Tuition fees – what party members believe Lib Dem MPs should do

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem party members think of the party’s reponse to The Browne Report into higher education funding and student finance in England. Some 567 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results of our survey this weekend.

In the first part of our survey, we reported how Lib Dem members think higher education should be funded, and what changes, if any, would make the Browne Report acceptable to them. Now let’s look at what party members think our MPs should do about that pledge

Should Lib Dem MPs stick by their manifesto and NUS pledges?

We asked: In its general election manifesto this year, the party stated: “The Liberal Democrats will phase out tuition fees over the course of six years, so that, after school, everyone who gets the grades has the opportunity to go to university without fear of debt, no matter what their background.” Almost all elected Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS pledge to “to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view:

Here’s what you told us:

  • 59% – Lib Dem MPs must continue to stand by these pledges and oppose any increase in tuition fees. This is the only honourable position
  • 29% – I understand why Lib Dem MPs would want to look at the issue of tuition fees afresh in the light of the Browne Report’s recommendations and the current economic situation. I would be disappointed if they went back on their pledges but I would reluctantly accept it in the circumstances
  • 11% – I support the thrust of the recommendations of the Browne Report, and believe our MPs would be acting responsibly if they supported the Coalition’s position
  • 2% – Other
  • (Excluding Don’t know / No opinion (1%))

The majority of Lib Dem members, 56% in our survey, believe the party’s MPs must honour the pledges made to the electorate. In particular, it’s the specific NUS pledge to which almost all Lib Dem MPs signed up before the election that causes a lot of angst… a manifesto pledge in Coalition politics is one thing, to go back on a specific pledge made to individual voters quite another.

A significant minority, 29%, chose the ‘I’ll be disappointed but will reluctantly accept it in the circs’ option, while a further 11% believe that supporting Browne’s recommendations is the only responsible decision for the party’s MPs. In total, then, 40% of party members are prepared to see Lib Dem MPs renege on their pledge to vote against fees.

Here’s a sample of what you said:

A bigger issue than tuition fees is the public’s trust in politicians. We said that this time, things could be different, that there could be an end to broken promises. Let’s make sure that opportunity is seized with both hands.

Abstention is acceptable, because the party voted on the coalition agreement. Voting *for* the fees would go against both the manifesto and the coalition agreement.

We cannot go back on a pledge that many MPs signed and which was a key platform of our campaign. I cannot stand on doorsteps and defend a total about face on this pledge.

We must learn no to sign sich pledges in future

As a PPC I signed the pledge too, a pledge is a pledge, we have to stand up for what we agreed to, otherwise our pledges in future will count for nothing with the electorate

I do think that the proposed new system is “a fairer alternative”, so, whilst embarassing for our MPs who signed the pledge, I don’t think this would be a complete betrayal.

The decision to make the pledges was misguided, but they should not renege on them now, especially not without a vast improvement of the proposals

The world has changed! I wish it hadn’t changed, but the fact is, we now know that there’s no more money.

I have been worried that our policy as stated in the general election was not practical. There were hints before the election that the leadership wanted to move away from this but there was a groundswell of opposition in the party to ditching a popular policy. I thought then and think now that the leadership was probably right. But we are where we are, so… I think that Lib Dem MPs who made specific pledges have no real choice but to stick to them.

Coalition government involves compromise and pragmatism, of course. But this is a special case. Our MPs made very specific pledges, with lots of publicity, to a substantial part of our core vote. If they betray that pledge, whatever the arguments for and against, our party is going to be seriously fucked. How will we ever credibly promise anything ever again?

And what should our MPs do in a Commons vote?

We asked: The Coalition Agreement endorsed by party members at the special conference in May, states, “If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept then recommendations will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote”. If there is a vote in the House of Commons to increase tuition fees as recommended by Browne, would you expect Lib Dem MPs to:

Here’s what you told us:

  • 51% – Vote against
  • 41% – Abstain
  • 7% – Vote in favour
  • (Excluding Don’t know / No opinion (5%))

A bare majority, 51%, of Lib Dem members expect Lib Dem MPs to vote against any recommendation to increase tution fees, when the Coalition puts its proposals to the House of Commons. However, a significant minority, 41%, believe MPs should abstain in any vote, in line with the Coalition Agreement. Just 7% of party members expect the party’s MPs to vote in favour.

