On his blog Iain Dale has a presentation from a Lib Dem conference last spring that included some polling on attitudes towards coalitions. As the third party the media don’t often commission interesting polling stuff about the Lib Dems, so it’s nice to have some. Sadly he only has the presentation from a discussion session about hung Parliaments, and not the polling update from Chris Rennard that was promised for the following morning, but there goes!

The presentation includes the results of questions about the effect knowing or thinking (it’s sadly not made clear exactly what the question wording was) that the Lib Dems would form a coalition with David Cameron and the Conservatives or Gordon Brown and Labour would have on people’s likelihood to vote Lib Dem. In both cases just under 4/10 people said it would make no difference.

Overall the figures were not hugely different. 29% of people would be more likely to vote Lib Dem if they were going into coalition with the Tories, 31% less likely. 30% more likely if they were headed into coalition with Labour, 25% less likely.

Broken down by party, unsurprisingly if the Lib Dems allied themselves with Labour Conservative supporters would be drastically less likely to support them – 61% would be less likely, including 38% who would be “much less likely”. There is a mirror image for Labour supporters – 59% of whom would be less likely if the Lib Dems allied themselves with the Tories. No surprises there, though it underlines the importance for the Lib Dems of maintaining a neutral stance, there are plenty of supporters of both other parties who vote tactically for the Lib Dems to keep the other one out, and they can’t afford to alienate half of them.

More interestingly, amongst current Lib Dem supporters attitudes are far more positive towards a Brown alliance than a Cameron one. 34% of current Lib Dem supporters would be more likely to vote for the party if they allied themselves with Brown, with 24% against. Only 23% were more likely to vote for the party if they allied themselves with Cameron, while 34% were against.

An important caveat is that the polling is a year out of date now, so public attitudes towards David Cameron and Gordon Brown have probably changed. The Lib Dem presentation goes on to make the sound point that even if there is a hung Parliament, the decision will probably be made by the Parliamentary arithmatic, but – back in Spring 2007 at least – it looks as though Lib Dem supporters would have been much happier to see their party supporting a Brown government rather than a Cameron one.


27 Responses to “The Lib Dems in a hung Parliament”

  1. It’s an interesting poll that confirms my own impressions of the membership as a whole. Personally I have always advocated co-operation with a minority government (in the event of a hung parliament) on an issue by issue basis based on Liberal Democrat principles. I think the best line we can take is “Vote Lib Dem, get Lib Dem policies”. The way I see it there’s no reason to form a coalition; we’re in in for improving the country, and can do that as official opposition, not getting into power at whatever the cost.

    However, if the leadership take a different approach, I’d be happier with the unproven Tories than propping up the tired, discredited and incompetent Labour legacy of authoritarianism and dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

  2. Sorry Anthony…,

    Broken down by party, unsurprisingly if the Lib Dems allied themselves with Labour Conservative supporters would be drastically less likely to support them – 61% would be less likely, including 38% who would be “much less likely”.

    Are you missing a important comma/semi-colon, or is my comprehensive education showing…? Also – albeit the worst exponent – I would have not used hyphens when proper punctuation could help! ;)

    No surprises there,[Colon?(See above excuse if wrong.)][al]though it underlines the importance for the Lib Dems of maintaining a neutral stance, [Yuk! see above!] there are plenty of supporters of both other parties who vote tactically for the Lib Dems to keep the other one out….

    As for Lib-Dims/nEU-Labour alliances, there are no surprises there. Their base supporters do not represent the majority, so how could they represent democracy…?

    Have tried to proof-read. If HTML not perfect, my bad…!

  3. It’s an interesting poll that seemingly confirms my own impressions of the membership as a whole. Personally I have always advocated co-operation with a minority government (in the event of a hung parliament) on an issue by issue basis based on Liberal Democrat principles. I think the best line we can take is “Vote Lib Dem, get Lib Dem policies”. The way I see it there’s no reason to form a coalition; we’re in in for improving the country, and can do that as official opposition, not getting into power at whatever the cost.

    However, if the leadership take a different approach, I’d be happier with the unproven Tories than propping up the tired, discredited and incompetent Labour legacy of authoritarianism and dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

  4. I cannot see the Lib Dems allying themselves with either major party if they wish to survive. The figures show how divided Lib Dems are. To join with Brown or Cameron would create a massive fissure in the party which would take decades to repair.

  5. Mark Senior.
    Along time ago I suggested that people were put off by the prospect a of a hung Parliament and that talk of it was disadvantageous to the Lib Dems.
    You asked me ‘to put up or shut up’ [nicely]’
    My only response I ahd was to suggest that I understood the LibDems themselves thought it and did their best to avoid the topic. Charles Kennedy had, I believe, said that the more it is talked about the less likely it is to happen.
    It seems I was right – to the extent that your own party believe it is lethal to them.
    This could be a real problem for you – unless the Tories are miles ahead.

