Do Lib Dem members think the Coalition will collapse early? And what the public thinks about Nick Clegg…
by Stephen Tall on May 12, 2011
Channel 4 News has conducted an interesting YouGov poll surveying former and current Lib Dem members about their views on the Coalition. Their political editor Gary Gibbon gives the skinny on his blog:
We have a YouGov poll, taken from 396 Lib Dem members and 118 former members, on the programme tonight. It found that 52% of (396) members sampled thought the coalition wouldn’t run the full five years, though 63% thought it should. The poll suggests 35% think Nick Clegg shouldn’t lead the party into the next election (against 45% saying he should) – worth remembering he only won the leadership election narrowly. The membership splits 50/50 on whether the Deputy Prime Minister is performing well or badly. Interestingly, on policy issues, 73% of the party members YouGov polled think that the Coalition is handling the NHS badly (that’s a similar figure to the 77% who think the government handled tuition fees badly and way above any other policy area in the disapproval stakes).
A little naughtily, though, Channel 4 News led on a seemingly more sensational finding: Exclusive: a YouGov poll for Channel 4 News finds more than half of Lib Dem supporters believe the Coalition will collapse before a general election.
When I first saw this, I was surprised. One of the most consistent findings from our own surveys of Lib Dem members has been the confidence in the Coalition lasting til 2015: in our last two surveys of 500+ members 72% each time have said it will last the full five years.
But then I looked at the options offered to Lib Dem members by YouGov, and the breakdown shows that 42% think it will last the full five years, and 33% think the Coalition will ‘end just before the 2015 election’. That last option seems to me a false choice: what does ‘just before’ mean, and would it be by mutual consent of both the Lib Dems and Tories?
The finding doesn’t seem to justify Channel 4′s spin of Lib Dem members thinking the Coalition will ‘collapse’. The most that can be claimed is that some 75% of current and former party members believe the Coalition will continue for at least another three-and-a-half years.
Public views on Nick Clegg
On satisfaction (or not) with Nick Clegg, by the way, I was interested in this slide from Ipsos-Mori, who’ve just conducted a poll, The Coalition’s First Year: the public’s verdict.
What’s interesting about it is that it separates out public perceptions of party from those for the leader: it’s quite possible to (dis)like a politician because of their party label, or in spite of it. Most polls about how the public rate political leaders ask something along the lines, ‘How do you think X is doing in their job as leader of Y’ — which mixes up what respondents think of Person X and Party Y.
What the Ipsos-Mori findings show is that Nick Clegg is overall better liked than Ed Miliband, but less well-liked than David Cameron. Perhaps more importantly when judging his effectiveness as party leader, the poll indicates Nick is liked just as much as the party. In contrast, Labour is liked more than Ed Miliband, but David Cameron is liked more than the Tories.
That 51% of the public now likes neither Nick Clegg nor the party is an odd position for Lib Dems to be in: we have grown used over the years to being generally liked by most people, in part because of what we stand for, but also in part because we’ve never had the power to do things that either seriously pleases or antagonises the public. Now that we are in government, the public is taking a stance.
Overall, I think the poll’s findings back up the view I’ve expressed here before — that the Labour/media line that Nick Clegg is universally unpopular isn’t backed up by the evidence.
What is more the case, I think, is that he is divisive in a way that’s unusual for Lib Dem leaders: there is deep antipathy to him among staunch Labour voters, and some current and former Lib Dems; he remains generally popular among moderate Tories and at least half Lib Dem voters.