We then asked: If you were an MP how would you personally vote?

Here’s what you told us:

  • 63% – Vote against
  • 20% – Abstain
  • 17% – Vote in favour
  • (Excluding Don’t know / No opinion (7%))

It’s interesting to note the difference in results, between what party members expect MPs to do and what they would themselves do if they had a vote: many more would vote against (63%, up 12%), but many more would also vote in favour (17%, up 10%), with far fewer abstaining (20%, down 21%).

In our previous survey findings we reported that 52% of party members were prepared to consider supporting increasing tuition fees if changes were brought in by the Coalition to improve chances for applicants from poorer families, and be more generous to lower-earning graduates. These findings, showing almost two-thirds of party members against Browne’s proposals as they stand, indicate the Lib Dems in the Coalition will have to make significant changes if they are to win over those party members who are persuadable.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 567 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 13th and 15th October.
  • 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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52 Comments

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Oct '10 - 9:54pm

    “would you expect Lib Dem MPs to”

    You couldn’t have asked a more ambiguous question if you’d tried!

  • John Richardson 16th Oct '10 - 10:42pm

    You couldn’t have asked a more ambiguous question if you’d tried!

    In what way is it ambiguous? It seems pretty clear to me.

    It’s interesting to note the difference in results, between what party members expect MPs to do and what they would themselves do if they had a vote

    Yep, most of us non-MPs did not make a stupid pledge.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Oct '10 - 10:57pm

    “In what way is it ambiguous? It seems pretty clear to me.”

    Well, it clearly wasn’t understood by the members to mean what Stephen Tall has headlined it as: “what should our MPs do in a Commons vote?”

    Because in answer to the previous question 59% agreed that voting against an increase was the “only honourable position” (and a further 29% “would be disappointed if they went back on their pledges”). Yet only 51% “expected” the MPs to honour their pledges. Obviously many understood it to mean “what do you think they will do?” not “what should they do?”

  • @Andrew Hickey

    AAS is correct. The article headline is, Tuition fees – what party members believe Lib Dem MPs should do. It seem obvious to me that 63% of LibDem members think that they should vote against it. If they say this is what they would do, it follows that they would think that was the right and proper thing to do. Doing otherwise would therefore be considered wrong and improper.

    The high number who answered abstain to the question, And what should our MPs do in a Commons vote?, I sense they were thinking what will they do, not would should they do.

  • “LibDems in this arrangement is the equivalent of the guy you see on star-trek walking around the planet who you’ve never before is the first one to get killed. That’s the libdems in this arrangement.”

    That’s Paul Merton. Sure he’s not a senior editor in a big newspaper but I think he got it absolutely right.

  • More Blairite style spin sadly.

    “Expect” was deliberately chosen as that turns the question from the unambiguous “what MPs should do ?” (which amusingly is then tried to be spun as the question asked when it wasn’t) to the predictive “would you expect Lib dem MPs to ?” Pure sophistry rendering that question and it’s percentages almost meaningless.

    Just as slippery and dishonest, what should have been a straight YES/NO to the question we all know we will get asked on the doorstep, “do you agree with Nick’s decision to break our Fees pledge and manifesto commitments”, was then cynicaly diluted and spun by adding extraneous options.

    So called “adult politics” doesn’t mean blaming the pledge when it was used by almost every MP and Nick as a powerful and successful campaigning tool. It also doesn’t mean pretending we were unaware of the dire financial postion or that the manifesto wasn’t costed. Nor does it mean hiding behind being in a coalition for every decision which Nick and his right wing clique make. Every time the compromise excuse is used it makes those who use it and the Party look weaker by the day. Be in no doubt, there are things Cameron and Osborne will NEVER compromise on.
    Is everyone quite so sure Nick is the same, or that he has any red lines left now ?
    Because I’m not and I see a leader who would support Cameron to the hilt almost regardless of the issue.

