LDV poll: 80% of Lib Dem members continue to back current Coalition & 63% open to another Coalition after 2015

by Stephen Tall on June 8, 2012

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 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Lib Dem members back Coalition by 80% to 16%

LDV asked: Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives?

    80% – Support
    16% – Oppose
    4% – Don’t know / No opinion

For all the current difficulties the Lib Dems find ourselves in, it’s actually pretty extraordinary how high support for the party being in coalition with the Conservatives remains. LibDemVoice has been asking this exact same question since July 2010, and during this time not once has support for it dipped below 80%. In fact, the support/opposition figures have remained remarkably constant, within the range 80-84%/11-16% across all 10 of our surveys, albeit this month’s figures show the lowest net support yet, at +64%, compared to a peak of +73% when the Coalition was newly-minted.

Just 5% of members want party to return to full opposition

Looking ahead three years, we also decided to test members’ views about what they’d like to see happen post-2015…

LDV asked: In the event of no one party being able to form a majority government after the next election with the Liberal Democrats once again holding the balance of power, which of the following options would be your preference:

    63% – Opening coalition negotiations with whichever party has the strongest mandate if a stable Commons majority will result
    22% – Offering a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement to whichever party is able to form a minority government (ie, no coalition deal so free to vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but agreeing not to bring down the government or vote against its Budget)
    5% – Returning to full opposition with no form of arrangement with the governing party
    8% – Other
    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

Again, what I find most striking about this result is the appetite that remains within the party not to retreat to the easy simplicity of opposition — to ‘lick our wounds’ and re-group — but to make the active choice to continue in one form or another to be part of the next government. Almost two-thirds of members in our survey favour a full coalition deal in principle (assuming agreement can be reached), and more than one-fifth are open to a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement. Of the 8% who selected ‘Other’, there are a mix of responses: they ranged from ‘it’s too soon to say’; to expressing a specific preference for Labour/Conservatives as coalition partner, or for a ‘rainbow coalition’; to ‘let’s find out where there’s most common ground’.

Here’s a selection of your comments:

If we want to be a party of government, rather than a permanent small opposition party we have to play the coalition game and have a say in what what is done. Our route should be consensus, pluralism,coalition, then perhaps government if we deserve it.

Forming a coalition with Labour, et al – history shows that whenever the Liberals dance with the Tories, it’s always Liberal toes that get trod upon.

It’s too early to speculate, however I would say on the current showing I believe we are making more difference to a Tory government than we would be able to do to a Labour government who would totally take us for granted. I would feel more at ease continuing the current arrangement than playing flibberty-jibbet and jumping into bed with Labour should either larger party be able to form a government with us.

Not coalition as we have here now but of the type that they have in Germany where a party has specific departments to run with their policies being put into practice

Open negotiations to see if they got anywhere. I’d prefer government to opposition. There’s little point being a member of a party which doesn’t seek to exercise power when it has the chance.

The supply and confidence arrangement would be OK as long as the fixed term parliament rule remains in place and no other party can bring it down. Because we can’t afford to fight another election soon after the previous one.

Opening negotiations with Labour in order to rebalance some of the Tory changes we’ve had to put up with while moderating Labour’s excesses.

Find arrangement with Conservative party. Labour has no answers and got us into this mess.

We should’ve negotiate in the basis of policy, rather than simply who got the most votes.

It depends on the arithmetic and how many seats the party has – big losses for the party would indicate the public wants the party out of government regardless.

It rather depends on how many seats we win. With under 40 seats, say, a coalition would not be a good idea.

Depends. I don’t particularly want another coalition with the Tories – but going straight into a coalition with Labour will possibly be quite damaging for us as well. Under FPTP, we’re a bit screwed – so it really does depend on the circumstance.

The economy is (again) likely to require a strong and stable government to address the underlying issues rather than any other arrangement. A full coalition (in the event that no party has an overall majority) would be necessary.

We should agree to work with whichever party secures the largest mandate. Whether that is a supply and confidence arrangement or a full-on coalition should be determined by negotiation and agreement and in the interests of the country at the time.

*politically* returning to opposition would let us lick some wounds. But as part of a longer-term project to educate the people/media/other parties that coalitions work, we should definitely offer to take part in Government if it is in the interest of the country that we do. We may not, of course, be invited to talks if Labour (and at the moment it looks like Labour) can do a deal with the nationalists, or think they can govern as a minority.

There’s nothing wrong with coalition in principle. It’s how well you handle it that’s the issue.

This is a bogus question. The Lib dems didn’t hold the balance of power last time. We had a choice of putting the blues in or not but no choice of putting the reds in

If the Tories are largest party – supply and confidence. I don’t trust them at all, not after the Coalition, and another five years in government with them would quite simply see our party obliterated at a local level, and therefore as a political force. If Labour – seek coalition, with clear red lines. If those red lines are not agreed upon, walk away and allow them a supply and confidence agreement. Either way, we have to start to repair our reputation for being more honest than the other parties.

Although I am deeply unimpressed by Labour’s lack of responsibility and honesty about the current options, we have a duty to Liberal Democrat voters to negotiate with anyone to maximise the Lib Dem contribution to any future government programme.

The coalition talks should be based on who can offer us the best joint programme rather than whichever party has “strongest mandate”. Even if a party has the most votes, if the other two parties are in closer agreement over some key issues then together they have a stronger mandate than the other.

  • 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 28th May and 1st June.
  • 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
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.