LDV survey: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition’s economic policies, housing benefit, and the CSR

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of the contest for the party presidency, the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results over the next few days.

What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition’s economic policies

Which of these statements comes closest to your opinion about how the Coalition should go about reducing the deficit?

    45% – It is important to cut spending quickly even if this means immediate job losses, because it will be better for the economy in the long term 26.67 18.32
    44% – It is better to cut spending more slowly, to reduce the impact on public services and the economy 21.39 23.10
    11% – Don’t know / No opinion 4.93 5.57

Interestingly, this question produced a clear divide between the sexes, with a small but clear majority of men opting for the ‘cut quickly’ approach, and a smaller but still clear majority of women opting for the ‘cut slowly’ approach.

On balance, do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s economy”?

    66% – I agree
    15% – I disagree
    19% – Don’t know / No opinion

On balance, do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s public services”?

    35% – I agree
    38% – I disagree
    27% – Don’t know / No opinion

An interesting pair of responses: a clear majority of members agree that the Coalition’s policies are the right thing for the health of the British economy; however, members are much more evenly split on whether the Coalition’s policies will work to the long-term good of our public services, with a narrow plurality feeling they won’t.

Proposed housing benefit reforms

The Coalition government has proposed that there should be a cap of £400 a week (around £20,000 a year) on the amount of housing benefit anyone can claim. Some people have said that these changes would be unfair on poorer people living in high-rent areas like central London and would lead to tens of thousands of people losing their homes. Other people have said that it is unfair that people on benefit should be given more money to spend on rent than many people in full-time work can afford. Do you support or oppose the proposed cap on housing benefit?

    71% – Support
    21% – Oppose
    8% – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net support: +50%

There’s no doubt that Lib Dem members are generally behind the proposed housing benefit cap. Indeed, the results here are very similar to the general public’s attitudes according to YouGov’s findings.

The Comprehensive Spending Review

In the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Coalition announced its plans for spending cuts to reduce the national deficit. From what you know, do you think the government has on the whole made the right decisions or the wrong decisions about where spending cuts should be made?

    64% – Right decisions
    24% – Wrong decisions
    12% – Don’t know / No opinion

In the main, therefore, party members are behind the Coalition’s cuts and spending decision, with two-thirds believing them to be right on the whole. However, there is some significant opposition, with one-quarter of all members thinking the CSR was wrong. When polling company Ipsos-Mori asked exactly the same question of the public at large the split was: 41% right, 38% wrong, 21% don’t know.

And now onto some of the individual proposals…


We then asked about some of the more controversial individual measures in the CSR asking if members support or oppose the following actions to reduce the deficit…
(ordered in descending order of net support)

No major spending on replacing Trident will be committed until after next election:

    70% – Strongly Support
    26% – Support
    2% – No View
    1% – Oppose
    1% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +94%

Limit to £50,000 a year the amount on which people can claim tax relief on their pensions:

    54% – Strongly Support
    35% – Support
    8% – No View
    3% – Oppose
    1% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +85%

Increase the state pension age for men and women to 66 by 2020:

    40% – Strongly Support
    46% – Support
    6% – No View
    6% – Oppose
    2% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +78%

End child benefit for people who earn over £44,000:

    46% – Strongly Support
    37% – Support
    2% – No View
    10% – Oppose
    5% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +68%

Reduce the number of public sector jobs by 490,000 by 2015:

    11% – Strongly Support
    48% – Support
    14% – No View
    18% – Oppose
    7% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +34%

Reduce spending on welfare, such as benefits and jobseekers allowance, by £7bn by 2015:

    10% – Strongly Support
    43% – Support
    11% – No View
    26% – Oppose
    10%- Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +17%

Reduce spending on policing by 4% every year until 2015:

    7% – Strongly Support
    40% – Support
    21% – No View
    27% – Oppose
    5% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +15%

Retaining winter fuel payments, free TV licenses and concessionary bus passes for pensioners:

    24% – Strongly Support
    28% – Support
    11% – No View
    28% – Oppose
    9% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +15%

Overall, then, even the most controversial aspects of the CSR — such as ending child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers and cutting public sector jobs — get the nod from Lib Dem members. The two least supported measures are cutting spending on the police, and retaining the universal benefits for pensioners such as concessionary bus fares.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 580 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 10th 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 accurately predicted the results of the contest for Party President, and the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
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    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.
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    36 Comments

    • Forlornehope 12th Nov '10 - 2:48pm

      These are quite surprising results that must be music to Clegg’s ears. It would be interesting to see the results of a poll on the changes to university financing.

