Mike Smithson at political betting is reporting the YouGov poll of Lib Dem members, due to be released by Sky News later on tonight, shows Nick Clegg leading Chris Huhne amongst the 678 Lib Dem members surveyed by 56% to 44%. When the poll was conducted 52% had already voted, 24% were as yet undecided.

Polls of party members can be tricky to do – they are hard to sample (there are no publically available lists of party members to ring up or email) and hard to weight, since no one really knows the demographic make up of the party memberships. If there is no real demographic division in support hat doesn’t matter – for example, in the last Conservative leadership election YouGov’s polls suggested that Cameron’s lead over David Davis was much the same whether members were young or old, activist or armchair supporter. The record of polls of Lib Dem members in the past is hard to judge – YouGov overestimated Chris Huhne’s support in their poll during the last contest and showed him ahead of Campbell, when in reality Campbell beat him by 13% on the first round. However, the poll was conducted several weeks before the end of the contest, so it is impossible to say whether Campbell simply picked up support and overtook Huhne in the final weeks, whether Lib Dem members on YouGov’s panel were more likely to support Huhne or whether the survey (which included several questions prior to the ones on voting intention) has biased the sample in favour of Huhne.

Either way, since many members have already voted this poll should be close enough to give an idea of the final result and – if it is representative – it looks likely that Nick Clegg will be the next Lib Dem leader.

There is also a new ICM poll out tomorrow, presumably for either the Sunday Telegraph or the News of the World. No full figures yet, but it reportedly shows an 11 point Conservative lead, with the Tories on 41% and Labour on 30%. The last ICM poll had figures of CON 37%, LAB 31%, LDEM 21%, so this would suggest a significant increase in Conservative support and a drop in Labour support.

UPDATE: Another interesting finding from the poll, given that a hung Parliament is relatively likely next time round. 44% of Lib Dem members would oppose a coalition with the Tories under any circumstances; 26% would oppose a similar deal with Labour. I’m sure some Lib Dem readers will be able to tell me, but I have the perception from coalition wranglings in Wales and Scotland that the Lib Dem leadership need the approval of Lib Dem members to actually agree to any coalition deal. In the event of David Cameron being the largest party and trying to cut a deal with the Liberal Democrats, it looks like it would be very difficult for (presumably) Nick Clegg to win Lib Dem members approval for all deal he secured.

UPDATE 2: Over at Lib Dem Voice they are pondering whether the polls’s sample is too young. YouGov’s weighted figures had 35% of Lib Dem members under the age of 40, 32% between 40 and 60 and 33% over 60. Looking at the breaks in the table under 40s were far more likely to back Clegg than over 60s – Clegg has a 32 point lead amongst under 40, but is neck and neck with Huhne amongst over 60s.

As I mentioned above, polls of party members are tricky because there are no accurate demographic figures to weight to. I don’t know where YouGov got their 35/32/33 figures from, but if they are incorrect it would skew the figures. In short, if Lib Dem members are actually older than that, the poll would have underestimated Huhne, if they are younger than that, it would have underestimated Clegg. Either way, Clegg will still be ahead, since even if the party was entirely over 60, which it isn’t, Huhne could only manage to be equal with Clegg.

UPDATE 3: The YouGov target weights were based on comparing the age of Lib Dem members with the age of the panel as a whole – effectively giving Lib Dem members an average age of 51. The only academic study of party membership is that done by Seyd & Whiteley which was well over 10 years ago (I can’t remember the exact date, it came out in several different volumes concentrating on the different parties) when they had an average age of 59. That age profile would have put Clegg 10 points ahead, rather than 12, so no great difference.


22 Responses to “YouGov suggest Nick Clegg is set to be next Lib Dem leader”

  1. I’m not all that surprised that Clegg is ahead, but 56-44 seems relatively close. A late 3% swing to Huhne will be all that’s needed to change things.

    If this poll is accurate, I would say it’s too close to call if 24% are undecided. It’s not going to be as decisive as Cameron and Davis 62-38 was it? or Gordon Brown’s 100%. :)

  2. This is close. If this actually happens the Lib Demes will be a badly divided prty. (even more so).

  3. More good news for the Tories.
    Clegg is actually by far the worst candidate –
    Huhne is fair, and Vince Cable is a good leader.

    If Clegg is elected very narrowly then that’s the ideal situation for the other 2 parties.

  4. Clegg is not stupid he’ll realise he has to go after disaffected Labour voters. There will be an awful lot who “will never vote Tory” but can’t continue to support the present shambles.

    The ICM Poll would give a Weighted Moving Average C Lead of 9.3 but this is behind the curve – it would suggest that the real C lead reached 10 earlier this week and is probably 12 by now. Interestingly the last ICM poll which seemed spot-on to the WMA can now be seen, retrospectively, to have been under-estimating the C lead by 3. We’ll see some more polls with Labour under 30% in the next few days.

