At the weekend the Sun had some YouGov polling for the conference, that I said I’d come back to once the tables appeared. Most of the questions were repeats from the same Sun pre-conference polling a year ago, and show some interesting changes in attitudes towards the party. It’s not necessarily good or bad for the party… just that the challenges they face are changing.

The changes from last September are predictable, given how the Lib Dem poll ratings have continued to decline since then – Clegg’s approval rating is now at minus 29 compared to plus 8 a year ago, the proportion of people who support the coalition agreement is down to 34% from 43% a year ago. Asked to pick from a list of positive contributions the Liberal Democrats have made to the government, 40% say nothing at all, compared to 34% a year ago.

The more subtle and interesting movements come in the list of statements about the Lib Dems that were repeated from January. YouGov asked if people agreed with various statements about the Lib Dems, 5 broadly positive for them, 5 broadly negative.

Two of the statements sought to measure perceptions that the Lib Dems had broken people’s trust or betrayed their supporters – agreement with both of these fell. The statement that people “could never trust the Liberal Democrats, even if they left the coalition” had net agreement of +13, down from +25 in January. Net agreement with the statement that the Lib Dems have “broken their promises and betrayed their supporters” was down to +32 from +43. There was smaller movement on the statement that the Lib Dems had sold out their principles, or were propping up an extreme government, but nevertheless, it suggests some of the public are starting to view the party through less of a prism of betrayal, some of the hostility is starting to fade.

Less good news is on how distinctive they are. “I’m no longer sure what the Liberal Democrats stand for” was the most agreed with statement (63% agreed), and its net agreement was up from +29 in January to +41 now. Tempering that slightly, 30% agreed with the statement that the Lib Dems offered “different and distinctive policies from the other two parties”, up from 25% in January.

Looking at agreement with the more positive statements, 26% of people agreed that by entering coalition the Lib Dems had managed to get “real Liberal policies put into action”, 36% agreed that they had made the coalition more moderate and centrist (up from 33% in Janary), 41% agreed they had done the responsible thing by entering government at a time of crisis – the most agreed with positive statement, but marginally down since January.

411 Responses to “Attitudes to the Lib Dems – less anger, but less clarity”

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  1. 8-)

  2. I think the voters’ judgement of the LDs will hang on 2 pegs:
    1. How does the NHS fare under the new Health Act (assuming the Lords don’t halt it until enough Dems have a re-think); &
    2. How the economy fares & which, if any, LD tax proposals are implemented.

  3. Amber

    I suspect that voters in Scotland and Wales will be only marginally concerned with the details of what happens with NHS England.

    The “pretendy wee” LD parties of Scotland & Wales may choose to associate themselves with that aspect of the governance of England, and will be judged appropriately, back home for that ideological stance, should they choose to do so.

  4. @ Amber

    “1. How does the NHS fare under the new Health Act”

    NHSis still only 5th ( 18% mentions) in IPSOS-MORI Issues Index.

  5. @ Old Nat

    People who don’t vote nationalist don’t share your view of Scottish & Welsh MPs voting on NHS & Education in Westminster… actually, many who do vote nat for devolved parliaments don’t share your view.

  6. Colin

    But presumably those in England haven’t experienced the effects yet. I presume that what was what Amber was referring to (though I would never presume to speak for her!)

  7. Amber

    The last poll I saw on the issue, said that around 65% of Scots thought it unfair that Scots MPs should vote on English only issues.

    What is the source for your opinion?

  8. @ Colin

    NHS is still only 5th ( 18% mentions) in IPSOS-MORI Issues Index.
    That’s why I say: How the NHS fares…
    So, if all is fine – or even better – under the new system, the LibDems will not suffer for failing to stop the Bill. If people are dissatisfied for any reason, the Bill & the LDs will get the blame.

    The NHS may only be 5th now, but if levels of service drop it will rise in importance. If all is fine, it will likely fall in importance! Such is the way it goes in politics…

  9. @ Old Nat

    Yes, experiencing the effects was exactly what I was alluding to.

