What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition, its record, & the party’s electoral prospects

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. Some 570 party members responded, and we’ve been publishing the full results.

84% of Lib Dem members support the Coalition

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Comparison with December 2011’s figures)

    84% (81%) – Support
    13% (13%) – Oppose
    3% (5%) – Don’t know / No opinion

Support for the Coalition remains as high as it has ever been, with 84% of party members continuing to back it — the same figure as supported it way back in July 2010. Of course that support is often conditionally expressed, as the comments below indicate:

Again, it’s bad but it could be so much worse, and while there are few crumbs of comfort, at least they are OUR crumbs.

I voted yes at Birmingham, but if given another chance would seriously consider no.

Support – because the country needed stability but it has been at a great cost

I only support it on the basic that there was nothing else we could do (partly because of Labours attitude after the election.)

There’s no alternative and the LibDems have, by and large, managed to keep the Government in the centre.

Confidence & supply would have been better (I was always in the minority on this).

Inevitable given the 2010 electoral arithmetic, doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

If we weren’t then we would be back at the 1974 scenario, with a second minority government elected by the end of 2010, no action to reduce the deficit over the following years and a Thatcherite revival in 2015.

Approval of Coalition Government’s record running at +40%

LDV asked: Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date? (comparison with December 2011’s figures)

    65% (67%) – Approve
    25% (26%) – Disapprove
    10% (7%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The net approval for the Coalition’s record to date is +40%, virtually unchanged from last December’s +41% (or indeed the previous September’s +41%). It’s a significant improvement on a year ago, when in the wake of the tuition fees’ U-turn the Coalition’s approval was down at +32%. Here’s a sample of your comments:

A failure to focus on growth at the expense of cutting the deficit is becoming a bigger and bigger worry.

On balance. I’d like to we more liberal and progressive moves, of course, but will remain patient

Weakly approve. I think the LibDems have done well where we can although this needs to become more apparent.

Making the cuts hit the poor too much. Letting the rich off far too lightly.

But it is only nibbling at the real problems. Pragmatism may turn to gradualism may turn to abject failure to address the real vested interests in society.

The coalition is implementing a substantial proportion of the Lib Dem manifesto; anyone opposing what it is doing that voted Lib Dem at the last election was inadequately informed as to what our policies were or is inadequately prepared for the difficult choices of government.

Still the most liberal government of my lifetime (I count Thatcher in this).

Six-in-10 members say Coalition will damage electoral hopes

Do you think the Coalition Government will be good or bad for the Lib Dems’ electoral prospects at the next general election?

    16% – Good
    61% – Bad
    15% – Neither good nor bad
    8% – Don’t know / No opinion

There has certainly been a change in self-perception of the impact the Coalition will have on the party’s fortunes. When we first asked this question, in July 2010, while 43% of members said they thought the Lib Dems would be electorally harmed, some 23% thought our time in government would improve our chances. Time has tempered that hope.

88% say Coalition will last ’til 2015

How long do you expect the coalition government will last?

    1% – It will end this year, 2012
    3% – It will end in 2013
    6% – It will end in 2014
    88% – It will last the full term, until 2015
    3% – Don’t know / No opinion

This is, by some way, the biggest jump in confidence (if that’s the word!) that the Coalition will stay the course for the full fixed-term parliament: 88% think the Lib Dems and Conservatives will remain government together until 2015, compared with just 72% in December (a figure which was broadly static throughout 2011). The options available did change (to reflect the new year), which may have altered the results a bit; as may the fact that the Coalition stayed firm despite the tense dispute over the European summit in December.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 570 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 31st January and 4th February.
  • 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 winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of 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
  • * 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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    11 Comments

    • Harry Hayfield 20th Feb '12 - 10:03am

      My personal feelings that this is this (as has been mentioned in some parts of the media) as “a loveless marriage”. The Conservatives are short of an overall majority by 19, Labour are short of an overall majority by 68 therefore a Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition was the only way to provide the “strong and stable government” that Nick Clegg said Britain needed on the day after the election and as a result we are stuck with it until the next election. There is one possible glimmer on the horizon. In seats last contested at the 2011 locals (which I think everyone will admit were a disaster) that have had by-elections, there’s been a 6% swing from Lab to the Lib Dems. If this pattern continues, then hopefully the 2015 locals should be on a par with the 1994 – 2010 local elections for the Lib Dems (i.e a national projected vote share in the low 20’s as opposed to the high teens)

    • Harry Hayfield’s comment is spot on. We put Country before Party. So far we have been punished by the electorate for that. Political commentator John Kampfner, writing in the Financial Times on 4th February said. ” Mr Clegg still needs to answer the question: what are the Liberal Democrats for? A shopping list of specific policy achievements will not suffice. He is still in search of the compelling argument to persuade voters to back them again in May 2015, the almost certain date of the next [ General]Election. Making the Tories a ‘bit less nasty’ does not constitute a rallying cry.” Getting the answer to this question correct is central to how the next elections pan out starting with County Councils & their equivalents next year.

    • With the 2015 date set, the danger is that between them Labour and the Tories can engineer events to destroy and LD progress on issues.

      First the tuition fees fiasco, then a botched NHS reform; what is the next issue where LD MPs will be expected to support policies we despise.

      We need to be more robust I’m saying that, unless all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed before policies are announced then we reserve the right to oppose them and we should not allow piecemeal implementations that leave us taking the flak for the dodgy bits and the Tories taking any available credit

      EG Housing benefit changes should not proceed UNTIL the rest of IDS benefit changes are ready to roll .

    • PS

      Unlike labour and the Tories , we no longer have an identifiable base – we have “betrayed” both students and environmentalists, so we need to pitch future policies at the mainstream rather than just trying to appease party members. Navel gazing policies (constitutional reform etc) does not float Joe Publics boat – at all!

    • Sorry if you have read this before; over the last 3 months our vote share in Local byelections has been 26%, 4% ahead of Labour. That represents 45 contests & about 75,000 votes. The pessimism of our membership is, I believe somewhat out of date. Certainly its out of line with the steep falls in Labour confidence since last summer, as measured by Labour List which runs similar surveys to LDVs.

    • David Evans 20th Feb '12 - 5:13pm

      @paul barker

      Sorry Paul, you should remember that we always outperform in local government by-elections by between 5 & 10% on average. I’m afraid I have seen your type of optimism for years and years and it always proves to be a false dream.

    • Patrick Smith 21st Feb '12 - 5:31pm

      As a L/D `Coalition’ from the start I predicted that the DPM`s star would rise into the ascendant, as voters realised that this government is the only option in Town, to respond with a coherent twin attack on helping the least off with the abolition of tax on the first £10K and a `deficit plan’ that stands up to international scrutiny.

      I would look to the new `Youth Contract’ to kick in from April 2012 and to start taking out our young people from uncertainity and to help restore their human dignity once again with jobs,upskilling , apprenticeships and further and higher education that leads to being a productive economic person and citizen.

    • Andrew Thomas 5th Mar '12 - 8:10pm

      I think one Tory policy that went through without the Lib Dem scrutiny that should’ve taken place was Michael Gove’s Academies. We should hang our heads in shame in letting this policy go through unchecked as it has pit school against school and virtually destroyed the education departments in Local Government where much of our base activists are elected. I am concerned that when my children get to particularly secondary school I won’t have a LEA to go to if there are problems. A complete disgrace I would say!

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