  5. Joe if you and other Conservatives keep spinning that Clegg is the worst candidate , it shows we are making the right choice . Huhne would make a good leader possibly a little better than Clegg immediately but Clegg has the time and ability to grow into a great one and that is why I have voted for him .

  6. It would take a very big swing for Huhne to win if these figures are correct. I believe that 70% of those who will vote have already voted – they can’t change their minds now.

  7. Confess I am a bit perplexed by the way these figures have been presented . LibDemVoice present them as Clegg 43 Huhne 33 Undecided 24 with 52% already voted . I expect the total voting % to be around 70% say 20% more than have voted so far but will these all or mostly be undecided now .

  8. As someone who has voted Liberal in the past (and idolises Gladstone and JS Mill), and who keeps an eye on where they’re going, I find it very surprising that so many of its members will not tolerate a deal with what is now a very centrist Conservative Party. To my mind, Liberals ought to have far more in common with Conservatives than Labour- that being the case because (in theory) they both agree with the concept of the minimal state and the removal of barriers to imindividual freedom. The sticking point with the Tories has been their position on social issues- but nowadays the Tories are more liberal than labour on many non-economic issues so this problem, in theory, has been mitigated. I see very little about Labour which is more liberal than the current Tory position.

    I suppose this finding shows that probably most Lib Dem members are actually to the left of Labour, drawn in by virtue of things like top-up-fees and the war in Iraq. I find this somewhat depressing, but I hope Mr. Clegg becomes leader and remembers what Liberalism is supposed to be like and put the party back as a proper Libertarian force. They’rd be very silly to refuse going into coalition with the Tories in my view. Very, very silly.

  9. ANTHONY :-

    Any talk of a pact between the Tories and the Liberals is total pie in the sky / the Tories have said many times over the years and going back a long long time – they would’nt do a pact with any other political party to gain power – only the Liberals and Labour do pacts (unfortunately they never work for either of them)

  10. Luke-I agree.
    It provides an open goal for the Conservatives-vote Liberal Democrat-keep Labour.

  11. Does anyone know what the turnout was in the LD leadership contest earlier this year? Just be interesting for comparison.

    Colin and Luke – it also may well work in Labour’s favour; after all, if they’re going to support Labour in the end, you may as well vote for the real deal!

    But Luke, it’s not so surprising: Lib Dem members generally do NOT want a smaller state and more freedom: they’re mass interventionist, undemocratic, dictate to the world what we can and can’t do Statists. And the ones that aren’t can’t decide whether they are or not.

  12. I am not sure if the Libdems who don’t want a deal with the tories will hold the line.

    In erms of vote share and polls turning their backs on government in Scotland and Wales has been a bit of a disaster for the LibDems. Nicol Stephen’s decision to rule out a deal with the SNP over an independence referendum back fired badly in May.

    In a way this echo’s a question I asked about the SNP,

    “Do we try to do a deal with Cameron because he has the most seats and the most votes and he, even if incomplete, has a democratic mandate”,

    or

    “As we don’t like the Tories, do we go to a smaller party, if together we have more votes and seats, or force a new election”.

    It all depends on what you think is the Liberal and Democratic thing to do or what gives you the most influence to get liberal democrat policies on to the statute books.

    Peter.

  13. The Lib Dems in Scotland were similarly foolish to rule out a coalition with the SNP in my opinion. It is because they object to Scottish independence. But I ask why are the Lib Dems in favour of keeping Scotland in the union anyway? I thought they were in favour of local decision making powers, and in following the popular will in regards to constitutional questions. If most people in Scotland want a referendum so they can have independence and more decisions taken locally, all of that seems to tie in almost verbatum with stated Lib Dem beliefs.

    The conclusion we are arriving to here is quite obviously that the Lib Dems are not a liberal party on a good many issues. I’m not sure where that mantle rests now in British politics. David Cameron says he is a Liberal Conservative, and it pleases me to see this once-commonly used phrase reserected, but I am still not terribly convinced. The Conservatives still seem to be the most liberal party of the three to my mind, perhaps Mr. Clegg will change that.

  14. I think that the Liberals have caused their own decline and loss of appeal to the public – who don’t really know what they stand for .

    Years and years of tactical voting against the Tories chasing Tory disillusioned voters & pacts with Labour & other left wing parties has left them without an identity – now we have reached a time in politics when the British want a change – the only way they can achieve that is to not spread votes over 3 parties – but to genuinely take sides either left or right (Conservative or Labour)- they would have been more highly thought of if they had been principled like the Tories and not looked for anyway possible to achieve power via pacts and tactical voting .

    It’s got to be remembered that prior to the emergence of the Labour party – the Liberals were the Socialist party in Britain as they are in America – the breakdown on my opinion of the 3 parties now is :-

    Liberal = Liberal Socialist

    Labour = Liberal Socialist (could easily go back to full socialism)

    Conservative = Liberal Conservative (could easily go back to full conservatism)

    The above is why as i have quoted before (that it would be the Labour party that loses out on a Liberal gain – but only i saw that) as they are one and the same .

