What Lib Dem Voice members think of the Election results

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of the General Election results. Some 1065 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Members expected us to do better

Before 10pm on the 7th of May how many seats did you think the Liberal Democrats would win?

Unlike previous surveys where we grouped the number of seats in blocks of 10, and only went as low as “Fewer than 30 MPs”, this time we had an open text field.

The mean average was 27.13 seats, the mode was 30 with the median at 28.

    Less that 1% had us as in single figures.
    50% had us between 25 and 30 MPs.
    And only 3 people had us gaining MPs.

Clearly we were expecting losses, but not to the level which happened.

Reality kicking in at 10pm

At 10pm when the exit poll was released and it showed the Liberal Democrats were to only keep 10 seats did you dismiss them like Paddy Ashdown?

    Yes – 49%
    No – 51%

I know that when I saw them come in, my thoughts were “but have they really taken in to consideration the groundwork in our seats?”, “but then I’m sure I said this 5 years ago”. Unlike Paddy I didn’t say I’d eat my hat, but I did put £10 on us having more than 25.

The Bad

Why do you think the Liberal Democrats took such a battering?

    47% – Pro SNP vote in Scotland
    55% – Anti SNP vote in England
    40% – Nick Clegg
    8% – Not being right enough for former Tory voters
    24% – Not being left enough for former Labour voters
    68% – Tuition fees

Clearly there was no one answer for what went wrong, with other answers provided including the message, the voting system, trust, being in government, no longer being a party of protest and the press.

The Good

Which one policy were you most proud of the Liberal Democrats achieving whilst in the coalition?

    39% – Raising the income tax allowance
    16% – Pupil premium
    24% – Equal marriage
    2% – Shared parental leave
    4% – Free school meals for the under 7s
    5% – Pensions triple lock
    9% – Other

Others included ending the detention of child asylum seekers, blocking ID cards/database, Fixed Term Parliaments Act, FGM, mental health and pub company reform.

We would do it all again

Knowing all the you know now would you have still gone in to a coalition with the Conservatives back in 2010?

    74% – Yes
    26% – No

Of course no one really knows what would have happened if we didn’t go into coalition, but LibDemVoice members would do it again.

65% of Lib Dems say party achieved 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 = 5%
    3 = 11%
    4 = 9%
    5 = 9%
    Lacking influence = 35% (-5%)
    6 = 14%
    7 = 29%
    8 = 16%
    9 = 4%
    10 = 2%
    Achieving influence = 65% (+5%)

By a pretty solid 2:1 ratio Lib Dem Voice members are more likely to rate the Lib Dems as achieving influence within the Coalition – up on the previous three times we asked the question – however we now know the answer to Stephen’s question last time on “whether the voters will do so by May 2015”.

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This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


  • Julian Tisi 15th May '15 - 1:43pm

    This was a snapshot and there was little opportunity for saying what we really thought went wrong – just the chosen options listed above

  • I’m not sure Tuition fees in itself was a ‘prinary’ factor; I don’t think enough Students Vote…. But I think it was a ‘secondary’ factor – Tuition Fees translated into a ‘lack of trust’

  • Paul Kennedy 15th May '15 - 1:54pm

    Mansion/inheritance tax played big in Tory-facing seats, even if average house prices were well below the threshold.

  • Daniel Henry 15th May '15 - 3:08pm

    Paul, both of those were policies of ours when we won those seats in 2010.

  • The election result was decided in 2011/12 and nothing changed. The public had made its mind up about the leader, trust etc etc and that was that. The constant loss of thousands of councilors year by year, the humiliation of going down to only 1 Euro MP, the appalling local by election results for four years and the parliamentary by elections, well let us not talk about how awful they were. Yet nobody responded, the strategy was what, just plough on regardless. Therefore what on earth did we expect last week. A few of us can now say we were right, having foretold no more than 15 seats if fortunate, even having the temerity to suggest single figures from time to time. BUT NOBODY LISTENED, just derision.
    There is now a danger that that process is continuing. It is all the fault of this and that, when in fact all the fault was self perpetuated. We must move on from this, it is now a brave new world and it requires brave NEW people to lead it. That will require management changes at the top with those who have apparently exerted so much influence retiring gracefully and not interfering in the mammoth and long term task of recovery. It can be done with a fresh will, fresh ideas, a real vision for the future, an agreed strategy and chief of all fresh faces. ,.

