coalition partners

    • Jonathan Pile 28th Nov '14 - 12:36pm

      This shows that the party is split on Clegg, with growing creeping disatisfaction. It shows all but a tiny minority think we will lose a significant number of MPs at 2015, It shows that even LDV members are now shaky on plan Clegg. Despite this the majority of party stands by keeping our word and finishing the coalition to the end. Is this really a strong offering to put before the public in 2015? We need to reconnect with our 2010 voters. What did they expect from us? What would bring them back? – First Step – Show we are sorry about the mistakes and broken promises by sacking Nick Clegg. Second look at the policy areas where coalition policy creep has introduced conservative policies which weren’t in the 2010 manifesto like HS2. Thirdly use the £60 billion from scrapping HS2 to truly scrap tuition fees and wipe student debt.

    • It’s astonishing to think that we had a general election in which the Lib Dems got 2 votes for every 3 who supported the Tories. The result was a cabinet in which the Lib Dems got 5 members out of nearly 30 and were running none of the major offices of state or big spending departments like Health, Education, DWP or Defence. What on earth were they thinking? It’s almost as if the LD leadership didn’t want too many Lib Dems in there………

      Still if the government was going to be dominated by Tories at least it was those cuddly Cameroons not the nasty sort. Only it turned out the quiet man IDS was back and the Cameroons revealed their true colours as Thatcherites for gay marriage.

    • Peter Watson 28th Nov '14 - 2:20pm

      @Paul Walter “Nick Clegg is a great leader and it would be most unwise to ditch him this side of May next year.”
      And the other side of May … ?

    • Jonathan – I’m not sure if I am misinterpreting the result, merely trying to shed some light on the thinking behind a particular group of respondents. I would agree that the current formal coalition agreement expires in May 2015, however, I suspect that some aren’t limiting their thinking about “the coalition” to simply the written content of the formal agreement. Perhaps there is some work in determining whether some people are confusing “the coalition” (as defined by the 2010 agreement) with “a coalition”?

    • David Evans 28th Nov '14 - 2:39pm

      Paul, Nick has been a disastrous leader and if he continues to refuse to take responsibility for the mess he has made of Liberal Democracy, we will pay massively in May. The only chance to start to turn things around is if our MPs get him to go and go quickly. We are down to 6% in Camborne and Redruth. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    • Paul Walter – My earlier comment on this thread asked what would constitute unsatisfactory leadership by Clegg. No-one has seen fit to explain so I remain as mystified as ever. Since you say that, “Nick Clegg is a great leader” perhaps you could enlighten me. In what way is he a great leader? And what would you consider to constitute poor leadership of a political party?

    • Paul Walter 28th Nov ’14 – 2:14pm
      “….Some may not support us in a month of Sundays…..We’re a political party, not a Sunday school outing. ”

      Paul is correct, knowing what we know now, nobody would entrust anything as important as a Sunday School outing to Nick Clegg.

    • David Allen 28th Nov '14 - 7:22pm

      The only argument for not ditching Clegg this side of May, is that the person putting that argument would wish to retain Clegg well beyond the other side of May.

      The only argument for retaining Clegg well beyond the other side of May, is that he will make sure the Party maintains its current positioning as “Soft Tories”.

    • Bill Chapman 28th Nov '14 - 9:49pm

      “Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 79% to 18%”. This is VERY, VERY bad news, because it means that most party members are out of touch with the popular mood in this nation. If the figures had been reversed, there might be some hope.

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Nov '14 - 10:29pm

      Paul in Wokingham

      The “Do you support coalition with the Conservatives” gave me no choice but to say “Yes”. That isn’t because of any joy in the arrangement. It is because the electoral arithmetic would have made any other arrangement unsustainable and the country requires a stable government.

      The problem is that while you might interpret “Do you support coalition with the Conservatives?” as meaning “Do you accept that the electoral arithmetic meant we had no other option?”, the general public seem to be interpreting it as meaning “Do you believe everything done be this government is wonderful, and that it is a really good government whose policies you wholeheartedly support?”.

