How Lib Dem members describe their political identity: ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’ and ‘social liberal’ top the bill

by Stephen Tall on April 30, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 530 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

LDV asked: Please tick any or all of the descriptions below that you would be happy for someone else to use to describe you:

    87% – Liberal
    65% – Progressive
    64% – Social liberal
    60% – Internationalist
    55% – Pragmatic
    52% – Reformer
    45% – Centre-left
    44% – Civil libertarian
    44% – Radical
    41% – Green
    35% – Economic liberal
    34% – Social democrat
    33% – Moderate
    30% – Moderniser
    27% – Centrist
    25% – Keynesian
    21% – Libertarian
    20% – Ideological
    16% – Mainstream
    14% – Free marketeer
    9% – Centre-right
    4% – Other (please specify)

This is the kind of debate which can to easily become bogged-down in semantics, with some phrases (eg, economic liberalism, social democrat) loaded with historical baggage not always inferred by those using the descriptors of themselves. Nonetheless, there are some interesting findings here.

Amost two-thirds of members (64%) identify themselves as ‘Social liberal’, compared with 35% happily self-identifying with ‘Economic liberal’: given these are the two terms with greatest currency at the moment to describe the different ‘left/right’ wings of the party, it’s interesting that social liberals outnumber economic liberals 2:1, according to our survey.

Interesting, too, to ponder what such a survey of the party 25 years ago, when we were the SDP/Liberal Alliance, would have shown: my guess is fewer than 87% of party members would have been happy to call themselves ‘liberal’, and more than 34% would have self-identified as ‘social democrat’. That latter descriptor appears to have more or less replaced by the term, ‘progressive’, which 65% of members willingly ascribe to themselves.

LDV then asked: How would you describe your own politics?

Over 400 of your responded with your own free text description. Here’s the collective Wordle of how Lib Dem members describe ourselves:

Liberal Identity Wordle

  • Almost 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Over 530 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 18th and 24th April.
  • 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 winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of 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