  • Jonathan Pile 15th May '15 - 4:32pm

    This is important stuff, I took part and I must say despite predicting single figures out in 2012, in the last few months I started to come around the “incumbency/dug in” theory in the same desperate self-delusion as everyone else. This seemed to confirmed by the candidate name prompted polls in marginals by Lord Ashcroft. He has done the conservatives a big favour by being part of the polling error which blindsided Labour and ourselves, though I dont think it was a conspiracy on his part. The most important part of the survey shows Tuition Fees as the biggest factor 68%, followed by the SNP &fear factor 55%, then Nick Clegg 40%, In the Left/Right debate – the view we were too right wing was endorsed by 24% versus just 8% who took the other view. Last question – where are the results on Leadership and what people thought MPs should do next?

  • Keith Browning 15th May '15 - 5:19pm

    The Tory strategy seemed to be to ignore the Labour party at local level, and rely on the Scots scarmongering and a personal attack on Ed.

    However, during their five years working closely with their ‘friends’ in the Lib Dems the Tories must have realised where their individual constituency weaknesses lay, and so they only had to win 30+ Lib Dem seats to get back with a majority – and that is what they did.

    The Lib Dems turned out to be a soft touch for the wiley Tory strategists.

  • Members expected us to do better
    It was not unreasonable for members to believe what they had been repeatedly told.

    Our media folk kept going on about the incumbency factor and how we were also going to win new seats such as Maidstone.
    A few days before polling day an e-mail went out asking for contributions because we were on the verge of winning in Maidstone, Oxwab and Gordon.
    LDV had devoted two separate articles about the additional help that members of the House of Lords had provided to Maidstone.
    Yet we were 10,000 votes away from winning. It wasn’t even close. This was not good targetting. This was not an informed and disciplined approach to holding what we had. It was pointlessly sending people and resources in the wrong direction.

    So it is not a surprise that people believed what the top of the party had repeatedly told them right up until polling day.

    Clearly expectations had been falsely raised. The wiser counsel of those who know about winning seats in General Election campaigns were ignored. People with no such experience could delude themselves and everyone else with ludicrously expensive opinion polling which proved as useful as snake oil. I hope we have learned that lesson for the future.

    I notice that StephenTall’s promise to run naked through London is not going to be kept.
    Or should I say “I will eat my hat if he actually keeps his promise”?

  • People are still concentrating on conservatives winning back seats from the Lib Dems, but they didn’t win back many lib Dem voters they more or less won by default because Lib Dem vote collapsed. I don’t blame anyone thing, but generally think the coalition was a bad idea that went on way too long which with every poor result in election after election entrenched the problems because no one wanted to face the electorate. Really, I think the Lib Dems need a leadership more in tune with the whole of the party and a simpler way of electing and deselecting leaders. Coz if I’m honest I think the party was sacrificed to keep the coalition together and was still being run to continue it right up until 10 pm on May 7.

  • Clearly the tuition fee compromise had a big impact even though it was a much better policy that the Labour one it replaced. Could we have done a better job of explaining it?
    In my constituency of Thornbury and Yate we dis not expect to lose and I don’t think the voters expected us to lose. Turnout in our best areas were lower than the Tory villages and we lost 3 council seats while retaining 16 seats in the constituency. The postal votes were started being counted while the votes on the day were being separated and verified and the sample counts showed us clearly leading.
    On the doorstep towards the end the SNP (which the Tory leaflets majored on) were being mentioned as the reason why voters might not vote For Steve Webb this time but seemed satisfied with reasons why that should not matter. We obviously we’re not in a position to counter the SNP fear factor individual by individual. The Tories spent huge amounts on leaflets and adverts in local press many not mentioning their candidate and therefore not counting towards constituency spending limits (will they show up in national accounts?).

  • Bill le Breton 16th May '15 - 7:49am

    Mike, Steve was one of the outstanding members of the last Government. Please thank him the behalf of all of us.

    There was an interesting article in the Times this week on how they won and I have posted it in the campaigns section of the members forum.. While we were meeting and talking to someone on the doorstep just the once, as you describe above, the Tories were going back several times because of their use of social media. For all the puff that ours was going to be the most modern campaign ever, clearly we were light years behind.

    I first came across the SNP scare on the doorstep around the 14th April and within hours I came to the conclusion that the Tories had the winning issue. By 24th it seemed obvious that this was so and yet still no one was counterattacking. It took until 26th for us to bring out the child benefit ‘secret’ plans, but this was never run with. And although it obviously had traction, nothing like it followed.

