LibLink: Anthony Wells ‘On that poll of Lib Dem members ‘

by Stephen Tall on August 25, 2012

As my LibDemVoice colleague Caron Lindsay noted here, our poll asking when Lib Dem members want Nick Clegg to stand down has attracted a fair bit of coverage this week (including in the Daily Mail: I’ve showered three times since reading it, I still feel unclean).

Over at his essential UK Polling Report blog, the best online guide to British polling, Anthony Wells has taken a closer look at this survey — and at the validity of LibDemVoice surveys in general — and here’s an excerpt of what he says:

Stephen Tall and Mark Pack don’t make huge claims about representativeness and are always quick to stress that they can’t claim they are representative. This is admirable, but is sadly not a carte blanche, as however much the person doing a poll hedges it with caveats and warnings these are rarely picked up by third parties who report a poll and are more interested in making it newsworthy than reporting it well.

That said, I think they are actually pretty worthwhile. They have the huge advantage of being able to actually check respondents against the Liberal Democrat member database so we can be certain that respondents actually are paid up Lib Dem members and not entryists, pissed off former members, other parties supporters causing trouble, etc. LDV also have access to some proper demographic data on the actual membership of the Lib Dem party, so while their sample is unrepresentative in some ways (it’s too male for example), they know this and can test to see if it makes a difference. They have also compared it against some YouGov polling of Lib Dem members which had very similar results, and actual Lib Dem party ballots, which had excellent results in 2008 and rather ropey ones in 2010. Mark Pack has a good defence of them here.

Anthony includes a number of caveats, too — that our surveys may well be too skewed towards activists compared with armchair members; and that coverage of the party on the site may influence the results — but he concludes:

All that said, while they aren’t perfect and Mark and Stephen never claim they are, I think they are a decent good straw in the wind and worth paying attention to, especially given the verification of whether respondents are party members.

You can read Anthony’s post in full here. And you can catch up on all our survey results published to date here.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.