  6. At which point was this poll taken?

    Was it before Blair left last year, when Brown was polling poorly in the hypothetical questions because that is probably the closest to mirroring what is actually happening in other polls now. If it was last Spring then I assume it was.

    If it was taken during the Brown bounce then the polls then bear no resemblance to now so this could then be discounted.

    However it sounds rather accurate to me anyway. The Lib-Dems are an awkward mix of SDP-style lefties (like Mark Senior) who’d ally with Labour, Libertarians (who’d be closer to the Tories) and general protest votes (probably more neutral).

    The big problem with polls like this though, is that the vast majority of the public are likely to either not vote the Lib-Dems either way, or definitely vote Lib-Dem either way.

  7. Hey Anthony,

    Do you know if MORI and ComeRes are polling early this month, as next week is Easter week?

  8. Sally C , i don’t accept your premiss that the LibDems are deeply split on this . So much would depend on the terms of any coalition/pact with either Labour or the Conservatives which in my view at any rate are far more important than the party with which they are made .
    The figures quoted as to the % of Labour/Conservative supporters being less likely to vote in the event of a pact with the other party are IMHO irrelevant . These people are in practice the hard core Conservative and Labour supporters who would not vote LibDem under virtually ant circumstances .
    Better stop posting now , not a good idea under the inflence of baccardi .

  9. GIN – I guess we’d have already seen ComRes’s results if there were going early. MORI are pretty unpredictable in their publication schedule, so who knows?

  10. I think that opinion poll results are going to be of limited help on this issue.

    LibDemMember is quite right in saying that the Liberals are always going to take the “Vote Lib Dem is a vote for Lib Dem policies line.” And voters thinking of voting Lib Dem are also going to put the problem to the back of their heads.

    In terms of Lib Dem actions, the value of opinion polls is limited in two respects.

    Firstly, it is too complicated for opinion polls to ask what the Lib Dems should do in different hung parliament scenarios.If either the Tories or Labour very nearly had a majority, I think opinion would turn against the Lib Dems if they did not, at least in the first instance, support the largest party. February 1974 is a precedent.

    Secondly, the polls do not ask about the possibility of a grand coalition between Labour and Tories, which given Labour’s yomp to the right is perhaps the logical response to a hung parliament. Labour and the Tories won’t begin to consider this possibility in advance, and electors don’t even imagine it. However, this option for the larger parties severely limits the Lib Dem bargaining position (not least over Proportional Representaion), and means that public opinion is not the only factor the Lib Dems would have to consider when bargaining in a hung parliament.

    Many Lib Dem votes are actually protest votes. This will tend to mean that public opinion after a hung General Election will push the Lib Dems towards a change of Government, which at present means supporting the Conservatives. February 1974 is a precedent again. The recent Lib Dem shift towards the right, not least in the election of Nick Clegg as leader, also inclines me to believe that other things being equal the Lib Dems would prop up a minority Tory Government although they dare not say so.

    Put it the other way round. There are several parties, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, who clearly regard Labour as the second choice, c.f. the Green recommendation for second preferences in the forthcoming London elections, albeit of course they regard this second choice as far inferior to the option offered by their own candidates. I just cannot imagine Clegg standing up and taking the same stance on what he would do in a hung parliament as that indicated by the Greens or Plaid.

  11. Maybe the Lib Dems have tired of the idea of being in a coalition government. If there is a hung parliament, they may just to decide to stay on their own, voting on each issue in parliament on its merits.

  12. Thanks Anthony. :) So they will probably poll next week, even though its easter week? Could see some pretty wild results, then?

  13. The idea that the Tories would “hop into bed” with the Liberals in the event of a hung parliament is total “pie in the sky” and a non starter.

    The Tories would rather go it alone than share with a socialist party like the Liberals – IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN !

  14. Looks like my last comments have been missed off again – pity

  15. Trying again – there is NOT A CHANCE that any possible hung parliament with the Tories as the main party will share power with a socialist party like the Liberals or any party.

    They would rather go it alone – only Labour has a history of sharing power with the Liberals since the 1970’s Lib/Lab pact which was a disaster as was the Lib/Lab pact in the Scottish Parliament.

  16. It will NEVER HAPPEN – only Labour makes pacts to hold onto power

  17. why should i trust the LD’s they do not know weather they are coming or going most of the time, and in the most upto date polling about the ld’s it shows most people do not know what they stand for and people who voted for them at the last election that would have voted conservative are now saying they will be voting conservative at the next election, thats around 3-4% that would be cut from their shere of the vote or around 18-19% after the next election more likely the lower figures.

    i won’t be hear for a few days finaly going on holl’s for a long weekend in norfolk.

