What Lib Dem members think about the way the Coalition is cutting spending to reduce the deficit

by Stephen Tall on December 20, 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. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

The economy may be recovering but cuts to public spending are going to be with us for some time no matter who’s in government. I wanted to test attitudes among Lib Dems to how the cuts are being handled. The questions below mirror those which have been asked by YouGov since summer 2010 (you can access the results here, from page 27).

Thinking about the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the government’s deficit, do you think this is…

    Good or bad for the economy?

    58% – Good for the economy
    31% – Bad for the economy
    11% – Don’t know

A significant majority (58%) believe the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the deficit is good for the economy. This is more optimistic than the public view – voters think the cuts are good for the economy by a slimmer margin of 43% to 41% (though this is itself the most optimistic view in three years).

    Being done fairly or unfairly?

    37% – Fairly
    54% – Unfairly
    9% – Don’t know

But just because Lib Dems think it’s good for the economy doesn’t mean party members think it’s being done fairly – a clear majority of Lib Dems think the way the government is cutting spending is unfair. In other words, government cuts haven’t (to use Nick Clegg’s phrase) “started at the top and worked their way down, not the other way round”. This result is pretty much in line with YouGov’s findings of all voters, with 57% to 28% of them thinking they’re being done unfairly.

    Necessary or unnecessary?

    72% – Necessary
    21% – Unnecessary
    7% – Don’t know

By an overwhelming margin – 72% to 21% – our sample of Lib Dems think the cuts are necessary for the economy. The public agrees, though is less convinced: 55% of voters think them necessary, 31% unnecessary.

    Too deep, too shallow or at about the right level?

    36% – Too deep
    7% – Too shallow
    51% – About the right level
    6% – Don’t know

Just over half (51%) think the level of spending cuts are about right; a tiny proportion (7%) think they don’t go far enough; a little more than one-third (36%) of Lib Dems think they’re too deep. This is an interesting contrast with the public’s views… While roughly the same proportion (39%) think they’re too deep, voters are much more likely to think they’re too shallow (29%) than think they’re about right (13%).

    Being done too quickly, too slowly, or at about the right pace?

    34% – Too quickly
    9% – Too slowly
    51% – About the right pace
    6% – Don’t know

As with the previous question, a bare majority (51%) agree with the government’s pace of spending cuts; only 9% think they should be happening quicker; while a third (34%) think they’ve been implemented too fast. Again, the public takes a similar line on them happening too quickly (41%), but many more reckon the Government should be cutting faster (30%) than think they’ve got the balance right (13%).

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 749 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 18th 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, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.