      It is fairly obvious that Labour and Labour supporters would push it to be seen that way. That is why we should have been careful from the start to put up our defences. Anyone who knows how Labour works when they lose, ought to have realised that is what they would do. Instead our leader seems to have gone the other way, done all he could to help make these unfair Labour attacks effective. The man is useless, he has to go.

    • Matt (Bristol) 28th Nov '14 - 10:32pm

      I am intrigued by how people differentiate between ‘leaving the coalition early next year’ and ‘leaving the coalition shortly before the general election’ — since with a May election, both could (arguably) be taken to mean March, the categories elide into each other.

      It would be interesting to know what would happen if you asked the more specific question, ‘should the LibDems still be on the government benches for George Osbourne’s 2015 Budget?’

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Nov '14 - 10:36pm

      FrankBooth

      the Cameroons revealed their true colours as Thatcherites for gay marriage.

      No, they are far to the right of where Margaret Thatcher was economically. Anyone who thought otherwise just wasn’t paying attention. There was absolutely nothing about Cameron and those surrounding him which suggested that they would in any way reverse the move to the hard economic right that the Conservatives have taken since 1979. The “liberal” side of Cameron was only on those aspects were there was no conflict with the far right economics. so, gay marriage and, er, well gay marriage.

      The sad thing is, our party seems to be getting taken over by people, both those surrounding its leader at the top, and the only new recruits we seem to be attracting, by people who think liberalism=”Thatcherism+gay marriage”.

    • But who on earth are these 79%? Most people here want to exit the coalition sharpish, eve if many of us originally supported the idea of coalition.

    • There were 12 local government by elections on Thursday in which just over 18,000 people voted. Just 305 voted Lib Dem – less than six times the amount a single independent candidate got in Orkney – who just happened to be dead.

      There’s a lesson for the Clegg bunker in there methinks.

    • It is very disappointing to see that 49% of the party is satisfied with Nick Clegg as leader and 56% say the party is on the right course. This is proof that the party doesn’t really want to get rid of him. It is even a little surprising when 80% expect us to have fewer than 40 MPs after the general election. With regard to the coalition continuing, another way of looking at the figures is to say 60% want the coalition to end before the general election.

      @ Paul Walter
      “Nick Clegg is a great leader and it would be most unwise to ditch him this side of May next year.”
      To be a great leader of a political party that person should work to keep the party together. Nick has failed, some people believe he wanted to drive some members out. I don’t believe anyone would say that Asquith, Lloyd George or Peel were great leaders of their political parties even if they believed they were great Prime Ministers. For someone to be a great leader of the Liberal Democrats he needs to accept that Federal Conference is the sovereign body of the party and act on it. Nick has failed to do this.

      “He’s been an excellent DPM.”
      I disagree. An excellent DPM would perform well at PMQ and I am not convinced he has. An excellent DPM wouldn’t sign off NHS reform and then back track on it.
      An excellent DPM would manage those items he was responsible for much better than Nick has.

      When Paul Walter replies to GF please can he also point out where Nick has been a successful minister in this government?

    • Nick Collins 29th Nov '14 - 9:17am

      ” An excellent DPM”? Compared with whom: Willie Whitelaw; John Prescott?

      DPM is pretty much a non-job, is it not?

    • Paul In Wokingham 29th Nov '14 - 9:45am

      “An excellent DPM”. Hmm…

      Did anyone else watch “I’m a celebrity” last night? Ant and Dec suggested that Nick Clegg will have nothing much to do this time next year and with a wink and a smile they offered him the chance to be on next year’s show. They actually produced a T-shirt of the sort worn by all the contestants with “Cleggy” written on the back.

      The whole “Lib Dems are irrelevant” meme has now been internalized by the “I’m a celeb” audience.

    • “For some one to be a great leader of the Liberal Democrats he needs to accept that Federal Conference is the sovereign body of the party and act on it”.

      By that criterion we have not yet had a great leader and maybe never will. All political leaders need a certain amount of elbow room in their relationship with the recognised representative bodies within their particular political parties, and a better formulation of Amalric’s proposition might be that a great leader of our party should have a proper regard for decisions by Federal Conference.

