Exclusive: 62% of Lib Dem members back Coalition’s deficit policy & 60% back post-2015 cuts to eliminate deficit

by Stephen Tall on December 14, 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. Some 550 party members responded, and we’ll be publishing the full results here over the next few days.

62% back Coalition’s deficit policy

LDV asked: Thinking about the government’s economic policies, which of the following best reflects your view?

  • 62% – Borrowing more at a time when we already owe so much will simply make matters worse, as the country will have to pay back even more money in the longer term. We have to bring the debt and the deficit under control even if it has some painful effects for the economy in the short term.
  • 22% – The government’s spending cuts and tax rises are hurting the economy. It should cut taxes, and/or cut spending less fast, even if that means we go on borrowing more for longer – because given how much we already owe, borrowing an extra few billion pounds cannot do much more harm.
  • 12% – Neither
  • 4% – Don’t know / No opinion

Overall there is strong support within our sample of Lib Dem members for the Coalition’s deficit-reduction strategy, with almost two-thirds of members broadly backing it.

Of the 12% who opted for ‘neither’ there were a variety of responses, but the most common alternatives put forward were (1) the Coalition needs to cut some public spending, but should not be afraid to increase investment in infrastructure which will boost the economy and deliver longer-term economic benefits; (2) a more radical re-shaping of public spending is needed (eg, scrap Trident); (3) there is scope to increase much further wealth taxes which could lessen public spending cuts; and (4) economic policy should be based on pragmatism, and adjusted to the economic data.

60% say yes to post-2015 cuts to eliminate the deficit

LDV asked: As a result of reduced growth forecasts, it now seems unlikely the Coalition Government will achieve its aim of eliminating the deficit over the lifetime of this parliament. Danny Alexander has indicated that the Liberal Democrats will probably need to go into the next election in 2015 promising nearly £30bn more austerity for a future government to balance the books. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Eliminating the deficit must remain a top priority, even if that means the Liberal Democrats have to commit to post-2015 cuts at the next general election.”

  • 60% – I agree
  • 32% – I disagree
  • 8% – Don’t know / No opinion

By a 2:1 margin, then, Lib Dem members believe it is important that the party holds steadfast to the Coalition’s stated priority for the next government to balance the books. However, it was also clear from the comments that members felt it was crucial that (1) the Lib Dems and Tories contest the next election as fully independent parties, and (2) the way in which the party chooses to eliminate the deficit will almost certainly differ significantly from the Tories’ manifesto choices. As one member noted in the comments, “This doesn’t mean we need to commit to the same fiscal position as the Tories. Just that we, and all parties, need to admit the reality of the situation.” In addition, a number of comments noted that, over three years away from the next general election, we cannot know now what the priorities in 2015 will be.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 9th and 13th December.
  • 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