Peter Kellner has a new commentary on the government’s approval ratings on the YouGov website here, looking at some of the cross-breaks behind the approval figures.

The decline from their peak at around the time of the budget, when 48% approved and 27% disapproved, is indeed largely down to Labour voters who had been suspending judgement now expressing their disapproval of the government. Approval of the government amongst Conservative voters remains strong (from 80% in June to 84% now), but looking at Labour supporters, 79% now say they disapprove of the government’s record with only 6% approving. In comparison, in mid-June only 51% of Labour voters had disapproved and 14% had approved.

Amongst Liberal Democrat supporters 53% approve of the government’s record, 19% disapprove and 28% don’t know. This is, however, amongst remaining Lib Dem supporters – amongst those people who voted Lib Dem at the 2010 election only 40% approve of the government’s record with 36% disapproving. It’s just that a lot of those former Lib Dem voters who disapprove of the coalition’s performance would no longer vote Lib Dem in an election tomorrow.

On that subject, we’ve also looked at the current voting intentions of people who say they voted Lib Dem at the general election, finding some support for the assumption that they’ve disproportionately shifted over to Labour. Only 46% of those claiming to have voted LibDem in 2010 say they would vote Lib Dem tomorrow, with 18% saying they would vote Labour, 8% Conservative, 5% other parties and 18% saying don’t know or wouldn’t vote.

82 Responses to “Govt approval and where those Lib Dems have gone”

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  1. This 18% who have gone to Lab from LD and the 5% from LD to to Con and match very well with the drop from 23 to 15 to 17 now recorded.

    They’ll all come back in a year’s time. Probably accompanied by a few more. ;-)

  2. This is a very revealing set of figures – Lib Dems are going to be wondering whether there is anything that could improve their situation over the next year or so or could things get worse – is the Lib Dem rock bottom core vote around 12% these days?

    Labour will be pleased – an appealing new leader come September could be worth another 3 points and it wouldn’t surprise me if Labour and Tories were level pegging by the beginning of October.

  3. Peter Kellner’s commentary is well worth reading.

    “The contrast with 1997, when Tony Blair came to power, is telling. Immediately after his landslide victory, 76% approved of his government’s performance, while 13% disapproved. ”

    “Our latest figures (July 2010) report a net rating of plus four (approve 41%, disapprove 37%). In just over two months, the coalition’s rating has declined to levels that were not reached for almost three years under Tony Blair.


    I’m afraid they (the Lib Dems) won’t be coming back anytime soon – those who have gone to Labour will be those on the left of the Lib Dems and the coalition hasn’t got much to offer them.

    If the AV referendum is a ‘no’. the one big thing that Clegg could point to will no longer be in the game and that’s when it could all come tumbling down for the coalition.

  5. Anthony, are there comparable figures for how Labour and Conservative voters have changed their intentions since the election? Would be interesting to see the extent to which all the parties have had some scattering, so we can put the Lib Dem shifts into perspective.

  6. Simon M – I don’t to hand, but I would expect a similar chunk of don’t knows, and small amounts of random churn to smaller parties and each other.

    Cozmo – I would be careful with the comparison, since Gallup in 1997 greatly over-estimated the level of Labour support in the polls. I expect even without that issue, Labour in 1997 would have had sky high approval ratings (ICM, who had reformed their methods, had Labour’s voting intention up in the 60s but sadly didn’t ask government approval, though one assumes it would have been in the same sort of territory) but still – Gallup’s figures from then demand a slight pinch of salt.

  7. @Anthony Wells
    Thanks for that. I will rely on YouGov instead :)

  8. I can’t see how any explanatory analysis can take place until the Government does something that actually affects anyone. I believe the comparison with 1997 is misplaced since there is no sense of relief as then, and the voters do not expect any difference from what was there before, as they think that Lab would have cut as well. As I say the effects have not yet taken place in a way that voters can identify.