    Crosby has apparently written an interesting article today (again in the Times ????) pointing out the paucity of the UK political class. The political press work on comment and do so by phoning each other rather than talking to people, when if they had they could have seen and ‘felt’ what was going on. The polling companies are clearly cronk when faced with these kinds of opinion altering issues and the academics stuck to their silly formulae by which they sought to predict the out comes.

    In the end, there is nothing better than a good, experience political canvasser talking and listening to people across a constituency.

    It would be interesting to know if telephone canvassers picked up this issue? Or did you need to see someone’s eyes and they your eyes to have the quality of exchange necessary. But of course we really didn’t have the people left after 5 years of depreciation of our human assets.

  • Bill Le Breton concludes his comment —
    “…In the end, there is nothing better than a good, experience political canvasser talking and listening to people across a constituency.
    It would be interesting to know if telephone canvassers picked up this issue? Or did you need to see someone’s eyes and they your eyes to have the quality of exchange necessary.
    But of course we really didn’t have the people left after 5 years of depreciation of our human assets.”

    Someone should print this on a leaflet and post it through the letter box of everybody at the top of our party.
    They should do so repeatedly on a daily basis until the lesson sinks in.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th May '15 - 8:38am

    JohnTilley 15th May ’15 – 5:45pm

    In short John, the factor you repeatedly warned of – that of the Emperor’s new clothes.

    I also agree with Keith Browning’s post. The Tories simply took us to the cleaners – from the rose garden to GE day.

    Clegg’s unwillingness to listen to the membership and those with experience of working with the Tories in no overall control councils was another major factor. He also continued to plough on as we lost councillors and MEPs.

    I am with David Howarth – never again!

  • nvelope2003 16th May '15 - 4:54pm

    An interesting observation on the election results is that whether the party polled 60% or 16% at the 2010 election the average drop in support was 15% per candidate and there was a two thirds drop in total support from 24% to 8%. One might have expected all candidates to lose two thirds of the votes cast in 2010 on that basis and I thought the party might have lost all its seats and told some people that we would be lucky to get 3 seats – Westmorland, Orkney and possibly Yeovil or Ceredigion. In fact there were some near misses in places like Cambridge and Eastbourne but those places which had polled about 15% in 2010 dropped to 1 or 2 %. It would be useful to know who these 15% of voters were and why they did not vote for us.
    I suspect they were the traditional none of the above protest voters whose votes went to UKIP or the Greens or Nationalists or anyone else who was unlikely to form a Government. A core vote of 8% – 10% is unlikely to gain us many seats in 2020 unless there is a complete collapse by another party.

  • Too bad you didn’t ask an “on the right track” question. As past surveys have always shown a confident two thirds or better claiming that the Party was “on the right track” despite catastrophic losses in councillors, MSPs, and MEPs, I would expect at least half of respondents to be saying that the Party was “on the right track” even today!

  • Nvelelope 2003.
    I think this assumption that there is a large none of the above vote is part of the problem. The Greens stand on a platform of the environment and wealth redistribution. Is it not possible that a lot of voters shifted to the Greens because to some extent these echoed Lib Dem manifesto policies and we adopted Conservative welfare forms in government?. The SNP stand on a platform of Scottish independence and anti-austerity. We and Labour were fixed on variation of degrees of austerity. Their policies fitted the electorate in Scotland better. The no Campaign won, for now. but there was still 45% of the population who wanted independence a lot of whom are also traditionally more left-wing than the English parliamentary mainstream. UKIP are an anti-mass immigration and anti EU party. A lot of people are anti immigration and not too keen on the EU. I think that the Lib Dems embodied lots of policies that appealed to a mixture of often less well off and more socially minded voters. They split because we joined a coalition with a party that hared very little of those concerns and indeed was hell bent on making a considerable number of the kinds of people who were voting Lib Dem the scapegoat for their economic re-restructuring. It is not rocket science. Maybe an increasing number of people are simply realising that if you want real change then you have to vote for it. I’d say that the none of the above voters did the most logical thing and didn’t vote. The election turn out was pitifully poor really and no one except the smaller parties were trying to mobilise the untapped vote. The Lib Dems were content to play piggy in the middle. Labour were banking on their core vote and the Conservatives benefited from a low turnout, incumbency and anti Scottish xenophobia. Politics in Britain is in a dreadful state and we need to stop pretending voters aren’t saying what they are saying, by dismissing how they vote or don’t vote as blips. When the electorate changes political parties change with them or get replaced.

