EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition as it enters its 4th full year

by Stephen Tall on August 12, 2013

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. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

(All comparisons are with our most recent survey conducted in March 2013.)

61% of Lib Dems say party on “right course”

Do you think, as a whole, the Liberal Democrats are on the right course or on the wrong track?

    61% (+3%) – The right course

    31% (-2%) The wrong track

    8% (-1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

There’s been a slight uptake in overall satisfaction with the Lib Dems’ direction, but well within the margin of error. At +30% this is the highest net figure since June 2012. It’s a long way off the +49% of February 2012, though: the month before the NHS Bill row.

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 80% to 14%

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

    80% (+2%) – Support

    14% (-4%) – Oppose

    5% (+1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

No matter what the travails of the Coalition — and there have been plenty in the past three years — the high support for the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives has barely shifted. We’ve asked this tracker question 16 times, and the range has been 74% (September 2012, after Lords reform was blocked) to 85% (November 2010, our first post-tuition fees U-turn survey). This month’s is stuck right in the middle of those, at 80%. Opposition to the Coalition, which had edged up to the 18-21% range over the past year, drops to 14%. The net figure of +66% is also the highest since the NHS Bill row.

Net +25% approval rating for Coalition’s record

Do you approve or disapprove of the Coalition Government’s record to date?

    57% (+5%) – Approve

    32% (-6%) – Disapprove

    10% (n/c) – Don’t know

There seems to be a small but noticeable shift in approval for the Coalition’s record: the net +25% approval rating is the highest since June 2012 (+28%).

91% of party members expect Lib Dems to lose seats in 2015

How many Lib Dem MPs do you think will be elected at the next general election (expected in May 2015)?

    6% (-1%) – More than current 57 MPs

    20% (-1%) – Between 50 and 57 MPs

    33% (+5%) – Between 40 and 49 MPs

    26% (-1%) – Between 30 and 40 MPs

    12% (-1%) – Fewer than 30 MPs

    3% (-3%) – Don’t know

This is the second time we’ve asked this question. The first, in March, was immediately after the Lib Dems’ valiant hold in the Eastleigh by-election. However, there hasn’t been much shift in expectations, though perhaps with some consolidation towards expecting the party to win between 40 and 50 MPs in 2015.

In total, 59% of party members expect to see at least 40 Lib Dem MPs returned at the next election; 38% expect us to have fewer than 40 MPs.

And 91% expect the Coalition to last until 2015

How long do you expect the coalition government will last?

    0% (-1%) – It will end in 2013

    6% (-6%) – It will end in 2014

    91% (+6%) – It will last the full term, until 2015

    2% (n/c) – Don’t know

A decisive result: over 90% of Lib Dem members expect the Coalition to last a full term, into 2015, while just 6% tink it will end sooner. A year ago, in August 2013, the equivalent figure was 75%, with 22% expecting it to end prematurely. But what people expect and what they want can differ, so we asked the next question, too…

With 81% wanting the Coalition to continue into 2015

When would you like the Coalition to end?

    10% (-1%) – As soon as possible

    2% (n/c) – It should end some time later in 2013

    7% (-3%) – It should end in 2014

    37% (n/c) – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans

    40% (+4%) – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election

    4% (n/c) – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election

    1% (n/c) – Don’t know

Given the high overall support for continuing the Coalition it’s not much of a surprise similar proportions are evident here: in total 19% of Lib Dem members would like the Coalition to end prematurely. There is more or less even split over whether the Coalition should continue right up to May 2015 (40%), or whether it should finish earlier to allow full and frank differentiation (37%). The disruption to running government, combined with the evident desire of Nick Clegg to show the Coalition can provide a full five years’ government, means that latter option is likely to remain untested.

6-in-10 Lib Dems say party achieving influence in Government

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.

    1 = 1%
    2 = 5%
    3 = 17%
    4 = 9%
    5 = 8%
    Lacking influence = 40% (-2%)
    6 = 20%
    7 = 25%
    8 = 12%
    9 = 2%
    10 = 1%
    Achieving influence = 60% (+3%)

We’ve been asking this question for 18 months now: it’s the one I think is perhaps most interesting because it shows the array of opinion among Lib Dem members about the Coalition. You can see the hard-core of Coalition sceptics in the 1-3 range (23%) as well as the hardcore Coalition fans at 8-10 (15%). The majority of Lib Dem members lie somewhere in the middle, in the 4-7 range (62%), with a decisive edge towards those who think the party is achieving at least something by being in Government.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • 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.