  9. it is very likely that support will drop for all parties, once the cuts start to bite! … After all who got us in this mess we are in ?

  10. WAYNE

    Any objective consideration of the last government’s record would have to say that if it hadn’t been for the banking crisis they would have left behind a fairly healthy situation with publuic spending at sustainable levels – admittedly little opportunities for actual new public sector growth.

    I find it hard to believe how many intelligent people have bought in to the mantra that severe cuts are unavoidable. Of course SOME cuts are necessary but a 2p rise in income tax (and no VAT increase as a result) would allow a deficit reduction package of 40% cuts, 40% tax increrases, 20% benefits of growth. The thing is, this package almost guarantees that growth would be at a faster rate than it is likely to be under the coalition’s policies and even allows for the possibility of a modest upwards turn around in public spending by 2014.

  11. David B

    “Any objective consideration of the last government’s record would have to say that if it hadn’t been for the banking crisis they would have left behind a fairly healthy situation with publuic spending at sustainable levels ”

    Before the banking crisis even started our public finances were in poor shape due to excessive public sector spending – check the treasury figures out !

  12. What the latest figures are for voter recall of how they voted in the general election?

    Usually voters’ recall of how they voted mysteriously doesn’t match up to the actual result. It would be interesting to know whether that distortion is taking place only 2/3 months after the election.

  13. I’m still suspicious about the Lib Dem poll score.

    The fact of the matter is since the election we have seen a change of:

    Con +5
    Lab +5
    Lib -9.
    Other -1.

    Even if the whole change from other is to Cons, this leaves the liberal shift as:

    Lib->Con 4%
    Lib->Lab 5%.

    This just does not fit with the narrative of a libdem collapse to labour. Unless we are willing to admit an equal lib dem collapse to the Tories.


  14. Stephen W
    “This just does not fit with the narrative of a libdem collapse to labour. Unless we are willing to admit an equal lib dem collapse to the Tories”

  15. Stephen W

    Spot On

  16. ANDY JS

    I’m sure I’ve seen data that shows that voter recall of how they voted deteriorates over time at a fairly predictable rate.

    Maybe Anthony can help on this one?

  17. @WAYNE
    Trying to get people like David N to accept that Labour once again left the country in a very big financial mess, is like trying to fight the Battle of Britain with Sopwith Camels & SE5’s. Labour have all the answers, the Tories are doing this because they enjoy inflicting pain. The LDs are mutinous dogs who deserve to wither and die.

    @ COSMO
    Quite apart from AWs comment about 1997 polling, the comparison is totally invalided. The new government had none of the financial issues to contend with that the coalition face. As I said yesterday, Labourites getting excited by one favorable poll which has reverted to standard as predicted one day later, is really silly. The coalition will get GENUINELY unpopular before its finished, people like you will not have to invent reasons. Whether the Great British Voter will see the change as being worth it , that is the question.

  18. @WAYNE
    I beg everybodies pardon I should say DAVID B not N.
    Though if memory serves the cap would fit N also.

  19. @Roland
    ” people like you will not have to invent reasons”
    Said with your usual personal ‘charm’ I see. If you have an issue with the quotes I included you need to take them up with Peter Kellner.

  20. I wonder how many people will pull their hair out if I said that the Whig bubble has well and truely burst ;)

  21. We should be able to get an idea of where LibDem voters have gone from the local council byelections held in July . There have been 18 so far in England this month with another 12 to come . A pretty good sample .
    The Vote share changes in the 18 compared to when the elections were held in the 2006 to 2009 period are :-
    Conservative 27% minus 3%
    Labour 31% plus 8%
    LibDem 22% plus 3%
    Others 20% minus 7%

    Turnout roughly 80% of the 2006-2009 figures .
    The results are slightly distorted by the Barking Goresbrook and Brighton St Peters elections with the very high BNP/Green votes but taking these out gives very similar results
    Con 30% minus 5%
    Labour 31% plus 9%
    LibDem 26% plus 3%
    Others 13% minus 7%

    Now errmm . where has the LibDem vote gone to .? In fact it has increased – something does not compute .