  10. @ Old Nat

    The last poll I saw on the issue, said that around 65% of Scots thought it unfair that Scots MPs should vote on English only issues.

    What is the source for your opinion?
    The same, it varies from poll to poll. I have about 50/50 in my head, so if you could link me to the 65% poll, that’d be helpful.

  11. Amber.

    I’ll try to track the poll down for you.

    However even your 50/50 wouldn’t support your argument.

  12. Apologies for posting on this thread, and thanks to Phil for answering the question of an LD-Lab swing. Fwiw here is another version along similar lines (a very rough calculation that one third of 2010 LD vote share is defecting to Labour) and using the AW’s notionals.

    Proposed new boundaries (England)…

    LD seats vulnerable to Labour (9):
    Bermondsey & Waterloo; Berwick & Morpeth (from 3rd place); Birmingham Yardley
    Cambridge (3rd)
    Hornsey & Wood Green
    Norwich S
    Sheffield SW; Sheffield W & Penistone (3rd)

    LD seats vulnerable to Conservative (20):
    Bodmin and Newquay
    Cheadle; Cheltenham; Colchester
    Eastbourne; Eastleigh
    Glastonbury & Wincanton; Guiseley & Yeadon
    Hazel Grove & Poynton
    Kingston & Surbiton
    N Devon; NE Somerset
    Richmond & Twickenham
    Solihull; Southport; St Ives
    Taunton; Teddington; Torbay; Truro & St Austell

    Conservative seats vulnerable to Labour (50):
    Bedford; Blackpool N & Fleetwood; Bradford W; Brentford & Isleworth; Brighton & Hove N; Bristol NW; Broxtowe; Bury N
    Calder Valley; Cannock Chase; Carlisle; Chester; Chingford & Edmonton; Colne Valley & Skelmanthorpe; Copeland & Windemere; Corby; Croydon C & St Helier (3rd);
    Derby S & Swanlicote; Derby W (3rd);
    Ealing; Eltham; Erewash; Erith
    Hastings & Rye; Hendon; Hexham
    Ilford N; Ipswich
    Kingston upon Hull W & Hessle
    Leeds NW; Lincoln; Loughborough; Luton N & Dunstable
    Mid Derbyshire; Milton Keynes S; Mirfield
    Northampton N; Nottingham S & W Bridgeford
    Sconthorpe; Sherwood; Southamton Test; Stanmore; Strood; Swindon S
    Walsall S; Watford; Waveney; Worcester.

  13. anyone heard tonight’s yougov yet? strange claims on twitter ..

  14. Amber

    The problem with the NHS bill is that the massive corruption and misuse of public funds which I foresee which begin gradually and build up over time, my guess is that it will be the middle of the next parliament before we start to realise just how bad it is

  15. Strange claims ?

    YOUGOV 19/9

    CON 36%, LAB 42%, LD 10%; APPROVAL -28

  16. The You Gov Poll shows little change

  17. YouGov/Sun results 19th Sept

    CON 36%

    LAB 42%

    LD 10%

    APPROVAL -28

    Lets see if there is a LD ‘bounce’ by Thursday: after 3 days of their conference nothing thus far…

  18. yes nothing remotely strange with that poll. us Labour chaps would like it to be more average though, rather than at the outside of the scale as it currently is.

  19. Amber.

    The LDs’ hope is surely to carve out a distinctively left-leaning thrust within the coalition. And of course, if that pulls folk back from Labour then it does the Tories a power of good too.

    See me? I’m a bitter old skeptic, but even in my mellowed moments, I still see a game being played over the 50p tax rate.

    Osbourne knows it’s suicide to drop that rate. But for his and Cameron’s own internal party reasons, he needs to okay to his backbenchers as a “tax -cutting by instinct if only I could” Chancellor. He can them blame it on Clegg when the cut doesn’t happen.

