What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition after 2½ years

by Stephen Tall on December 30, 2012

lib dem conf votingLib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 500 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

+28% says party is on the “right course”


Do you think, as a whole, the Liberal Democrats are on the right course or on the wrong track?
(Comparison with November’s figures.)

    61% (+4%) – The right course
    33% (-1%) – The wrong track
    6% (-3%) – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net right course: +28% (+5%)

This is the highest net rating (+28%) for the party among members since the summer. However, it is still markedly down on a year ago, when it stood at +37%.

Nick scores +17% as Lib Dem leader

What is your view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader? (Comparison with November’s figures.)

    16% – Very satisfied
    42% – Satisfied
    Total satisfied = 58%
    24% – Dissatisfied
    17% – Very dissatisfied
    Total dissatisfied = 41%
    1% – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net satisfaction: +17%

Marginally better news for Nick Clegg to close the year — satisfaction with his leadership has climbed from the nadir of September (when it dipped to -2%) to +17%, the highest since the summer. However, this still represents a big fall in the last 12 months, after the poor handling of the NHS Bill: as recently as February, Nick’s ratings stood at +38%.

77% back the Lib Dems being in Coalition

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Comparison with November’s figures.)

    77% (n/c) – Support
    19% (+1%) – Oppose
    5% (n/c) – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net support: +58% (-1%)

One rating has remained remarkably resilient in spite of everything: approval for the Lib Dems continuing in coalition with the Tories remains stubbornly high. Yes, it is down on a year ago — approval stood at +68% in December last year — but, considering everything, I continue to be surprised by the high level of support the principle of Coalition has sustained (if not always the practice).

+14% net approval for the Coalition Government’s record to date

Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date? (Comparison with November’s figures.)

    53% (-1%) – Approve
    39% (+1%) – Disapprove
    8% (-1%) – Don’t know / No opinion
    Net approval: +14% (+2%)

Lib Dem members are much more split on how the Coalition Government is working: net approval is positive, but at a pretty anaemic +14%. This compares with +41% a year ago. Three big hits seem to have been responsible: first, the row over the NHS Bill; secondly, the omnishambolic March budget; and thirdly, the collapse of Lords reform

Three-quarters say Coalition will be bad for Lib Dem prospects in 2015

Do you think the Coalition Government will be good or bad for the Lib Dems’ electoral prospects at the next general election? (Comparison in brackets with November’s figures.)

    9% (n/c) – Good
    75% (+2%) – Bad
    11% (-4%) – Neither good nor bad
    5% (+2%) – Don’t know

A year ago, two-thirds were pessimistic about Lib Dem electoral prospects in 2015: today, that proportion stands at three-quarters. It is nine months since more than 1-in-10 of you thought the party could look forward to the next election.

Four-fifths say Coalition will last the course

How long do you expect the coalition government will last? (Comparison in brackets with November’s figures.)

    3% (n/c%) – It will end in 2013
    15% (-1%) – It will end in 2014
    80% (+1%) – It will last the full term, until 2015
    2% (-1%) – Don’t know

A year ago, 72% thought the Coalition would last the distance. Today, party members are more certain the Coalition will endure until 2015, although as we’ve already seen there is trepidation at what will happen then.

70% want Coalition to go on into 2015

When would you like the Coalition to end? (Comparison in brackets with November’s figures.)

    11% (+2%) – As soon as possible
    5% (+1%) – It should end in 2013
    12% (+1%) – It should end in 2014
    38% (+1%) – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans
    30% (-3%) – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election
    2% (-2%) – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election
    1% (-1%) – Don’t know

A cumulative 72% want the Coalition to continue into 2015, compared to a cumulative 28% wanting it to finish within the next two years. When we first asked this question, in August, the equivalent figures were 78% and 22%: a shift against the Coalition certainly, but not a major one.

Party members split on Lib Dem influence achieved within Coalition

How would you rate the extent of the Liberal Democrat influence within the Coalition Government, where 10 is highly influential, and 1 indicates no influence. (Comparison with November’s figures.)

    1: 1%
    2: 7%
    3: 18%
    4: 12%
    5: 12%
    Lacking influence = 50% (-1%)
    6: 15%
    7: 23%
    8: 9%
    9: 1%
    10: 1%
    Achieving influence = 49% (n/c)

When we first asked this question, in March, Lib Dem members felt by a margin of 67%-31% that the party was achieving influence within the Coalition government. However, this has dropped significantly in the second half of the year, as the Tories ditched their pledge to reform the Lords and moved towards their right-wing comfort zone. Today, members are, overall, evenly divided on whether the party is achieving influence. However, there are two clear spikes — at 3 and at 7 — which indicate the two camps of opinion within the party: those who think the party is achieving little or nothing in Coalition; and those who think the pain is at least extracting some gain.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Over 500 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 7th and 11th 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 offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • 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, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.