    Well I am sure you may have heard that local elections are a teeny weeny bit different to national elections. Therefore the stats mean very little.

    The present circumstances are totally different to the coronation of Tony Blair.

    Thanks for those – really interesting.
    The stats reveal an extraordinary surge in Lab support. of between 35% and 41%.

  25. @ Mark Senior

    I seem to remember reading a post from you another thread lat week stating that there was very little correlation between LD performance in local elections and in opinion polls for a general election. By your own argument, the evidence you give is hardly the most relevant.

    On the other hand, the ongoing local strength of the Libs is one reason why I remain utterly unconvinced that they’re heading for long term ruin.

  26. Oops, s/be MARK SENIOR

  27. @Gaf the Horse

    You said “…So pretty much the only thing that the LDs get out of this coalition is going to be lost. Once the Tory press and Ashcroft with his untaxed billions start a concerted campaign against AV I expect these figures to firm up much more in favour of the No camp. Quite honestly I think this spells the end of the LDs. If they lose the AV referendum then what is the point of a third party in a two party system? If they lose and then bring down the coalition they’ll be destroyed by the right. If they lose and don’t bring down the coalition they’ll destroyed by the left. There is no good scenario if the referendum is lost. If the LDs do implode who will be the beneficiaries? The Green Party, Labour, the Tories?…”

    Judging from the fact that the current LIB voters would vote CON if the LIBs imploded (because those LD voters who were in fact LAB-voters-by-proxy have already left) and the fact that CON already has a substantial lead, then an imploded LIB party would lead to a CON win, bigtime. Me and Eoin will have to start using the word “hegemony” again.

    Regards, Martyn

  28. ROLAND HAINES (and others)

    We all need people like you, Roland, to keep us on our toes. You deliver your message with characteristic bluntness and why shouldn’t you?

    The fact that you come over as excessively dogmatic and a bit ‘one dimensional’ is something that most of us regulars have got used to and would probably miss if you ceased to contribute.

  29. @Jim Jam

    You said “…Question? What should a Labour Party member or supporter of Electoral Reform who would have voted yes to AV if the referendum was being brought by a Labour (or led) Government do? Vote yes in line with narrow principle or no in line the wider principle thet undermining the coalition to achieve a quicker demise and potential Labour (or led) gov’t…”

    Two points.

    1) You know the answer to the first question already. Political parties are just methods for putting principles into law. If you have to vote against your principles to get your party into power, then your party shouldn’t be in power. That little voice shouting in your head that you’re ignoring is your conscience, Jim Jam.
    2) You are assuming that collapsing the Coalition will bring about a Labour government. As I explained to Gaf the Horse above, and as you can tell by yourself by looking at the polls, the likely aftermath of a prematurely collapsed Coalition is a majority Conservative government, untrammelled and unbound.

    Vote “Yes”, Jim Jam. Regards, Martyn

  30. @DAVIDB

    You said “…Any objective consideration of the last government’s record would have to say that if it hadn’t been for the banking crisis they would have left behind a fairly healthy situation with public spending at sustainable levels – admittedly little opportunities for actual new public sector growth…”

    From memory, DavidB, concerns were being raised as early as 2005/6 that Brown was violating his Golden Rule (counter-cyclical spending with a balanced budget over an economic cycle) and (again from memory) this was in fact the case: he was overspending in good times and in bad, even before the bank collapse. Even if the banks hadn’t gone whoopsy-byebyes and stood on their desks screaming “I’m an orange, I’m an orange”, Brown’s spending wasn’t sustainable. Given the horrendous mess we’re now in, it seems churlish/irrelevant to point it out, but that’s what happened.