    Clegg meanwhile can parade this as a left-leaning triumph.

    Win-win all round for the coalition. Surely they couldn’t POSSIBLY have manufactured the spat could they?

  20. Despite Ed Miliband’s weaknesses, Lab is still marginally ahead.

    It is hard to see how the Lib Dems will rise above their level

  21. @ Amber
    “Yes, experiencing the effects was exactly what I was alluding to.”

    Is it necessary in the context of the MORI Issues index?

    The question relates to “the most important issue facing Britain today”.

    The NHS Bill debate has been well covered-the concerns very well aired.

    In any case you presuppose that the experience of the effects for the average voter will raise the level of concern .

    It may lower the level of concern-or it may leave the average voter/patient unmoved, whilst still generating ideological “concerns” for people who are more politically ideological than the average voter/patient.

    There are more of the latter than the former-surely?

  22. @ Old Nat

    Wow! My memory of 65% was actually accurate!
    Aye, your hearing may be going ;-) but at least your memory is working fine.

  23. Colin

    “The question relates to “the most important issue facing Britain today”.”

    As ever, few in GB give a damn about the other part of the UK across the North Channel, and few in England give a damn about the bit of GB north of the Sark/Tweed.

    Is anyone in the least surprised that during the current (long-lasting) crisis, that most people are concerned primarily about keeping their job?

  24. Amber


  25. @ Phil

    GB vote shares in 2010 were C 37.0%, Lab 29.7%, LD 23.6%.

    So a 14% LD to Lab swing gives new GB shares:
    Con 37.0%, Lab 43.7%, LD 9.6%.
    Not that dissimilar to some recent YouGovs (if you believe them).

    And to answer your point: 14/23.6 = 59% of 2010 LD vote share would have to switch to Lab all else being equal. Seems a bit implausible, but remember these are net figures. Some of the 59% of 2010 switching LDs could instead switch to Con, balanced by some Con switching to Lab and you get the same effect.
    Thanks again for a very helpful, interesting analysis which is pertinent to this thread, so I’m bringing it over.

    The above 14% LD swing would give Labour an England only majority of about 20 seats. It’s a big ask, but not impossible on a net movement basis.

  26. Anthony


    The Conservative Home Scottish poll tables still haven’t been published.

    Could you do me a favour, and (during a tea break) toddle over to the appropriate colleague at YouGov who deals with it, and ask them to publish the tables – or at least answer my email and explain why BPC rules are somehow inapplicable in this case?

    Sorry to be a pest :-) (Aye right!)

  27. A couple of 6% Labour leads on the bounce, one of which includes the now notorious Friday/Saturday sample. Could we be seeing a slight subsidence in the mild Tory boost following Gaddafi’s demise and the post-riot reaction and some backwash from the recent almost uniformly bleak economic news? We need another couple of polls to be sure, I guess, but could a reliable trend be developing at long last?.

    As for the apparent refusal of the Lib Dem VI share to twitch upwards as a result of a couple of days of political choreography in Birmingham, I’m not at all surprised. I don’t expect Labour or the Tories to get much of a conference boost either. I think the electorate is largely immune now to the spewing out of soundbites on an almost industrial scale!

    The great days when authentic political drama unfolded on the seaside in September have long since gone, I’m afraid. I still have fond memories of the speech Neil Kinnock made to the Labour Party Conference at Brighton in 1985 which changed the political weather for a while and sowed the seeds of Labour’s eventual salvation. Spine-tingling stuff from a bygone political age.

    Whither the great political orators these days?

  28. @Colin – re wind farms and output per unit land area, your take on this is highly misleading. Land can be utilised (for agriculture or wildlife) right up to the base of the turbines. taking the full land area that encompasses a wind farm as if the turbines are the only productive use of the land is entirely bogus.

