EXCLUSIVE: 84% of Lib Dem members back Lib-Con Coalition – but 46% say it will be bad for party’s electoral fortunes

by Stephen Tall on August 31, 2010

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of the Coalition Government’s budget, and what you make of the Lib Dems’ and Government’s performance to date. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results of our survey.

First, let’s take the temperature of the party membership regarding their view of the Lib-Con Coalition agreement, now some two months old:

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives?

  • 84% – Support
  • 11% – Oppose
  • 5% – Don’t know / No opinion

Interestingly, this month’s results are exactly the same as July’s – and as I wrote then: “The figure of 84% suggest support for the coalition is holding up pretty well among members”. In a previous Voice survey at the end of May, 86% of party members declared themselves “happy” with the coalition agreement. It is, mind you, down a notch on the 91% who told us they would back the coalition in the middle of May.

Support for the coalition is one thing – but what do Lib Dem members think of the performance of the coalition government:

Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date?

  • 67% – Approve
  • 22% – Disapprove
  • 11% – Don’t know / No opinion

Our sample of party members shows the Coalition Government with a net approval rating of +45%. In itself not too bad, but it should be noted that last month the split was 74% / 17%, a net approval rating of +57% – so the Government’s approval ratings among Lib Dem members have slipped 12% in the past month.

It’s clear from the comments from some members that, while the Coalition agreement still has high support, there is a greater sense nopw of its inevitability, that the party didn’t have any other choice, rather than a huge groundswell of enthusiasm for the actions of the Coalition in government.

Here are a handful of your comments:

  • I think being in coalition government was the least worst option open. I do not support the Government, but do support the party within Government.
  • Better that the Conservatives are restrained by LD centrist policies than allowng the Conservative right to hold sway.
  • I originally held judgement on the coalition, but I feel now that we are being manipulated by the Conservatives. It has been very damaging to the party.
  • I have been impressed by the flexibility of the Tories, and the way they have ignored their right wing.
  • Yeah but no but yeah but no…. whilst I think Cameron won the right to be PM, and I’m delighted they didn’t get a majority with the far-right cracking the whip, and I think working together is both responsible and necessary, I remain unconvinced from a campaigning perspective that this won’t annhilate us.
  • Cut tax credits, benefits, drug test job seekers, increase prison times, cock-up the University system even further and demand an almost completely insignificant change to the voting system. Triumph!
  • I’m not entirely happy with the glee that cuts have been presented with but I’m delighted about the taxation changes for low earners
  • Failure to form a coalition in May would have been self-indulgent: Britain needed stable government and we needed to seize the chance to implement SOME of our policies. To form a coalition with Labour would have been to prop up a failed government that we had opposed for 13 years. It would also have destroyed our credibility with the electorate.
  • The popular perceptiption is that we have favoured those who could afford to shoulder more of the burden and we’ve let the Banks off the hook
  • I approve so far, but I feel Clegg and the parliamentary party are reaching a crucial point in the history of the coalition. Party members reconciled themselves to the coalition because of the strength of the coalition document. To maintain that support Clegg and co need to advocate much more forcefully in favour of the Lib Dem position within government and communicate that to the public.
  • Jury is out on many aspects of policy, but so far so good.
  • Then to the issue which has caused all Lib Dems some jitters over the past 100+ days – however mature / sensible / inevitable the coalition agreement is, will we lose MPs because of it?

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

    • 17% – Good
    • 46% – Bad
    • 20% – Neither good nor bad
    • 18% – Don’t know / No opinion

    So approaching half (46%) our sample of party members reckon the Lib Dems will take a hit for signing up to the coalition. Just 17% reckon we wll benefit while a further 20% think the effect will be neutral. Understandably, almost one-fifth of Lib Dem members in our sample have no idea what might (or might not) happen in the course of this Parliament, and how it will affect, positively or not, the Lib Dems.

    Compared with last month – where the split was 43% bad / 23% good / 17% no difference – there is a small but clear shift towards Lib Dem members expecting the party to suffer at the next general election for our particpation in the Coalition. Yet at the same time, support for the principle of the Coalition is just as high as ever… whatever the cynics say, it’s clear party members are pursuing Coalition in the purist belief that ‘we must do the right thing’ rather than a self-interested belief that the party is onto an electoral winner.

    And finally for today:

    How long do you expect the coalition government will last?

    • 1% – Less than a year
    • 8% – A year to two years
    • 15% – Two to three years
    • 71% – Four years or more
    • 5% – Don’t know / No opinion

    71% of party members think the Coalition will last the full parliamentary term, compared with a combined total of 24% who think it will fall before then. This is a contrast with the last time we asked this question, at the end of May, when 63% of party members thought the Coalition would last, compared with 38% who anticipated an early implosion. If nothing else, this points to a significant shift in belief that the Coalition – still a remarkable innovation in peacetime British politics – is stable, and here to stay for some time to come.

    You can catch up with the results of all our LDV members surveys by clicking here.