    Regards, Martyn

  31. But the reason for the collapse of LibDem support is pretty obvious. Those of their voters roughly on the ‘left’ see them as going along with the Conservative super-cuts and disapprove, which means that they can no longer support them. Those roughly on the ‘right’ see them as going along with the Conservative super-cuts and approve, which means that they no longer see the need to support them. No?

  32. @Howard

    You said “…This 18% who have gone to Lab from LD and the 5% from LD to to Con and match very well with the drop from 23 to 15 to 17 now recorded…”

    Howard, I really wouldn’t act on the assumption that those who voted LIB tactically to prevent a CON MP being elected and who will now vote LAB will return to LIB: they won’t.

    I am surprised that nobody has worked out the logical outcome of this: if nobody votes tactically to prevent a CON MP being elected, then the CON MP will be elected. I am tempted to put “…duh!” at the end of that sentence… :-)

    But I genuinely don’t think LAB care any more. In their anguish, they will crawl over ten miles of broken glass and abandon every principle, just to mess up the LIBs one inch. I saw an interview on Newsnight, when Ed Balls launched into a unprompted ten-minute tirade against the LIBs, even though the person he was talking to (Michael Gove) was CON and hadn’t mentioned the LIBs. Emily Maitlis (I think) was blinking in bafflement, and you could hear the tumbleweed pass as he expired, spent (and a spent Ed Balls is something you’d go a long way to avoid seeing: even the spittle on his lip had dried up. Ew.).

    Witness the convolutions LAB advocates are having to go through as they explain why they will not support AV even though a) it’s in the LAB manifesto, b) they offered it to LIB straight without referendum, and c) the LAB leader is elected under AV. At least Sue has come to a cathartic understanding that she opposes AV simply because she wants to mess up the LIBs, regardless of any good to the country. But Amber is still telling herself that she is agin AV for the good of the people, and that logical distortion will mess her up mentally. So there’s still hope she can be persuaded to vote “Yes”.

    Regards, Martyn

  33. Carrying on a discussion from a previous thread…….

    “Voting reform is not a party political issue (almost by definition),” Splutter in my tea and nearly choke.

    Johnty – Not quite sure which of my beliefs make you think I’m not a leftie, or indeed how you would know what they are. I think you’d be very surprised by my Facebook page. I am obviously just an expert on non-partisan comment (Anthony splutters in HIS tea and nearly chokes.)

    Tonyotim – Glad you are reassured by Clegg’s selflessness, integrity and consistency. (splutters in tea laughing)

  34. HOWARD – of course the coalition has “done something which affects people”, many times over. However it is a little early for the effect to be seen.

  35. @DAVID B
    You are spot on David I am 1 dimensional at present, or even more so than usual. The reason I dont tend to discuss AV or immigration for example, is because I dont want discuss things with people who are still trying to prove a camel is a horse. At the end of Majors government, I said “we asked for it and boy we got it”.
    Its a shame there is not more of that attitude abroad today.

  36. Anthony

    Is that a picture of you on Coffee House ?

  37. I think it is quite obvious that all those Whig supporters were disalusioned Tory and Labour voters returning to the fold. People generally support the Whigs because they are not thr Tories or Labour, but then chicken out when they discover a policy that they don’t like.
    I used to support the Whigs, but then I found out that they were staunchly Pro Europe, so I switched to the Conservatives. You wait, now we have got those TV debates, they are going to be hitting low 30s quite often in future election campaigns.

  38. Yes Martyn, I noticed that the three lefty ladies, presently posting, are the most tribal when it comes to the AV question. Tiger Mums. Vote against anything if it’s an LD proposal and will help to dish them.

    I wonder if this ‘vive la difference’ aspect is a polling truism (or do we have fewer male lefties on here).

    I must return to the tables to see if I can detect a female significance.

    But as you point out how do Labour MPs crawl out of their already recorded votes on AV?

  39. @MARTYN
    I 1000% AGREE. Earlier in this thread I made a throwaway comment about Labours hatred for the LDs.
    In the first couple of weeks of the coalition some of us made jokes about jilted lovers and the fury of Labour scorned. Its no joke now.