    • SOmewhat suprised that so many lib dem members are supporting the exact opposite policies to the ones they supported prior to the election.

      Thoguh I suppose supporting something just because the leadership tells you to take your medicine isn’t a crime, although it doesn’t seem to be very ‘liberal’.

    • Mike(The Labour one) 12th Nov '10 - 2:55pm

      Lots of polls showing the Lib Dems agree with the government over the last few months. Will be good to link back to when the effects become clear and you’ll want to bleat about it being a compromise you never really wanted.

    • paul barker 12th Nov '10 - 2:55pm

      It would be interesting to know the age breakdown on that last question, especially the “strongly oppose” section. Is it Oldies voting for themselves ?

    • It is rather shocking to see that 59% of respondents want to increase unemployment, though only 11% “strongly support” it. The two real chinks of light are that a majority (though not a big one) believes that the Tory government won’t improve the state of public services, and that only a very small majority thinks that the Tory deficit reduction strategy is to be preferred over the Liberal Democrat one (which Clegg and the leadership now say is nonsense even though they campaigned for it 6 months ago). Is the Membership Forum representative of the party, or is it an echo chamber for smug, well-heeled free-market ideologues? If the former, the party has no future. If the latter, to paraphrase David Icke: party members, get off your knees!

    • Liberal Neil 12th Nov '10 - 3:46pm

      @Sesenco There wasn’t a question about whether or not we support an increase in unemployment.

    • Liberal Neil,

      See below:

      Reduce the number of public sector jobs by 490,000 by 2015:

      11% – Strongly Support
      48% – Support
      14% – No View
      18% – Oppose
      7% – Strongly Oppose
      Net support: +34%

    • Something has gone wrong with the results of the second question: “On balance, do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s economy”? – it adds up to 90%, not 100%.

    • @Sesenco: I apologise on behalf of Liberal Neil; clearly, like you and me, he doesn’t realise that jobs can only exist in the public sector.

    • Stuart,

      Right. So you believe the Tory government when it says that the private sector will create sufficient jobs to replace those lost in the public sector? It’s wonderful to have faith, isn’t it? Trouble is, Nick Clegg didn’t have that faith 6 months ago and was telling us exactly the opposite. When he wanted our votes.

    • Also, the Housing Benefit question is rather misleading as you are only asking about one aspect of the changes, rather than the totality of the package. You only asked about the cap on Local Housing Allowance (which actually only makes up 3.7% of the Housing Benefit cuts by 2014-15), what about the policy of changing the calculation of the LHA rates from the median to the 30th percentile (24% of 2014-15 HB cuts), removing Housing Benefit from claimants of Jobseekers Allowance if they are still claiming after a year (6.2% of 2014-15 HB cuts) and uprating by CPI rather than rents (22% of 2014-15 HB cuts)? Even though it has often been portrayed as such in the media, the cap on LHA is not the only part of the Housing Benefit reforms, and I think your survey question should have reflected that to give a fair and accurate reflection of whether Lib Dem members support the Housing Benefit reforms.

    • Leviticus18_23 12th Nov '10 - 4:12pm

      I doubt the results of this poll will matter much to Nick Clegg. He can’t hear the noise from the great unwashed in his ivory tower.

      And I’m surprised by the results. Looks like being a Tory minion is quite appealing – not just to the MPs.

    • Apologies, I wrote the comment above a bit too quickly so I made rather a big mistake. Of course the Government is not proposing “removing Housing Benefit from claimants of Jobseekers Allowance if they are still claiming after a year” (that would inarguably be harsh and draconian!) but rather to cut it by 10%.

    • Hodge Podge 12th Nov '10 - 4:32pm

      Wow, I really got this party wrong. There’s a definite communication problem between the left and the right of your party. I can understand you giving up some economic policies because you’re in coalition, but it looks like a lot of you actually support it.

      It’s a shame every non-right wing party is pretty crap on civil liberties and torture and all that jazz, but I’m probably not going to be able to vote for you again. Maybe give you a second vote if I’m feeling generous under AV.

      (Briefly off topic, but Leviticus18_23, I’m interested if there’s some significance in your name referring to an anti-bestiality verse in the bible? Is it a metaphor for the coalition?)

    • Hove Howard 12th Nov '10 - 4:58pm

      It would be interesting to know how many people have left/joined the LDV members’ forum since the election. I imagine there must have been quite a churn, and that is bound to have an effect on the results of a poll like this.
      Lots of left-leaning folk will have chucked in their memberships, as I have, and been replaced by right-of-centre, continental style Liberals. So we now have three centre-right parties, all preaching ‘choice’ and the sanctity of the market. There’s an irony in there somewhere.

