Do Lib Dem members’ views differ from conference representatives’ views? Here’s what our survey says…

by Stephen Tall on March 10, 2012

We published yesterday the results of our survey of Lib Dem members’ views of the Coalition’s NHS reforms. Given the importance of this weekend’s debate at the party’s spring conference, we have also tried to test how Lib Dem members who are conference representative might vote on Sunday, when there is likely to be an emergency debate on the future of the Health & Social Care Bill.

All party members registered on the LibDemVoice forum were able to vote: 507 did so, including 147 who said they would be attending the conference as a voting representative. To compare their views on the questions we asked about the NHS with those of all other party members in general, I’ve uploaded a document available here:

LibDemVoice NHS survey: the views of all members compared with conference representatives.

In the main, there are very few differences with any statistical significance. This is perhaps not too surprising. After all, we’re all members of the same party, whether we’re voting representatives or not. In addition, given voting representatives make up some 30% of the overall survey respondents, their views carry a good deal of weight in the overall numbers.

However, there are a handful of questions where there is a small-but-significant divergence in views:

  • Lib Dem conference representatives are in favour of abolishing PCTs and replacing with GP commissioning by a margin of 50%-41%. By contrast, Lib Dem members as a whole are opposed by a wafer-thin 46%-45%. This result might reflect the high number of (ex-)councillors who will be voting representatives.
  • Lib Dem conference representatives are slightly more persuadable that, if Chapter 3 of the NHS Bill (the competition chapter) can be significantly amended, then they would be prepared to back the Bill as a whole. This is the verdict of 37% of conference representatives, compared to 32% of all members in our survey. The overall figure of those in favour of the Bill if Chapter 3 is amended (and assuming those who support the Bill as it currently stands don’t drop their support if there are changes) is 53%-38% among conference representatives, compared to 49%-39% among all members.
  • The biggest differences between Lib Dem conference representatives and all party members who took part in the survey concern the views of leading party figures. Conference representatives take a slightly harsher view of Paul Burstow, who has a net satisfaction rating of -15% compared to -10% for all members. But conference representatives are much more likely to give credit to the largely behind-the-scenes roles of the Co-Chairs of the party’s Committee on Health and Social Care, John Pugh MP (+33% satisfaction among conferences representatives, compared with +17% among all members), and Baroness (Judith) Jolly (+19% compared with +8%). These differences perhaps reflect the closer attention conference representatives have paid to the details of the NHS debate within the party.

All of the above comes with a health warning. We do not know how representative LibDemVoice’s surveys of party members are compared to the membership as a whole, or indeed of the party’s voting conference representatives. In the past, they have been pretty accurate predictors (in terms of the contests for party president, as well as signing up to the Coalition Agreement), but past success is no guarantee of future performance. Still, these are the results: make of them what you will…

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.