  18. Mike – I think they got caught in the spam trap because “socialist” includes the word cialis, which is some sort of viagra-ary thing that spam messages are always pushing.

  19. The most famous oracle in history – at Delphi – was noted for giving sententious, misleading and ambiguous answers. The Conservative Prime Minister of the day, following the General Election of February 1974, made the strongest overtures to the Liberals to keep him in power. They rejected his courtship summarily. There are areas to-day – I live in one – where Conservatives are sharing power with a poitical party of a different hue in order to retain office.

  20. Isn’t Ian Dale a defeated Tory candidate? It would be in his interest to recycle out-of-date polling info that Lib Dems are more inclined to do a deal with Brown rather than Cameron wouldn’t it?

  21. There’s only one group of voters for whom talk of a hung parliament may make them more likely to vote LibDem – that’s those who sympathize with the party’s policies but are disinclined to vote for them because they feel it would be a wasted vote. Talk of the LibDems being powerbreakers could make the vote seem a little less wasted.
    Protest votes, however, as has already been said, make up a large proportion of LibDem support; if a hung parliament with the LibDems propping up Party A or Party B looks feasible, such voters will want to take their protest elsewhere rather than run the risk of helping out the very party they want to protest against.

    By the way Mike Richardson: if Nick Clegg is to be believed [insert remark of choice here], David Cameron is already making attempts to form an alliance with the LibDems in advance of the next election…

    Finally, is anyone else as amused as me at the idea of “soc**list” now being considered an offensive word by spam filters? :-)

  22. Has anyone else been surprised by the lack of any Lib Dem bounce in polls as a result of Cleggs election as leader?.

    I still beleive they will suffer a substantial third party squeeze at the next election. With the Iraq war not being the issue it was and also tactical voting unlikely to be used as it was in past.

    My constituency is Salisbury and I am very confident the Tories will take the 2 neighbouring constituencies of Romsey and Wichester from the Lib Dems at the next election.

  23. I suspect that in the event of a hung parliament a lot of people will, for want of a better term, look at the Scottish model, which is itself I believe the New Zealand model.

    Instead of a formal coalition the largest party ( expect a debate over seats or votes if one party doesn’t have both) is backed by one or more of the smaller parties to form a government but after that each bill is judged on it’s merits.

    Even if the Libdems/SNP/DUP etc. vote a bill down they can still vote for the government to stay in any vote of confidence.

    It means a lot of horse trading but i suspect the parties would prefer it if they thought that being in coalition might mean a loss of identity or be seen as them compromising there principles for power.

    Clearly something like closing 2,500 post offices wouldn’t get through and electorally it might let the Libdems avoid any debate/questions on who they favour by declaring ” it will be the peoples choice and we will allow the largest party to attempt to form a government.

    Peter.

  24. I agree with Andy Stidwill, Lib Dems have always stuck to their own principles, they arnt going to side with Labour in order to stop total Tory control, nor will they side with the tories in order to make themselves more popular, they will take the route they have always taken and vote on a policies own merits rather than who is supporting it, Lib Dems are not as low as the other parties to do anything otherwise.

  25. (Mentioned by me elsewhere) The Lib Dems seem to have established a post-war pattern of a gentle bulge in support roughly every 10 years:

    Yet, they can’t seem to keep their heads above 20% for any length of time… and seem to blow it when they are about to make a breakthrough.

    If this pattern continues to 2013, then I see little chance of the LDP doing anything next year other than losing a few seats in the election; and picking them up again mid-term as they reach their habitual periodic apex of support.

  26. The Lab-SLD coalition lost only a hadful of seats after two terms and if that is a “disaster” as Mike Richarson says, then most governments in my lifetime have been a disaster and our democracy badly needs fixing.

    The coalition ran its course and it was time for another grouping. If the electoral arithmetic worked out that way, do you think we could have a Lab-Con coalition or would the Westminster politicians rather see an SNP government than that?

    Donald Dewar explained to me half a century ago that in his vision for a Home Rule parliament coalition would alternate with minority government, that both had potential for consensus and the implementation of more thoroughly worked out policies with broad support, more effective implementation in practice and a better chance of enduring.

    I’m pleased that we have the second option to try out. Ms Goldie, the SNP and the Greens seem to understand how it works, but the LibDems oddly enough given their self image as star coalition players havn’t, and parts of Labour are still too hurt by defeat to act responsibly.

    I think I prefer it so far.