      As for Nick, Liberal Democrats are fond of plucking historical comparisons from our Liberal past, and I would judge that as a leader he most resembles Lord John Russell – intelligent, diligent, personable, keen (perhaps over-keen) on constitutional reform, prone to serious errors of judgement (Russell was widely critised for his misguided campaign against “Papal Aggression”, and over his ambivalent attitude to the Crimean War), and not always in tune with the concerns of his party’s rank and file, but nonetheless a committed Whig/Liberal and not fazed by political adversity.

    • Tony Rowan-Wicks 29th Nov '14 - 10:44am

      Whilst largely agreeing with Helen Tedcastle, I suspect a grand coalition of Lab-Cons is the possible outcome in a hung parliament – leaving small parties out of the mix – hopefully a short-lived coalition not the full 5 years – so we can see how ‘wet’ the Lab members really are. The period of years would allow the smaller parties to develop individually or re-group for an expected change in Britain by 2020.

      If Labour can form a coalition with SNP, Plaid, Greens and LDs I would expect a more left-leaning and social government – more to my liking. Maybe Ed Miliband is the sort of leader to join people in such a mix.

      In my opinion, the worst horror is a Tory-UKIP-DUP government of the right – particulrly difficult to estimate as UKIP policies on everything are still developing daily – not good in an uncertain world which lies ahead. If N. Clegg was to join this grouping it would most likely spell oblivion for a future LD party. I don’t see how we could survive as a party in such an agreement – but NC might become a recognised Tory.

    • Stevan Rose 29th Nov '14 - 3:18pm

      “97% – the Coalition should NOT continue beyond the 2015 general election”

      No, that’s not what it’s saying. I said I wanted the coalition to end early next year, so there is an opportunity to show the Lib Dems as ain independent entity. But if the maths are similar post-election I would support another coalition, as would I suspect the majority of the 79% who support it currently. As long as UKIP and the DUP are not involved. UKIP are popularist and without principles but the DUP are outright dangerous. Left-Right coalitions work elsewhere so Con-LD-Nat-Green is not impossible. Next time though, red lines that must not be crossed must be understood. If it isn’t in the agreement it is a free vote on party lines.

      I am genuinely shocked at how many people think Clegg is doing a satisfactory job in the light of recent performances. Loyalty is one thing but the point of a political party is to win votes otherwise you have no influence in implementing your policies.

    • Peter Chambers 30th Nov '14 - 1:31pm

      Putting country before party.

      The poll really offers three choices: leave Coalition soon, in early 2015, or hold on as long as possible.

      Leaving Coalition soon may be seen as switching to putting party before country. The early 2015 options are not well differentiated and may be read as doing what was promised for stable government. Staying in Coalition beyond what was promised seems a statement of continuing alliance, with only 3% support.

      So, do we lose more support by breaking a promise to enable stable government ‘over the lifetime of a parliament’ or do we lose more by ‘propping up a failed Tory-led government’?

      Is it worth waiting until the New Year and then saying that we have enabled stable government over the substantial life of the parliament, and then the party setting out new plans?

      Leaving ‘as soon as possible’ may seem attractive given the polls, but is sure to be taken up by the media as one more broken promise.

    • It’s not “putting country before party” when your actions damage the country in pursuit of political advantage, even if that advantage is obviously specious. That is, simply being a failure at politics isn’t proof of one’s selfless and benevolent intentions!

    • @ Hugh p

      I would have thought that wanting to work within the constitution and recognise that the Federal Conference is the sovereign body of the party is a must for the party leader unless he is elected after campaigning to change who the sovereign body is. I think Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy in his early years as leader recognised this.

    • Matthew,
      A lot of Lib Dems support came from groups like students, the disabled and from people who tended towards a left leaning view. The vote was never going to hold up in this coalition. Labour have little to do with it and are probably no more hostile the Tory press. This was simply a never a popular government. The drop off in the vote was obvious from day one and has been exasperated by policies that disproportionately hit people who were voting Lib Dem. Plus smaller Parties always loose support in coalitions. What has happened is very simple. A lot of people who voted Lib Dem don’t support the policies of the coalition and have moved elsewhere. Some have gone to Labour, some to the Greens and a few to UKIP. IMO the size of the Left wing Lib Dem vote was massively underestimated.

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