    Adult politics means trust.

    It means having a leader who the public will believe and trust when we are about embark on some of the most vicious cuts ever seen in modern times. If most of the the public lose their trust in the Liberal Democrats then all the spin or sweeteners in the world prove utterly futile.

  • Speaking of trust in the Coalition…

    The Coalition Government understands the interests of the wealthy better than the interests of ordinary people — Agree 46% Disagree 33% Don’t know 21%

    It is fair that students should pay more for their university education even though their parents’ generation didn’t — Agree 35% Disagree 50% Don’t know 15%

    Welfare benefit cuts will hit hardest the poorest, elderly and most vulnerable in society — Agree 56% Disagree 28% Don’t know 15%

    The top rate of income tax at 50p in the pound on earnings over £150,000 a year should be raised to 60p in the pound — Agree 54% Disagree 29% Don’t know 17%

    The loss of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs is a price worth paying to reduce the deficit — Agree 30% Disagree 47% Don’t know 23%

    I expect that the public spending cuts to be announced next week will be fair — Agree 30% Disagree 43% Don’t know 26%

    http://www.comres.co.uk/page1901921821.aspx

    NOT good.

  • Agree totally with LDV Bob. This point about honesty, in a time of difficulty, AND when politicians’ honesty was focussed on so relentlessly in the run up to the election, is a key point. For many Lib Dems, this is the biggest point. We are in danger of being seen as the dishonest party, even when compared with others. How did we get ourselves here?

    It looks like Orange Book thinking riding the more radical majority to (some sort of) victory, and then selling out on the economics to essentially a continuation of Thatcherite market thinking (a la Nu Lab). Sorry to have to say. Had we issued an Orange Book based manifesto, we would have attracted less than half the votes we did, and would have been seen as the big losers in 2010, IMO. OK, this post is a “what if…?” But Liberal Democrats win votes by being different – if we are then seen to rpresent more of the same (and don’t let Labour people on here try to say that is what Labour were saying – hindsight can twist truth as well!)

  • Sorry didn’t complete – If we are seen to represent more of the same, we cannot possibly gain votes. That has been our USP since the days of Grimond. My concern has been that the Orange Bookers want to see a British version of the German FDP – low votes, always in coalition, right wing free market economics (these days). Most of us in the Lib Dems don’t want that fate.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 9:26am

    “Actually, AAS, they didn’t agree that voting against an increase was “the only honourable position” – they agreed that *OPPOSING* an increase was the only honourable position.”

    Nonsense. Read what it says. I’ll do a bit of highlighting to make it easier for you:
    “59% – Lib Dem MPs must continue to stand by these pledges and oppose any increase in tuition fees. This is the only honourable position ”

    Do I have to quote the wording of the pledge as well?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 9:30am

    The ridiculous way in which these questions have been framed – and presented here – does make it clear that these LDV polls are just an exercise in PR and spin in support of the party leadership’s line.

    That’s particularly depressing when the leadership’s line is so obviously at odds with both party policy and the opinions of party members.

  • @AAS
    I agree with you, what could of been a valuable poll accessing the views of party members has turned out to be nothing of the sort, it’s just spin, those who hailed the ‘new politics’ on this site were quick to change their minds i see.

  • To present ‘what would you expect MPs to do’ as ‘what you believe MPs SHOULD do’ is dishonest. You should be ashamed.

  • Peter wrote-
    “To present ‘what would you expect MPs to do’ as ‘what you believe MPs SHOULD do’ is dishonest. You should be ashamed”.

    Having just listened to Osbourne on the Marr show saying that if you make an error on a benefit claim form you’ll be fined £50:00, I would advise Stephen Tall to never fill one out.

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Oct '10 - 10:38am

    So 41% of Lib Dems can see nothing wrong in welching on a pledge that was made in full knowledge of the facts.

    This is the most depressing thing I have ever read on this site. I wonder what equivalent figures would be for supporters of other parties.