    • David Evans 12th Nov '10 - 4:59pm

      @ Daniel

      Sadly, it’s a bit difficult to put the burden of the economic crisis on those who caused the crisis i.e. Gordon Brown and New Labour. Even with Tony Blair chipping in a few of his millions and the Unions doing their bit , the costs would just be too much.

    • David Allen 12th Nov '10 - 5:02pm

      What is depressing is the continuing disjunct between card-carrying Lib Dem members and supporters. The polls show that a good half of our long term supporters have deserted us in disgust. They are sticking to their principles. Meanwhile, the card-carrying membership is lagging behind, furiously avoiding self-criticism, and hoping against hope that our performance will somehow improve. This survey does show a slow move away from yellow Toryism, but it is still too slow.

      I am encouraged by the fact that a tiny majority can now recognise that deep cuts are not going to have a beneficial effect on the state of public services. I am appalled to see that 35% of respondents are still prepared to swear blind that we’re going to make services better. Now, I don’t think it is ludicrous to be in favour of the deep cuts, if one believes that they are a regrettable necessity. However, I do think it is ludicrous to claim that (for example) the way to get the police to catch more criminals is to employ fewer policemen. That is an ostrich attitude which, like so much we have done over the last six months, can only act to bring discredit on our party. Nobody wants to vote for a politician who wears his blinkers on his sleeve!

      The balance of comments on LDV is probably a clearer indication of sentiment than this survey. Time was when Sesenco, Anthony Aloysius and I were lone voices crying in the wilderness, to be shouted down by hordes of self-confident loyalists whenever we posted. Nowadays it is the loyalists who have mostly gone quiet, while hordes of new posters (and I’m not referring to the Labour supporters here) have sprung up to make clear how upset and angry they have become. Let’s hope the loyalists have gone quiet because they’re doing some thinking.

    • Paul Griffiths 12th Nov '10 - 7:54pm

      @David Allen

      You refer to “…hordes of new posters (and I’m not referring to the Labour supporters here)”.

      The trouble is I can’t tell the difference between the two; they sound so alike.

      As someone who has been accused of loyalty in the past, that’s my main reason for staying away from LDV in recent weeks. That and thinking, obviously.

    • On the surface these results would appear to be a strong endorsement of coalition policy and for those of us opposed, may make depressing reading but I would argue that certain answers show a great deal of timidity on various issues with support being highly conditional and likely to evaporate almost instantly under certain circumstances. Public sector job cuts, welfare cuts and police spending all see most people supporting the proposals but reluctant to strongly support them most probably because these are the proposals which have the most uncertain and risky outcomes. They may work brilliantly but it seems equally likely they won’t and potentially worsen the situation. Stuttering economy, rising unemployment, increasing poverty and degradation, rocketing crime which can’t be handled, etc. These are the issues which are arguably the most important to the electorate at large and as such the most likely to invite humiliating electoral defeat should they go wrong.

      I readily admit I’m reading a great deal into a small number of answers but I do believe that these results show that for may respondents, the benefit of the doubt may be being awkwardly given and that the support is very soft.

    • George Kendall,

      “If you think failing to make those cuts will lead to even greater cuts, and even more unemployment from the public sector, does supporting this imply support for sacking public servants?”

      Did you believe this in May? If the answer is “yes”, why the heck didn’t you campaign for the Tories?

      “If it’s a choice between lending comfort to opponents of the coalition who indulge in absurd hyperbole, or showing solidarity with the party leadership, they may go for the latter.”

      You make it sound like the Party of Labour of Albania. Comrade Enver Clegg.

    • I feel I campaigned alongside people and with a party whose alleged views are not the actual ones as this survey demonstrates.

      I will resign my membership.

    • @ Paul Griffiths:
      “You refer to ‘…hordes of new posters (and I’m not referring to the Labour supporters here)’.
      The trouble is I can’t tell the difference between the two; they sound so alike.”

      Well…. I don’t suppose I’m infallible. But for example, when Veeten says”these results would appear to be a strong endorsement of coalition policy and for those of us opposed, may make depressing reading”, he/she sounds like a disillusioned Lib Dem sympathiser. On the other hand, when Matt says “I really don’t understand what is happening to the Liberal Democrat party”, I think it is reasonably clear that he isn’t a Lib Dem. He sounds like a Labourite who once had some respect for us, and I don’t think he is trying to pretend to be something he isn’t.