    On nuclear, while I am a supporter of new nuclear for the UK, I also recognise the simple truth that nuclear power is the most expensive energy source we currently have – more highly subsidised than wind and more expensive overall as well. To try and pretend it isn’t is again bogus.

  29. Rumours that the Greek government are going to call a referendum on Euro membership is an attempt to get backing for further austerity. Brave move if true, and the polls on that one would be interesting.

  30. @ Colin

    In any case you presuppose that the experience of the effects for the average voter will raise the level of concern .
    No I don’t. My first post says that the LibDem fortunes will, in part, be judged by how the NHS fares. I din’t comment about how it will fare.

    On most other issues, either:
    the ‘damage has been done’ e.g. tuition fees; or
    the LibDems are playing a minor role e.g. the economy so they’ll get some credit for their own successes – if there are any.

    Also, on the NHS, the LDs have been front & center because of Shirley Williams, Evan Harris, abstentions from voting, claiming they’ve won concessions etc.

    Is the Mori rank & % which you quote just for LD 2010 voters or for all voters?

  31. Alec

    It’s also worth remembering that many of the pristine “wild areas” that people complain as being desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc for windfarms, were also desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc in WW II, and also desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc during barytes mining up to the mid 20th century.

    The access roads provide good walking surfaces for ramblers, The concrete blocks have benn swallowed up by nature.

  32. I am not surprised that over half of voters in Scotland disapprove of Scottish MP’s voting on English only issues – It is unsustainable.

    The problem lies within England however – they need to address this issue by putting in a legislature and executive that deals with these issues and neither of labour or tory are prepared to bite the bullet on this – and no mechanism within the UK parliament can be found that does not create utter chaos to restrict voting in such a way.

    So it is unsupportable and unjust – but the resolution is in the hands of English politicians – so if they are not willing to take the necessary steps to resolve this anomaly then they can have no complaints about it.

  33. @ Old Nat

    2007, Telegraph report of a poll. Nothing more recent or the actual poll itself…. And you know what Anthony often says about the way the media report polls.

  34. Amberstar,

    Good point on the NHS. One effect of Labour’s reforms of the NHS was to stop people from caring about the NHS; we don’t praise governments for the fact that we can drink clean water on-tap, but rather we take it for granted. Success is the mother of failure in politics!

    I suspect that the Lib Dems will see a recovery, but a very small one e.g. to about 12-15%. Recent polls suggest that it would take a really monumental flamingo-up on the part of the coalition (by no means unlikely in politics!) for Labour to win a majority, so the Lib Dems may play an important role in 2015-20?? even if they have fewer seats. It’s worth their while keeping their doors open to the left, since they’re not going to commit the other way like the National Liberals and hook up with the Conservatives.

    What they should avoid is what they did in the Lib-Lab pact: alienate the government by being intolerable pests, while alienating the opposition voters by keeping a government in power than was strongly disliked by nearly 60% of the country.

    (The Liberals fell to 5% in 1977 on Ipsos Mori’s VI poll, even worse than after the Jeremy Thorpe scandal broke! Say what you like about Clegg, but he hasn’t come THAT close to destroying third party politics in the UK. They were facing extinction in 1989-1990 as well, before the SDP was finally wrapped up after Sutch’s coalition offer.)

  35. @RIN

    I agree with your post concerning the NHS. However, this is evident not only in the NHS but also within a lot of State sector institutions.

    For example, the Tories Prison Reform plans which will see corporations be given money but also “rewards” if they meet targets can only stink of corruptions. I speak not in attacking the policy in principal (although as we know from Governments targets are just numbers and there are ways to fiddle those numbers) but when you got Zac Goldsmith (Tory MP) that runs a very successful and large social enterprise which does such pratices that the coalition are annoucing you got to ask yourself the lack of judgment made to this. I mean, you cannot tell me that Zac Goldsmith will not try to reap rewards from this. Again, this is just pure speculation on my part but it is still a question to be asked.