  40. Barnaby
    Er, that actually was my point if you re-read. But we agree so that’s fine.

    The doing of the VAT hike is indeed done but only next year will the awful consequences result.

  41. For me the striking passages from the YG commentary are:

    “The honeymoon is over. Actually, it was never that ardent in the first place. Many voters withheld their judgement. But now, views are hardening up; and while more people still approve than disapprove of the Government’s performance, the gap has narrowed sharply in recent weeks. Over the past four weeks, the coalition’s approval rating has slipped slowly but remorselessly. Our latest figures report a net rating of plus four (approve 41%, disapprove 37%). In just over two months, the coalition’s rating has declined to levels that were not reached for almost three years under Tony Blair.”

    “The figures for the Liberal Democrats are more striking. Among those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, opinions are divided: just 40% approve of the coalition’s performance, while 36% disapprove. No wonder Lib Dem support has slumped since the coalition was formed. Indeed, of those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, just 46% would vote for the party if an election were held now, while 18% would vote Labour, 9% Conservative and 5% for other parties; 22% are ‘don’t knows’ or ‘won’t votes’. To be sure, the Lib Dems have picked up some support from voters who like their involvement the coalition, but there are too few of these to offset the deserters. Overall, Lib Dem support is down by one-third since the election.”

    Tragic news for the yellows and worrying news for the blues as they need the yellows to hold their nerve if we are not to have an election in 2012….

  42. @Roland

    “Earlier in this thread I made a throwaway comment about Labours hatred for the LDs.”

    Only for those 40% orange left wing tories who still approve of the government !

    18% would now vote red; 9% blue……We always knew twice as many yellows prefer us to your motley bunch :-)

  43. @roland again

    The present circumstances are totally different to the coronation of Tony Blair.”

    Yes it took three years for Blairs Labour to fall to the level of approval it has taken the coalition 2 months to reach…….

  44. Mike N , no my figures don’t show a surge in support by Labour to 35-41% , they show an increase in support from the support they had in 2006-2009 of around 7% so around 32-33% .
    Tony O’Tim you recall correctly . I am not saying that LibDem support has increased , simply that the current Yougov polls will be prove to be as accurate at forecasting current and future voting intentions as they were in the last parliament – no use whatsover .

    As has already been covered Tony Blair did not inherit a bankrupt country. Also it took rather longer than 3 years to get it that way.
    These disillusioned people you speak of ? What did they expect from a Tory led coalition do you think, at a time of unpredecented debt? Cameron knows the price of failure, he does not need a constant diatribe from Labour supporters to tell him. In any election to come, the question who put us in this position is easily answered.

    I wonder why their leadership didnt want to sleep with you then?

  47. @Sue Marsh
    Re not regarding you as a leftie – was because you described yourself once as right wing Labour – and Labour has shifted a long way to the right anyway since I was a lad.

  48. @Mark Senior

    Er, I was looking at in a different way and being sensationalistic.

    The increase of 8% to 31% is actually an increase of 34.78% from the previous base, as follows:
    31 – 8 = 23
    8 / 23 x 100 = 34.78


    32 – 9 = 22
    9 / 22 x 100 = 40.91

    It looks really good expressed like this.

  49. Isn’t the Lib Dem national vote share the result of the classic junior coalition partner squeeze? Very predictable.

    The approval or lack of pattern is borne by the Coalition being in a hurry to dispense with all the medication/bad news as soon as possible. There is also a fundamental dislike by humankind to change, even though people vote for it, as its down to expectations being met/satisfied. Status quo being more comfortable.

    My best guess is that the coalition partner’s approval rates and Voting intention will continue to deteriorate for at least 18 months before reaching rock bottom for a couple of years with an upswing before the planned GE in 5 years.

    That is conditional on it not falling apart in the next 18 months.

    Spot on for very sensible evaluation.

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