  • David Evans 16th May '15 - 7:24pm

    I believe the Russians called them “convenient fools.” That was what Nick was to the Conservatives from Day 1. Likewise many MPs passed on that message to their local party. Ultimately it cost almost all of them their jobs. That is life if you allow your judgement to be switched off by a smooth snake oil salesman.

    However, how typical sceptical Liberals, who will walk barefoot on broken glass for a resident who hasn’t received his housing benefit, can end up believing in people who break a pledge after saying an end to broken promises; bring spoiler motions to conference under the name of a fondly loved senior member; who ignore motions passed in conference twice about Secret courts; who sacrifice their colleagues in councils year after year, and in Scotland and all but one MEP; and still do nothing, is really beyond me.

    In fact it was all a giant Ponzi scheme. Nick and a few others bought into it and ultimately encouraged almost all the party to follow. The lower orders lost first: provincial councillors and MSPs first – 2011; then more councillors – 2012; yet more councillors in 2013; then MEPs and London councillors in 2014. Even at that stage there was a chance to get out alive, and a few brave souls like Ribble Valley said so, but a more key people continued to be true believers and sold the message once again until almost everything was lost. Probably the last chance was Julian in Cambridge and it seems he allowed himself to be deceived into believing that acting would cost him his seat, and persuaded his local party likewise

    Our councillors, MSPs and ultimately MEPs and MPs have paid a great price. But the real losers are our communities who supported us through thick and thin, but now find themselves without representation by any local Liberal Democrats in government at any level. That is Nick Clegg’s legacy.

  • Bill le Breton 17th May '15 - 8:33am

    Those surveyed are not strictly ‘ordinary’ members. they are a committed group and a more than averagely experienced one.

    So why did so many severely over estimate our performance and did that in itself damage our performance?

    Given every other election in the last Parliament, a result of say 30 seats would have been extraordinary. Unbelieveable.

    People generally were influenced by a belief in ‘fortress seats’. This election saw a boom in academics entering the field of projections based on, well on what exactly? The polls, which persistently had us on 8% since the Euro elections and 10% for the three and a half to four years before that. They added ‘stuff’ for the way the Lib Dems had always previously experienced a surge of support during the campaign, but who could deny that having been in Government for 5 years, all prior experience was irrelevant?

    Interestingly Thrasher’s prediction of 15 seats on the eve of poll was much much closer and interestingly he had learned much from working with David Vasmer of ALC/ALDC who collected the local government election results every Thursday night and Friday morning through much of the 1980s. Thrasher was only 100% out. The rest ranged from 300% to 500% out. The ‘great’ Peter Kellner was still predicting 31 on the eve of poll.

    The Eastleigh by-election was clearly a false indicator. But how could a party with the experience of campaigning that we have actually base its targeting strategy on such an atypical election – thousands of helpers, and a strong UKIP challenge. There was no way we could realistically fight 60 by-elections on May 7th – so why did we fall for that one?

    Then of course there was the Party’s own £350,000s worth private polling. Early on I saw examples of the surveys and if they were not meant to be comfort polling exercises then there are serious questions about the degree of expertise behind their construction. But how on earth did the top team not dig a little deeper into their legitimacy.

    A question that also needs examination was the effect of Connect. I warned a couple of years ago that any canvassing information collected before 2010 was useless as Ashcroft mega polling was telling us that we had lost 4 or 5 million votes by autumn 2010. Did someone’s pre-2010 support colour the way their attitude was interpreted in 2015? Blue, green, red and who knows what Liberals??? The ‘careful’ shading of types of support had to have been based on previous support history which had lost their reliability.

    Sure, we were leaking some support in the campaign in every direction, but would that really have accounted for the huge difference between the 2010 and 2015 LD scores? There was no evidence in any polling for us having amassed a considerable amount of votes between the nadir of the Euro results and the opening of the GE campaign.

    And finally there were the ground campaigns themselves. I saw a few and I saw photographs of others. Somehow we kidded ourselves that the numbers campaigning were the same as always, but they didn’t seem like the numbers associated with bandwagon/winning campaigns to me.

    So, where was the political skill to see the obvious? Drowned out by a mass hysteria? A triumph of hope over expectation?

    And yes it would have been different had we concentrated on the evidence. Denial and delusion prevented us making better decisions going as far back as May 2011.

