EXCLUSIVE POLL: As Lib Dem conference begins, here’s what members think of the Coalition so far

by Stephen Tall on October 3, 2014

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 735 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 80% to 17%

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Changes since last time question asked, April 2014).

    80% (-1%) – Support
    17% (+1%) – Oppose
    3% (n/c) – Don’t know / No opinion

No matter what the travails of the Coalition — and there have been plenty in the past four-and-a-half years — the high support for the Lib Dems being in coalition with the Conservatives hasn’t shifted significantly. We’ve asked this tracker question 20 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 pretty much bang in the middle of those, at 80%. The net support of +63% is the same as we recorded in December 2013.

Clegg’s leadership: net +2% satisfied

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

    12% – Very satisfied
    38% – Satisfied
    Total satisfied = 50% (-3%)
    25% – Dissatisfied
    23% – Very dissatisfied
    Total dissatisfied = 48% (+3%)
    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

Satisfaction among members with Nick Clegg’s leadership of the party has dipped again: having plunged to just +1% a year ago, it recovered to +12% in December 2013. In April, before the local and European elections, it stood at +8% and now it’s just +2%.

clegg satisfaction sept 2014

54% 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?

    54% (-5%) – The right course
    36% (+4%) – The wrong track
    10% (+2%) – Don’t know / No opinion

The overall net satisfaction rating of the Lib Dems according to party members stands at +18% – down significantly on April’s +27% and the second lowest figure we’ve recorded during the Coalition. As recently as February 2012, the net satisfaction rating stood at whopping +49%: the month before the NHS Bill row. On the plus side, it’s not yet hit the rock bottom +9% recorded in September 2012 after the collapse of Lords reform.

Net +24% approval rating for Coalition’s record

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

    56% (-6%) – Approve
    32% (+4%) – Disapprove
    12% (+2%) – Don’t know

Approval of the Coalition Government’s record has taken a big hit since April – down from +34% to just +24%. That’s the same as it was a year ago, though better than the +4% of September 2012.

80% want the Coalition to last well into 2015

When would you like the Coalition to end?

    9% (n/c) – As soon as possible
    5% (-3%%) – It should end this year
    41% (+1%) – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans
    40% (n/c) – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election
    3% (-1%) – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election
    1% (+1%) – Don’t know / No opinion

As you might expect, given the strong continuing overall support for sticking with the Coalition, 4-in-5 (81%) party members actively want the Coalition to last well into 2015 — though there is a pretty even division on whether it should continue right up to the dissolution of parliament, or cease a decent interval beforehand to allow for full-on differentiation. Interestingly, though opposition to the Coalition stands at 17% according to our survey (see above), just 9% actually want the Coalition to come to an immediate end.

67% of party members expect Lib Dems to slip below 40 seats in 2015

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

    2% (n/c) – More than current 57 MPs
    6% (-5%) – Between 50 and 57 MPs
    21% (-7%) – Between 40 and 49 MPs
    37% (+6%) – Between 30 and 40 MPs
    30% (+7%) – Fewer than 30 MPs
    4% (n/c) – Don’t know

This is the sixth time we’ve asked this question. The first, in March 2013, was immediately after the Lib Dems’ tightly-fought hold in the Eastleigh by-election: back then, 28% of party members expected the Lib Dem to hold at least 50 seats. That proportion now stands at just 8%. In December 2013, a majority (52%) expected the party to hold at least 40 seats. This has now flipped, with two-thirds of Lib Dems (67%) now expecting the party to slip back below 40 seats in May 2015.

60% of 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 = 6%
    3 = 13%
    4 = 11%
    5 = 9%
    Lacking influence = 40% (+2%)
    6 = 20%
    7 = 25%
    8 = 11%
    9 = 3%
    10 = 1%
    Achieving influence = 60% (-2%)

By a pretty solid 3:2 ratio Lib Dem members are more likely to rate the Lib Dems as achieving influence within the Coalition – the 60% taking a positive view is a bit down on April’s 62%, but a bit up on a year ago (58%). Party members, in the main, seem to be buying the idea the Lib Dems are making a real difference – the question is whether the voters will do so by May 2015.

  • 1,500+ Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 735 completed the latest survey, which was conducted between 12th and 16th September.
  • 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.