      Perhaps it would help a little if posters were to identify more clearly where they are coming from. However, I think one can usually make a fair guess.

      The question is where we are all going to! Is Olly right, that the centre-left Lib Dem party I have supported all my life is now going to vanish without trace, all thanks to one deceitful second-rate chancer from Sheffield?

      I don’t think so. I think Veeten is more likely to be right on this. A large but decreasing proportion of the membership is still giving Cleggy the benefit of the doubt. That will change.

      But my worry is that, long before we get around to demanding a change in the leadership, the voters at large will have decided we are all just too spineless to be worth bothering with.

    • Rob,

      Speaking as a dyed-in-the-wool Clegg-hater, I don’t think your Guardian article is actually as damning as it might seem.

      The manifesto policy, adopted only after a lot of agonising, was to phase out fees altogether. The public pledge which was organised with the NUS promised only not to raise the cap. The leaked document which Danny Alexander wrote last March seems to say that in coalition, the Lib Dems would drop “phasing out” but stick to “no raise in the cap”.

      Of course it’s now all past history, and Cleggy has NOT stuck to “no raise in the cap”. But for what it’s worth, the poor saps who signed the NUS pledge probably thought at the time that they were going to be allowed to stand by their words.

    • Norfolk Boy 13th Nov '10 - 1:04am

      How do people here reconcile what is happening with respect to the platform the party stood on?

      people in the survey can obviously change their mind with the wind, which to me is just perplexing when you are a party member. What about everything you said before the election?

      How do you stand for election on a set of policies and then completely change them and attempt to justify it just a few weeks later. Absolutely baffling.

    • Anthony Binder 13th Nov '10 - 7:46am

      When will a Lib Dem politician stand up and question the agreement that all of the national revenues shall be taken through tax on income and consumption. If the country got revenue from other sources, there would never be anything called ‘budget deficit’ and then the tory cuts wouldn´t be necessary. There are loads of other revenue sources out there, that the UK doesn´t want to use.

      Thhis is sooo sad

    • David Allen,

      “But my worry is that, long before we get around to demanding a change in the leadership, the voters at large will have decided we are all just too spineless to be worth bothering with.”

      That’s where the “assassination” strategy comes in. If it is left to rank-and-file members to pull the party out of coalition and get rid of Clegg, nothing is going to happen until it is far too late, as you say. The party could barely suvive a protracted war of attrition characterised by ever more acrimonious bickering and dithering. What it requires is for the non- Orange Book ministers to leave the government, and join with Campbell, Kennedy, Farron and Hughes to stick the knife into Clegg. That’s the only way to do it without serious damage to the party from which it could take three general elections to recover. We’ve been here before. It took Paddy Ashdown to force David Steel’s hand. If Paddy hadn’t done that, and done it within days of the 1987 election, we might still be argie-barging about whether we should or shouldn’t merge today.

      The post-assassination strategy is fairly clear, I think. We can tell the electorate that we tried, but the compromises were simply too great. If people had voted for us in the numbers the opinion-polls in mid-campaign had suggested, then we would have had real influence and coalition would have worked. Given the numbers, we will be far more effective in moderating Cameron’s Tory government by forcing it to govern as a minority.

    • Paul Griffiths 13th Nov '10 - 10:06am

      @Sesenco

      “Assassination” strategy sounds a bit lurid. Do you mean “leadership challenge” strategy?

    • @Olly – You may be right, but I think there are a fair few of us Social Liberals who are prepared to stay and fight, and (while we complacently believed that ALL Lib Dems thought like us in the past), we now realise the need for a more factional approach within the party. This has already paid dividends eg in the election of Tim Farron as Party President, and significant wins elsewhere. The SLF has 600+ members on Facebook alone, and is still growing.

    • @ Sesenco,

      Interesting post. I think you’re halfway right. As you say, the endgame for the orange Tories has to be when the party grandees and power brokers concur that enough is enough. However, we haven’t reached endgame yet. The grandees simply cannot make the move you and I would like them to make, until they can be confident it will be welcomed.

      Remember Hoon and Hewitt making their belated coup attempt against Gordon? They were belatedly in the right, they would have done their party a power of good had they succeeded – but they were isolated, they were derided as has-beens, and they lost. If your name is – let’s say – “Paddy Ashdown”, you don’t want to be bracketed with the Hoons and the Hewitts when political history is written. Both personal pride and rational political calculation would tell you to wait until the time is right.

      So – it’s still down to the likes of you and me to win the argument amongst the membership and then tell the grandees that the time is right. Well – we are making progress – let’s keep it up!

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