LDV survey: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition’s economic policies, housing benefit, and the CSR

by Stephen Tall on November 12, 2010

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of the contest for the party presidency, the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results over the next few days.

What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition’s economic policies

Which of these statements comes closest to your opinion about how the Coalition should go about reducing the deficit?

    45% – It is important to cut spending quickly even if this means immediate job losses, because it will be better for the economy in the long term 26.67 18.32
    44% – It is better to cut spending more slowly, to reduce the impact on public services and the economy 21.39 23.10
    11% – Don’t know / No opinion 4.93 5.57

Interestingly, this question produced a clear divide between the sexes, with a small but clear majority of men opting for the ‘cut quickly’ approach, and a smaller but still clear majority of women opting for the ‘cut slowly’ approach.

On balance, do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s economy”?

    66% – I agree
    15% – I disagree
    19% – Don’t know / No opinion

On balance, do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In the long term, this government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s public services”?

    35% – I agree
    38% – I disagree
    27% – Don’t know / No opinion

An interesting pair of responses: a clear majority of members agree that the Coalition’s policies are the right thing for the health of the British economy; however, members are much more evenly split on whether the Coalition’s policies will work to the long-term good of our public services, with a narrow plurality feeling they won’t.

Proposed housing benefit reforms

The Coalition government has proposed that there should be a cap of £400 a week (around £20,000 a year) on the amount of housing benefit anyone can claim. Some people have said that these changes would be unfair on poorer people living in high-rent areas like central London and would lead to tens of thousands of people losing their homes. Other people have said that it is unfair that people on benefit should be given more money to spend on rent than many people in full-time work can afford. Do you support or oppose the proposed cap on housing benefit?

    71% – Support
    21% – Oppose
    8% – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net support: +50%

There’s no doubt that Lib Dem members are generally behind the proposed housing benefit cap. Indeed, the results here are very similar to the general public’s attitudes according to YouGov’s findings.

The Comprehensive Spending Review

In the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Coalition announced its plans for spending cuts to reduce the national deficit. From what you know, do you think the government has on the whole made the right decisions or the wrong decisions about where spending cuts should be made?

    64% – Right decisions
    24% – Wrong decisions
    12% – Don’t know / No opinion

In the main, therefore, party members are behind the Coalition’s cuts and spending decision, with two-thirds believing them to be right on the whole. However, there is some significant opposition, with one-quarter of all members thinking the CSR was wrong. When polling company Ipsos-Mori asked exactly the same question of the public at large the split was: 41% right, 38% wrong, 21% don’t know.

And now onto some of the individual proposals…

We then asked about some of the more controversial individual measures in the CSR asking if members support or oppose the following actions to reduce the deficit…
(ordered in descending order of net support)

No major spending on replacing Trident will be committed until after next election:

    70% – Strongly Support
    26% – Support
    2% – No View
    1% – Oppose
    1% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +94%

Limit to £50,000 a year the amount on which people can claim tax relief on their pensions:

    54% – Strongly Support
    35% – Support
    8% – No View
    3% – Oppose
    1% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +85%

Increase the state pension age for men and women to 66 by 2020:

    40% – Strongly Support
    46% – Support
    6% – No View
    6% – Oppose
    2% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +78%

End child benefit for people who earn over £44,000:

    46% – Strongly Support
    37% – Support
    2% – No View
    10% – Oppose
    5% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +68%

Reduce the number of public sector jobs by 490,000 by 2015:

    11% – Strongly Support
    48% – Support
    14% – No View
    18% – Oppose
    7% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +34%

Reduce spending on welfare, such as benefits and jobseekers allowance, by £7bn by 2015:

    10% – Strongly Support
    43% – Support
    11% – No View
    26% – Oppose
    10%- Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +17%

Reduce spending on policing by 4% every year until 2015:

    7% – Strongly Support
    40% – Support
    21% – No View
    27% – Oppose
    5% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +15%

Retaining winter fuel payments, free TV licenses and concessionary bus passes for pensioners:

    24% – Strongly Support
    28% – Support
    11% – No View
    28% – Oppose
    9% – Strongly Oppose
    Net support: +15%

Overall, then, even the most controversial aspects of the CSR — such as ending child benefit for higher-rate taxpayers and cutting public sector jobs — get the nod from Lib Dem members. The two least supported measures are cutting spending on the police, and retaining the universal benefits for pensioners such as concessionary bus fares.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 580 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 10th November.
  • 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