    But back on the NHS yes, I think despite the nip/tuck and tinkering by the Tories on their NHS reforms for me their is still a lot of things concerning how the NHS will be funded, how much of a part corporations take a part, the lack of enthusasim from doctors and nurses to take such bold responsibility as well as trying to label other employees in the NHS as “least important” concerning these “mutals” that still makes the policy toxic and dangerious.

    Also, I say again (sorry, this is really being partisain but I will try and add some neutral analysis and observations later) but the Tories keep pretending that this policy is new and the public are buying this. The truth of the matter is this policy is not new. Internal market during the late 80’s and 90’s spring to mind and remember what it created a post-code lottery system, massive surpluses and deficits in funding and equipment in certain areas, doctors having to be stockholders and suppliers first then a doctor second. It in the end created a two tier NHS. This has been done before and it failed.

    However, I see no reason why the NHS Reform Bill won’t get passed. 1) The public (going by opinion polls) seem to warming to the idea of the reforms now that they have more knowledge of it 2) The public will always like the idea of cutting out the middle (i.e. beauracrats) and empowering the professionals (i.e. doctors) 3) I think the Eurozone crisis will just push the LD’s into the corner whereby they will have no choice but support the bill because it would be costly to do otherwise 4) Appeitie is there for the NHS to be restructured and reform 5) Medicial councils are not as vocal now that reforms have been made than before and 6) The Tories actually did compromise and made reforms.

    So that is why I think the Bill will go through. It will be an interesting experiment. Personally it is one I think that will fail however, the truth of the pudding is in the tasting as they say.

  36. @Alec

    You said “…Rumours that the Greek government are going to call a referendum on Euro membership is an attempt to get backing for further austerity…”

    Here’s a question: will the Greek government be hoping to win the referendum? Or hoping to lose it?

    Here’s another question: at this stage, does it actually make a difference?

    A few days ago, I explained why the Greek government doesn’t want to default, and in that argument I pointed out that thousands of Greek workers would lose their jobs overnight. If the figures in this BBC report ( ) are correct, that’s probably an underestimate. The Greeks are borrowing to cover *current* expenditure (i.e. the wage bill). If that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s recoverable…:-(

    Regards, Martyn

  37. @Amber and Colin

    To use that famious American Election phase “It’s the economy stupid”.

    We should give notice that issues like the NHS reform, tuition fees and school reforms will play a part come the next election (not I use next election and not 2015 – it’s still not too late for the LD’s to pull the rug or visa versa). However, these often interact with how these reforms respond to the economy.

    As Amber says, the damage has been done really. Tuition fees, their policy to scrap it and them pledge cards are things that won’t go away and that speaks a lack of judgment on their part and dishonesty. It will ask voters come their election manifesto will they commit to that and how can we believe them? Also, even students going into uni now even though they are told the system is better and they won’t have to pay the debts until earning X amount the idea of £60,000 debt strapped round their neck still sounds awfully unattractive.

    Also, concerning the NHS reforms, tuitions fees, schools, benefits we have to remember why these reforms were impliemented….because of the deficit. The efforts to reform the NHS, raising tuition fees and cutting benefits is aide to cut the deficit.

    The coalition are still relying that cutting the deficit will help in the economic recovery. If voters who have had to deal with the pain, financial hardship and cuts to welfare and services only to see no benefits in the economy, in their household incomes and etc. then the public will be feel that the cuts have been for nothing.

    However, the economic recovery (which does not naturally have to translate into growth) will be at the heart of this but what Amber says about the reforms will also be important because they will feel that the reforms would have all have been for nothing.

  38. @Andy C – “The public will always like the idea of cutting out the middle (i.e. beauracrats) and empowering the professionals (i.e. doctors).”


    I believe there will be BBC radio 4 Analysis programme shortly exploring concerns that the reform will *add* new tiers of “bureaucracy”.

  39. Amber

    As you will know (since you obviously checked back on the YG registry, as I just did), YG didn’t seem to publish the response to that question.

