LDV survey: What Lib Dem members actually think about a hung Parliament

by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2009

Today’s BBC2 Daily Politics is touting a highly misleading poll by ComRes feigning to know which of the other two main parties – Labour or the Tories – Lib Dem members would wish to shack up with in the event of a hung Parliament where the party holds the balance of power. The Guardian reports it here:

Liberal Democrat activists would overwhelmingly prefer their party to enter a coalition government with Labour rather than the Tories, according to a poll published today. Fewer than one in five said that they would want to see Nick Clegg team up with the Conservatives in the event of a hung Parliament after the next general election. The Lib Dem leader has consistently refused to discuss who he is likely to support if all parties fail to secure an outright majority.

Why do I call the poll misleading? Well, here’s the precise wording ComRes used: In the event of a hung parliament at the next election, and if the Liberal Democrats held the balance of power, which party would you prefer the Liberal Democrats to support in government? And here are the options that were presented: Conservative / Labour / Don’t know / Not stated.

You see the flaw in ComRes’s findings? That’s right, no option for either ‘Neither’, nor for ‘Either, equally’. The omission of those options may account for the very high level of those saying ‘Don’t know’ – almost 50%.

Fortunately, Lib Dem Voice and the ippr – in preparation for Tuesday’s lunchtime fringe event on ‘The end of politics as we know it‘ – asked our panel of 1,000+ Lib Dem party members a question about ‘hung Parliaments’ which offered these options. Some 250 party members completed the survey, and the results differ quite significantly from the false, forced choice question asked by ComRes for BBC2’s Daily Politics.

LDV asked: If the result of the next general election is that the Lib Dems hold the balance of power in a ‘hung parliament’, what do you think should be the party’s response if Labour/Conservatives offer some form of deal which includes the promise of a referendum on electoral reform?

And here’s what our LDV party members’ panel said:

25% – Steer well clear of any form of negotiations or coalition with Labour or Conservatives
5% – Be ready to negotiate only with Labour on that basis
6% – Be ready to negotiate only with the Conservatives on that basis
61% – Be equally ready to negotiate with either Labour or the Conservatives on that basis
3% – Don’t know / No opinion

These findings are, I think, much more revealing of what Lib Dem members actually think the party should consider in the (unlikely) event of a hung Parliament:

  • A significant minority – one-quarter – of party members who replied said the Lib Dems should avoid any form of negotiation with either party.
  • Only a very small proportion, just over one-in-ten, believe the Lib Dems should enter into any form of negotiations exclusively with only one of the two main parties.
  • A clear majority, getting on for two-thirds of party members, believe we should be prepared to negiotiate with either party, so long as electoral reform is on the agenda.
  • Of course this answer doesn’t suit the media’s simplistic, pre-determined agenda, so don’t expect the findings to be reported. But perhaps BBC2’s Daily Politics will have the courage to prove our cynicism wrong …