LDV post-conference members’ survey (1): why you did – and didn’t – attend the Lib Dem conference

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2008

Over the weekend, Lib Dem Voice emailed the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions arising from last week’s party conference in Bournemouth. Many thanks to the 187 of you who completed it; we’ll be publishing the results this week on LDV.

First up, we asked how many of you had actually attended conference. LDV forum members are more likely than most, of course, to be party activists – so it was little surprise that 60% of those responding to the survey were in Bournemouth last week (compared with just under 10% of party members nationally).

Of those who didn’t attend, we asked what the main reason was for not going to conference. Here’s what you told us:

It is too expensive – 20%
It was too far away – 12%
I couldn’t take time off work – 31%
I don’t feel the need to be actively involved in national party policy-making – 8%
I think party conferences are pointless – 1%
Other – 28%

Of those who selected ‘Other’ the most recurring issues were family commitments, poor health, or holiday/work taking you abroad. Those who considered expense the main deterrent did not mention the cost of registering as a delegate; rather it was the cost of accommodation in a B&B/hotel for up to five nights.

Of those who did attend, we asked what your main motivation for going to Bournemouth was. Here’s what you told us:

To participate and vote in the party’s policy debates – 34%
To attend training and/or fringe events – 26%
To meet up socially with other party members – 16%
Other – 24%

Those who selected ‘Other’ were, on the whole, stressing the importance of two or all three of these options in motivating them to attend conference. There were a handful of folk who answered their main reason for attending was that they worked for the party, or were running a stall, or involved in stewarding at conference.

Finally for today, we asked the same question to both groups: From all that you have watched and read over the past week, how successful do you think the Lib Dem conference was in terms of showing the party in a positive light?

Here’s what those who didn’t attend (and so were more reliant on media reporting) said:

Very successful – 19%
Quite successful – 44%
Okay – 24%
Quite unsuccessful – 11%
Very unsuccessful – 3%

And here’s what those who did attend, and so witnessed conference for themselves, thought:

Very successful – 30%
Quite successful – 55%
Okay – 12%
Quite unsuccessful – 3%
Very unsuccessful – 0%

The difference is significant: 85% of those who attended thought the conference was successful or very successful at showing the Lib Dems in a positive light, compared with 63% of those who didn’t attend. Some might argue this shows the danger of conferences in promoting a distorted group-think. More positively, we can see it as fairly convincing evidence of the morale-boosting fillip which surrounding yourself with thousands of other like-minded souls has on party activists.

The overwhelming impression from these findings, though, is that the vast majority of you believe the party conference was, to one degree or another, pretty good for the party as a whole (and the weekend opinion polls would tend to back up that view).