  • I am stunned by the number of party members who think that breaking this pledge is ok. It’s not the subject of the pledge that matters, it’s the casual throwing away of our usp – we’re different from the others – with no apparent appreciation of the magnitude of what Clegg is doing here that depresses me enormously.

  • Stephen Tall 17th Oct '10 - 11:05am

    I guess I’d be disappointed if the usual suspects didn’t find something to complain about in the article. To be honest, I think they would be, too.

    To be fair, I accept that the ‘expect’ question can be read two ways. Hadn’t occurred to me, and having read all the comments of those who filled-in the survey it’s clear most read it as I intended: as ‘should’. But I’d word it differently second time around.

    As for the other comments that this is all ‘Blairite spin’, they’re a bit sad, really. I don’t think you’d be happy unless the survey had produced the results that fit exactly with your views. That they’re a bit less clear-cut — with lots of members deeply unhappy, but many also open to persuasion, and a few actively supportive — just doesn’t suit what you think Lib Dems should believe.

  • Did Osborne really say that ? Jawdropping.

    He must not know that Cameron promised if the conservative Whip and old etonian school friend of Cameron’s, Bill Wiggin MP, was found guilty of making expenses claims he wasn’t entitled to then he would be out of the Party. Wiggin was found guilty, ordered to pay back £4000 and yet Cameron still hasn’t taken any action against him.
    Contrast that to what happened to David Laws.
    This coalition means having to compromise only if you are a Liberal Democrat.

  • Stuart Mitchell
    “So 41% of Lib Dems can see nothing wrong in welching on a pledge that was made in full knowledge of the facts”.

    Maybe that’s the reason why the party has lost almost 3 million voters in the last 4 months (based on the 43% who stated they would not vote Lib Dem after doing so in the election, http://www.comres.co.uk/page1901921821.aspx )

    Now that should be the most depressing thing you’ve read on this site Stuart.

  • Of course! what were we thinking ? It’s OUR fault the questions were phrased as they are.

    It’s our fault that straightforward obvious questions like, “should we stick to our manifesto and pledges on tuition fees ?” with a straight yes or no answer hadn’t occured to those who’s job it is to ask meaningful and important questions.

    It’s also our fault that “should Liberal Democrat MP’s vote for the fee rise ?” yes /no/abstain, was also too obscure to have occured to the questioner.

    Sadly, the questions from the public will be even more stark and direct on the doorstep. “Why did you lie ?” being the one we will be hearing most often. Because even with the slanted questions it’s still clear that those in favour of blindly following Nick and breaking our promises are the ones in the minority.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 11:24am

    Stephen

    Surely the answers to “If you were an MP how would you personally vote?” are the ones that reflect how people think MPs _should_ vote. The difference between 63% saying they would vote against, and only 51% expecting the MPs to vote against is a pretty large one, so it’s not jus a question of only a few people having understood the question differently.

    Anyhow, as you acknowledge that at least some people did _not_ understand it to mean “what should our MPs do in a Commons vote?” will you correct the heading in the article above, so that at least the presentation of the results isn’t misleading?

  • @ LDV Bob
    Yes he did say that, frightening isn’t it.

    @Stephen Tall
    Please don’t denigrate the views of those posting negatively as the ‘usual suspects’ and as for saying “I don’t think you’d be happy unless the survey had produced the results that fit exactly with your views” and “just doesn’t suit what you think Lib Dems should believe” is just saddening as the views held by the ‘usual suspects’ as you put it are broadly the views of the party before the election.

  • nige
    Maybe that’s the reason why the party has lost almost 3 million voters in the last 4 months

    Sorry, but that’s not borne out by what has been happening in real elections since the coalition was formed in May.

    If you look at principal council by-elections only (i.e. excluding the many parish council by-elections), there have been 112 such genuine tests of public opinion, all over the country, over the 5 months to the end of September.

    If Lib Dems have really lost “millions” of voters, as you claim, Nige, isn’t it rather strange that we have made net 3 gains over that period?