  • Paul In Wokingham 17th May '15 - 9:13am

    I answered “yes” to the question of repeating coalition “knowing everything we now know”. But *only* under the circumstance that we “know everything we now know”.

    So we would know to avoid Rose Garden moments and maintain a business-like relationship with the other party; we would know not be (as David Evans suggests) “useful idiots” who enable an agenda – such as secret courts – that is fundamentally at odds with our principles; and we would know that our existence depends on our grass-roots activists and we cannot dismiss their decimation as “the price of government”.

    Unfortunately it appears that our previous leadership did not know these things, even as many commentators here and elsewhere highlighted them.

  • Mike Drew 16th May ’15 – 6:17am …………………Clearly the tuition fee compromise had a big impact even though it was a much better policy that the Labour one it replaced. Could we have done a better job of explaining it?…………

    Reading such comments, I despair of us learning anything from the last five years…
    Once again, you cannot sign a pledge, put it on posters, carry it around like a holy relic, promise ‘the end of broken promises’ and , when inconvenient, break both promises and expect those who took you at your word to ‘listen to excuses’….
    Having read the results of the above poll I’m afraid that nothing will change…almost twice as many responses still reflect the ‘punching above our weight’ spin than accept that we were, as David Evans succinctly says, ‘convenient fools’…..

  • Bill:
    Do you have any thoughts about Ashcroft’s constituency polling? There were many constituencies where a week or two before the election, his polling said we were on course to win. I was shocked that we lost these type of seats.

    Was his polling bent or poorly carried out? Was it intentionally skewed? Or was it that there was indeed a shift of voters away from us in the last days? If so why?

  • Martin,
    There has been quite a lot of discussion of Ashcroft polls on UK Polling Report, which is always a good place for psephology. The problem seems to have been in the psychology of the questions. He first asked a “general voting intention” where we were not far off how we actually performed in many cases. Then he said “thinkiing about your constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand” (constituency voting intention or CVI) This is where we were well ahead in Eastbourne, Sutton and Cheam, Thornbury and Yate etc. It seems that voters felt they were supposed to select something different the second time. The headline figures on the Ashcroft website are all CVI. The only case where he underestimated our vote was Hallam, and I suspect that was a late swing of Tory tactical voting (as shown in the last, non-ashcroft poll)

    You have to remember that a lot of the Ashcroft polls were from 2014, before the Tory SNP scare/23 seats message started to sink in…

  • David Allen 17th May '15 - 4:02pm

    David-1, the question “Knowing all you know now, would you have still gone in to a coalition with the Conservatives back in 2010?” is more or less the same as the “on the right track” question. As you suggested, a confident 74% still think it was a good idea. The triumph of hope over experience!

  • It was the Labour agent at the Clacton count who told me about the 10 seats prediction and he thought it was ridiculous!

    On the going into coalition again question, I answered Yes, but if it meant going into coalition again and playing our hand as badly as we did that would have been a No. Going into coalition we did not have to renege on the student finance pledge or agree to an NHS reorganisation that actually went against the coalition agreement or let so much of the squeeze fall on benefits and local government.

  • nvelope2003 18th May '15 - 1:12pm

    A lot of people who have voted Liberal Democrat in the past did not seem to support our policies – many seemed to have UKIP type attitudes. After the 201 election I heard several people saying that they did not vote Liberal so that the party would be in the Government and would never vote that way again, although lots of people say they will never do something again but later change their minds. Nevertheless the Liberal Democrats were generally perceived as an anti Tory party so of course many voters were upset by the coalition, although the numbers just did not add up for any other combination. Trying to explain this to people was a hopeless task as they did not seem to understand how Parliament works and that a Government must command a majority of MP s – maybe they did not want to know.

    It does seem extraordinary that 74% of the members would have gone into coalition with the Conservatives even if they knew that this would have almost destroyed the party as a force in the House of Commons. I would have thought the first thing any new leader should say was that we will not enter any coalition (except if we were either the largest party or of almost equal size). How many more seats do they want to lose ?

    Many of those Liberals and others who voted Conservative seem to have done so as they wanted a one party Government – possibly they were irritated and alarmed by the way the Liberal Democrats often openly disagreed with Government policies and appeared to be disloyal. Surely once a policy has been agreed members of the Government should support it in public.

    As regards turnout 66% is not historically very low. Apart from 1950 and 1951 when turnout was 84% and 82 % turnouts have normally been in the 70 – 75 % range and have sometimes been as low as 59% or even less.

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