EXCLUSIVE POLL: 54% of Lib Dem members want Nick Clegg to stay as leader

by Stephen Tall on May 27, 2014

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think about the performance of the Lib Dems and party leader Nick Clegg at the most recent set of local and European elections. 992 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results today.

Here’s the summary – full results below – of what our survey of Lib Dem members thinks:

  • 54% want Nick Clegg to stay as leader; 39% want him to stand down
  • Among the 39% who want Nick Clegg to stand down opinion is divided whether he should stay as Deputy Prime Minister (34%); whether his successor should become Deputy Prime Minister (35%); or whether the Lib Dems should withdraw from Coalition (27%)
  • 51% are satisfied with Nick Clegg’s performance as party leader; 48% are dissatisfied
  • By 81% to 16% Lib Dem members support the Lib Dems being in Coalition with the Conservatives
  • Almost one-half (48%) think the Lib Dems European election campaign “was the right message, but communicated poorly”
  • Tim Farron is the first choice of leader in the event of a vacancy

Personal commentary from Stephen Tall:

The margin’s tighter than Nick Clegg would like, but he will be relieved that a clear majority of party members in our survey want him to stay as leader. The survey opened just hours after the scale of the party’s defeat in the European elections became clear. We’ve not asked this exact question before, but the nearest equivalent in August 2012 found 47% of members saying Nick should stay to fight the 2015 election and 46% saying he shouldn’t.

However, the 54% wanting him to stay is not the reason I reckon Nick Clegg will survive – it’s that, among the 39% who want him to stand down, opinion is divided as to what should happen next. Around one-third (34%) want him to stay on as Deputy Prime Minister; fractionally more (35%) want his successor as party leader also to become Deputy Prime Minister. So even among those wanting Nick Clegg to stand down, more than two-thirds (69%) want the Coalition to continue. Just over one-quarter (27%) of those who want Nick Clegg to stand down also want the party to quit the Coalition. Nick Clegg is likely to survive while there’s still such a range of opinion among those who want him to go.

That does not mean his leadership is assured, though. Among all 992 party members who responded Nick Clegg has a net satisfaction rating of just +3%. When we asked last month, before the election results, it stood at +8%. That’s a small drop in the circumstances, but it’s not healthy for a leader who needs the goodwill of party members more than ever over the next 11 months leading up to the May 2015 election.

And, in spite of everything, fully 81% of Lib Dem members continue to support the party being in Coalition with the Conservatives. Just 16% want the party to withdraw. Whatever else discontent with Nick Clegg represents, it is not a desire for the Lib Dems to run away from being in government.

There is one other reason it seems likely to me that Nick Clegg will survive. The two most popular successors – Tim Farron and Vince Cable – have both publicly declared now is not the time for a leadership election and that Lib Dems should rally behind their leader. Absent an obvious rallying point, it’s hard to see where the calls for Nick Clegg to quit can go next.

Here are the results of our survey in full…

54% want Nick Clegg to stay as leader; 39% want him to stand down

Do you think Nick Clegg should lead the Lib Dems into the next general election, or do you think he should stand down as party leader now?

    Stay as leader – 533 votes (54%)
    Stand down as leader – 383 (39%)
    Don’t know – 76 (8%)

We asked the 383 Lib Dem members who said they thought Nick Clegg should stand down what they thought should happen if he did…

Which of these comes closest to your view of what should happen if Nick Clegg stands down?

    34% – The party should elect a new leader, but Nick Clegg should stay as Deputy Prime Minister and the Lib Dems should stay in Coalition until the 2015 election
    35% – The party should elect a new leader, who should become Deputy Prime Minister within the Coalition until the 2015 election
    27% – The party should elect a new leader, Nick Clegg should resign as Deputy Prime Minister, and the party should withdraw from the Coalition
    3% – Other
    1% – Don’t know

All 992 members who completed the survey were asked the rest of the questions which follow…

51% are satisfied with Nick Clegg’s performance as party leader; 48% are dissatisfied

What is your view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader?

11% – Very satisfied
40% – Satisfied
Total satisfied = 51%
26% – Dissatisfied
22% – Very dissatisfied
Total dissatisfied = 48%
2% – Don’t know / No opinion

81% of Lib Dem members support the Lib Dems being in Coalition with the Conservatives

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

    81% – Support
    16% – Oppose
    3% – Don’t know

48% think the Lib Dems European election campaign “was the right message, but communicated poorly”

The Lib Dems fought this year’s European elections on a strongly pro-European platform as ‘The Party of IN’. Which of the following statements best represents your view of the Lib Dem campaign:
32% – It was the right message, communicated as well as could be expected
48% – It was the right message, but communicated poorly
9% – It was the wrong message, communicated as well as could be expected
10% – It was the wrong message, and communicated poorly
1% – Don’t know

Tim Farron is the first choice of leader in the event of a vacancy

In the event of a vacancy for Lib Dem leader, which current MP would you be most likely to vote for to succeed Nick Clegg?

This question listed all 56 MPs (excluding Clegg), with party members asked to rank in order of preference who they would most like to be the next leader in the event of a leadership vacancy. We’ll release the full data later, but here are the results of the candidates who received more than 100 votes from the first five expressed preferences:

    1) Tim Farron 531
    2) Vince Cable 466
    3) Steve Webb 199
    4) Lynne Featherstone 196
    5) Charles Kennedy 189
  • 1,600 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 992 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted on 26th and 27th May.
  • 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.