    Fuller details at:
    http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2010/10/lib-dem-by-election-results-continue.html

  • Keith Hopkins 17th Oct '10 - 11:55am

    The question “how would you EXPECT Lib Dem MPs to vote” is definitely ambiguous, and I felt so at the time. In the end, having given it some thought, I reasoned that ‘expect’ meant ‘predict’ – i.e. what do I predict the MPs will do – because if it was supposed to mean ‘how do I think MPs SHOULD vote’ it would’ve said ‘should’ or maybe ‘ought’, not ‘expect’. I then replied accordingly.

    Had the question said “What should our MPs do in a Commons vote?”, as it does in the heading above, I would most definitely have responded differently. I’m guessing from the comments above that the results are not representative of the surveyed opinion, and that “It’s interesting to note the difference in results, between what party members expect MPs to do and what they would themselves” might not be so interesting after all.

    The data seems to be clearly invalid. The question needs to be run again using the same list (so it will still tie-in with the good data), this time using the correct phrasing.

  • I note that the “usual suspects” show their usual suspicion.
    The survey is about the views of the Lib Dems in the members-only forum, not a national opinion poll. The survey is likely to have a more pro-Lib Dem bias than the population in general.
    Equally, the comments from the small number of different people are just that – the views of a small number of people who are not happy with the Lib Dems. Their views are likely to have a more anti-Lib Dem bias than the population in general.
    Both sides are entitled to their opinions. Opinions are not “right”, they are points of view.
    PS I filled out the survey. I took the question as meaning “should”.

  • @Simon
    Yes agree it is rather strange, that figure ‘3 million’ as I said was based on opinion polls not by-election results. it would be interesting to know the figures on ‘3 gains’ you mention and whether or not these gains were from Con or Lab as most of the support lost by the Lib Dems were to Labours benefit according to the polls

  • Keith Hopkins 17th Oct '10 - 12:17pm

    Coda to the above: I don’t think I’m a “usual suspect”; I rarely comment here.

    ST made a mistake, maybe an honest one, but a mistake all the same. However, deflecting this criticism by making a comment like that about respondents doesn’t help either.

  • Let’s also be clear that while we can at least hammer Labour for their clear duplicity and utter cluelessness on what to do about Higher Education and a graduate tax, the best we can throw back at them is that Nick has done the same as Blair by reneging on promises made on tuition fees. While true, and they cannot deny it, it’s not going to be a great argument to convince the public on the ground.

    Our unique selling point was that we weren’t like the other two Parties who were engulfed by sleaze, expenses scandal and who supported a disaster like Iraq.

    That reputation for honesty and probity compared to Labour and the Conservatives took many, many years of hard work and intelligent principled decisions to build.
    Never forget that.
    It will take just as many years to win back if lost.

  • Im an LD member who always disagreed with the LibDem party policy on tuition fees, but agreed with them on many other issues. I feel like theyve finally seen sense and realised that all the crap people talk about ‘free education’ is really a smokescreen for extra privileges for the middle class, which has expanded massively in the past couple of decades, often through overpaid public service jobs, and at the expense of the poor in more ways than financial – have we ever been as studied, spied on, restricted, controlled?

    Free higher education for everyone has NEVER existed in this country. It has always been for the priveleged few. That few has expanded to include more of the nouveaux (relatively) riche, but the great majority of the people in this country do not have and never did have access to that higher education. But we pay for it, whether it is through taxes we can barely afford or whether it is when we turn up to job interviews for retail or basic office positions and realise that half the candidates are graduates, essentially ‘pricing us out’ of even the most introductory positions in permanent employment.

    The whole debate on ‘free’ (ie publicly subsidised) higher education is based on pretending that we all gain from this ‘educated’ population when in face we dont. Most of the qualified are not working as our doctors or engineers, theyre walking from uni into ‘management’, ie getting paid more than we do, to ‘supervise’ us doing all the work for peanuts and no hope of promotion.