    Talk of a hung parliament is just talk – there will be no opportunity to see if the Tories will join with anyone – even if they would – but they would’nt and don’t need to .

  15. “Labour = Liberal Socialist (could easily go back to full socialism”

    Really? It says on my membership card that we’re a democratic socialist party but I don’t see much evidence to support that.

    I’d say:-

    Conservative = economic and socially conservative
    Labour = slightly less socially and economically conservative
    Liberal = liberal or socialist or environmentalist or capitalist or anarchist or social democrat or whatever according to who you’re talking to.

    Ok, I’m being a bit unfair to the Lib Dems I know but I’m almost as frustrated with them as I am with my own party.

  16. Steven-interesting post-I’m interested to know whether ( forgetting the cock-ups for a minute )GB is more “socialist” than TB from your point of view?

  17. I would say he’s been portrayed as more socialist. He certainly seems to have put effort into relieving child poverty etc. but it’s hard to tell really.

    I’m kind of disappointed that he wasn’t prepared to make the case for inheritance tax for instance. That would have been the perfect place to show a principled difference between the Conservatives and Labour. He could have pointed out that IHT cuts would only favour the rich and instead of that Labour would, say, make a small reduction in the base rate of income tax.

    I suppose he was just being pragmatic and realised that since public opinion was so against it would be suicide. Another good reason for PR in my opinion. At least that way politicians would be free to say what they actually thought rather than all fighting over support from a tiny percentage of people in key marginals.

  18. I am uncomfortable about an opinion poll going on during a postal ballot.

    This does not matter so much for a Liberal Democrat election, although the previous Lib Dem election, when candidates were struggling to sound involved when most of their members had probably voted, made me realise the seriousness of this problem (I notice this time that the two contenders have gone comparatively quiet now.) However, it has becaome a very serious problem for national elections.

    Local election polling stations are eerie because people vote postally. I think this was true in 2005 and I am sure it will be so at the next General Election. The lack of a deadline to focus the campaign has a negative effect on turnout. There are also issues that savvy voters can wait to see how the poll is going before sending in their ballot. After all, the old system whereby polling was on different days in different seats was changed for good reason.

    The whole premise of this site, particularly in relation to opinion polls, is that the procedures for elections in the United Kingdom are fair and democratic. The postal voting arrangements ofr elections in the UK are open to abuse, which would undermine the relevance of all the information on this site on which we comment.

    To bring the point back to this specific opinion poll, if the result of the Lib Dem election is within a few points, couldn’t it be affected by Lib Dem members waiting to see how polls like this are going? Or alternatively, by one candidate rather than the other organising his supporters to vote early.

    My points are reinforced by the large number of Lib Dem members who are undecided according to this poll.

  19. Frederic – in general elections it would be illegal. In the 2004 European Elections that were all postal affairs in some areas Populus and the Times got in some trouble for publishing figures for the regions that were all postal, based on people who had already cast their ballots (the eventual guidelines were emerged was that it was OK to publish figures of people who had already voted by post, as long as they were lumped in with all those people who hadn’t).

  20. It would seem that there is not that much to choose between Huhne and Clegg in terms of policy, but equally, the LDs would appear to have harnessed enough good sense not to saddle themselves with a leader sitting on a wafer thin majority who could easily lose his seat next time. Yes I know leaders get extra publicity – but they also have to tour the country so can’t concentrate on their own seat. For any LD deluded enough to think being leader will help save Huhne’s seat – ask Chris Patten !

  21. Paul , there are a number of Conservatives in Hants who admit there is no chance of them unseating Huhne whether he is leader or not , the local Conservative association is a basket case and has had to be put under special control of CCHQ , they have just 5 councillors left and will lose 1 of those next May .

  22. Anthony, thank you for your information.

    I am not sure how much the matter has been given public attention, but saying that figures can be published providing data for those who have voted by post will be aggregated with those who have not is a fudge. If large numbers of people are voting by post, whatever the law is the credibility of the system requires that no more opinion polls be carried out after the postal votes have been despatched. But the media, and the politicians, would hate that. And it would have major effects on public debate during elections, affecting the results. Postal voting is already having such intended effects, with adverse results for turnout and public participation.

    Nobody would dream of carrying out the opinion polls we are commenting here by post over a period of a week or more. General Elections are a far more important measure of public attitudes than commerical opinion polls. Elections should be carried out to much higher, not lower, standards of validity and reliability (I am using the statistical terms) compared to opinion polls. Bluntly, this entails people identifying themselves and voting in person except in exceptional circumstances, usually serious illness, when there should be checks along the lines of postal votes in the twentieth century.

    I am posting this to make the point that it is problematic for us to comment on polls when these are about a further measurement which is scientifically (and morally) flawed: the exploitation of such flaws can potentially undermine our predictions.