    IMO almost all the ire directed at the Lib Dems atm is coming from arrogant middle class pseudo-Liberals who assume they have rights to things (an above average income subsidised through child benefit etc, subsidised free or cheap university education for their children/themselves, extremely well paid yet inefficient and sometimes even pointless public service jobs, the right to own property, ‘get on the property ladder’, etc) that theyre quite happy to deny to the rest of us, citing ‘meritocracy’ as the reason – but we all know that its a lie.

  • nige
    “it would be interesting to know the figures on ’3 gains’ you mention and whether or not these gains were from Con or Lab as most of the support lost by the Lib Dems were to Labours benefit according to the polls”

    If you follow the link, the answers are all there:
    http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2010/10/lib-dem-by-election-results-continue.html

    To summarise what is reported there:

    – 112 principal council by-elections held between General Election and 30 September
    – 16 retained by Lib Dems
    – 9 gains by Lib Dems (8 from Con, 1 from Other)
    – 6 losses by Lib Dems (3 to Con, 2 to Lab, 1 to Other)

    As that article pointed out, of the total of 112 by-elections since May “there were no fewer than 55 by-elections in September … with 3 gains balanced by 3 losses. Interestingly, none of those losses were to Labour.”

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 2:06pm

    Well, if we’re talking about party popularity, perhaps it’s worth noting that of the two opinion polls published today, ComRes has the Lib Dems on 14%, the lowest rating from that organisation since 2008, and YouGov has them on 11%. This is the seventh time the rating has been at 11% in YouGov’s daily polls since the end of August, otherwise it’s the lowest rating since the fall of Ming Campbell in 2007.

  • “A bare majority, 51%, of Lib Dem members expect…However, a significant minority, 41%, believe…”

    This pair of sentences sum up fo rme the rather partial way the results have been presented. I expect I won’t bother joining your survey next time so you end up with the uncritical, pro-coalitiion views you seem to seek at the moment.

    The results were unambiguous – people want politicians to do what they promised. This is the “new politics” we promised. This is the basis of “I agree with Nick”. Now we have the Quadrilateral policy team instead. DId the return to proper Cabinet government have to die so quickly?

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    You have raised an interesting point there as to whether the Opinion Polls conducted since the General Election are able to handle the situation of the first Coalition Government in decades.

    I have been out on the doorstep since May (most recently, last Tuesday, the day of the Vince/Browne announcement) and there is no way it “feels” like we are as low as 11% or 14%.

    Making 3 net gains in 112 council by-elections is simply not compatible with being at 11% or 14% in public support.

    Opinion pollsters need to review their methodology.

  • Barry George 17th Oct '10 - 2:39pm

    Another skewed survey then…

    However, it does tell us that a staggering 92% disagree with Nick Clegg’s voting intention. Sounds like a call for a LDV survey asking members if they still have confidence in the leader of the party.

    Hmm, but it would probably be worded by the usual suspect 😉

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 3:13pm

    Simon

    The trouble is that, as has been discussed many times before, for all sorts of reasons it’s extremely difficult to gauge national opinion by looking at local by-election results. And in any case those results are tremendously variable and include quite a lot of really bad ones in urban areas (take one this week in St Helens – the Lib Dem percentage decreased by more than half, from 20.4% to 10%, compared with 5 months ago).

    Opinion polls aren’t perfect by any means, but the pollsters go to enormous lengths to _try_ to gauge what the population as a whole thinks. It’s ridiculous to say that they must be wrong because it doesn’t “feel” as bad as that to you when you’re on the doorstep.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 4:47pm

    I’ve only just seen the actual figure proposed for the additional “student premium” announced by Clegg, which he thinks is going to “tear down the barriers that prevent poorer young adults from entering university.” The headline figure was £7bn to be shared between school children, pre-school children and students. It turns out that the student component will be £150m a year by the end of the spending review period:
    http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101015-fairness.aspx

    To put that into context, it’s just over 8% of the amount to be spent on maintenance grants for poorer students according to Browne’s recommendations. On that basis, Nick Clegg thinks those barriers are going to be torn down by giving poorer students an extra £5 a week or so.

  • Anthony Aloysius St
    ”Opinion polls aren’t perfect by any means, but the pollsters go to enormous lengths to try to gauge what the population as a whole thinks. It’s ridiculous to say that they must be wrong because it doesn’t “feel” as bad as that to you when you’re on the doorstep.”

    I think you are seriously wrong on both counts.

    There are three sources of information, which you or I have referred to, as to the “true” state of public support:

    1. Local Council by-election results (of which there have been over 100 since the General Election)
    2. Canvassing results from speaking to real people on the doorstep (which is where I have been for the last 2 hours – in this case in an area I and colleagues have canvassed for over 25 years).
    3. Opinion Poll results.

    I don’t know if you are a Lib Dem activist, Anthony Aloysius St, and if so if you have done any canvassing over the last 5 months, but if you were, and had, you would no doubt agree with me that on the basis of 1. and 2. our true level of support is around 20%, whereas you have referred to Opinion Polls where we stand at 11% and 14%.

    You claim that “pollsters go to enormous lengths to try to gauge what the population as a whole thinks” but I don’t think they do in this case. I strongly suspect that they use exactly the same methodology that they have used for the last few years.

    Until five and a half months ago we did not have a Coalition Government, and for pollsters to carry on with the same methodology as before carries a significant risk of producing erroneous results.

    Eventually pollsters will improve their methods. However we may have to wait for the May 2011 Local Election results which I could well see showing a Lib Dem actual performance at a level around 10% higher than is projected by Opinion Polls before the pollsters change to get things right.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Oct '10 - 7:22pm

    “if you were, and had, you would no doubt agree with me”

    As I’m not, and as I haven’t, I don’t.

  • Talking of matters that impact on education, it’s just been reported that the Child Benefit that is given to 16 to 18 year olds when in further education (6th form, college etc) is to be cut contrary to an article by written on LDV a few weeks ago, we were told that this would not be cut and this was a concession made to Clegg too soften the blow of the other cut CB. I remember thinking that at least Clegg is winning something from the Tories, I guess he was wrong.

  • sorry for the typos above, I wasn’t paying enough attention

  • First rule of ministerial resignations – never believe the public spin.
    We also remember Cameron and Osborne’s friends in the right wing press went huge on David Laws yet barely a peep on them about Cameron’s promise to sack Bill Wiggins for expenses misdemeanors.
    It also never crossed the Conservative Whip’s mind to do the decent thing and resign.

    It’s barely worth engaging in the delusion that all polls are meaningless beneath a poll.
    However, the big pollsters will be tested against real elections soon enough.
    I guarantee you they aren’t all wrong.

  • “I strongly suspect that they use exactly the same methodology that they have used for the last few years.”

    From what I understand, they (or some of them – cant’ remember which ones) have changed methodology since the election to reflect the fact that pre-election polls overestimated the Lib Dems’ actual result, i.e. that not all those who said they were going to vote LD at the election actually did. They now lop a certain % off the Lib Dem poll figures that they get in order to reflect that. Post-election, it doesn’t make much sense (given that if anything, there’s probably now a “shy Lib Dem” factor rather than the other way round!) but that’s apparently what they’re doing.

  • It’s YouGov who’ve changed their methodology – here’s an explanation from Anthony Wells
    http://bit.ly/cGBhYr

  • We made pledges on the basis that there was money in the kitty to cover it. There wasnt so the NUS should be grown up enough to realise that some things cannot be delivered in the present financial climate.

  • Stephen are you are trained pollster or statistician? I doubt it in that case please get some advice on the wording of your questions because you constantly end up with misleading questions and/or interpret the results in a way other than the question was worded.

    Survey questions should be clear unambiguous and not open to interpretation. You surveys and interpretation of their results continually fail to meet this requirement and it undermines their integrity.

  • @Stephen Tall

    Erm, did YOU look at the first question? Y’know, the one that didn’t have a straight yes or no answer…

  • Clegg: verb: to lie deceive promise to do one thing but actually do the opposite;eg ‘I swear to oppose any increase in student tuition fees’

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