    Which leaves us with some questions

    Did the Telegraph completely invent the question and the responses?
    If so, why did YouGov not publicly challenge them?

    Anthony would need to be called in to rule whether (on this specific topic) the Telegraph is a paper which has invented and disseminated a total fabrication, or whether the response to such a question was published at the time, but simply isn’t in the YG archive now.

    However, unless you wish to make a public assertion that the Telegraph deliberately, and with malice, did commit such an offence …….

    Whether, a similar question has been asked since by any pollsster, I don’t know. However, since you asserted that the justification of your claim was “The same, it varies from poll to poll”, then you will obviously have the evidence to support your assertion. Indeed you will be able to cite multiple polls on this topic as you claim that there is variation amongst them.

    Put up or …..

  40. @Oldnat – “It’s also worth remembering that many of the pristine “wild areas” that people complain as being desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc for windfarms, were also desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc in WW II, and also desecrated by access roads, concrete blocks etc during barytes mining up to the mid 20th century.”

    The biggest impact on these ‘pristine areas’ by a country mile has come from sheep, and latterly deer. Interestingly I learned recently that Iceland used to be heavily forested until the Vikings settled and quickly deforested the landscape. Scots did very similar in the C17th, and England has always has wood supply crises. Aborigines turned Australia into a desert by use of fire and Native American Indians did something similar. Alot of nonsense is talked about our forebears living in harmony with nature. Much that we value in the landscapes of the British uplands has been similarly denuded and is now of limited biological interest.

    @martyn – of course the Greek situation isn’t recoverable – that’s been obviously for well over a year. Talking about the number of job losses in a default is probably a sick joke as far as the Greek public are concerned, when the EU troika of financial experts have told them to sack 100,000 state workers in order to get their next tranche of bail out cash.

    They’ve endured 2 years of savage austerity, seen the economy shrink by 15% and yet the deficit to GDP ratio is precisely where is was when they started. Austerity hasn’t even stablise the deficit, let alone reduce it. Greece desperately needs to default, then it needs to leave the Euro, taking the short term (and deep pain) but at least being able to rebuild while under the cosh. At the moment they are being beaten for absolutely no gain whatsoever.

  41. Alec

    I didn’t bother going too far back, but the entire environment of the UK is effectively “man made”. Those who eulogise about the “wild mountains and glens” of Scotland are simply ignorant as to how that landscape came about.

  42. @Alec,

    Interestingly I once read that our ancestors developed their fear of forests as a result of very long folk memories of the gradual encroachment of trees on what was a tundra-like landscape in the Paleolithic, in the aftermath of the Ice Age.

    We haven’t always seen trees as a good thing….

    However, I will still never find massive metal windmills an improvement on whatever was there before them.

  43. Neil A

    Not sure where you live, but do you have windfarms near you?

  44. I like wind turbines. I think they’re quite awe-inspiring.

  45. Plymouth. And not very near, but there are a number of them in Cornwall that I occasionally pass. The offshore ones I can stomach, but the ones on the hillsides turn my heart to stone.

  46. I’ve never understood why we don’t build our windfarms in industrialised areas, mingling with the business parks and industrial estates. A warehouse with a turbine on each corner is no uglier than a warehouse without.

  47. @Billy Bob

    I actually agree and actually this is the only time that myself and the Daily Mail can actually agree that the new proposals could actually create more new layers of beauracracy and as I mentioned just on my last post; this was tried, tested and failed i.e. internal market although I forgotten to mention that it actually added £1bn worth of beauracracy.

    What I do think though is that the rhetoric is there and not many voters and the public like ourselves are not analysisng the content, observing in detail the policies and just simply read what is get given in bitesize chunks from the newspapers, t.v. news and word of mouth. So, basically, the rhetoric is there although I disagree with the actual content.

    It does pain me to agree with the Daily Mail on the NHS aside their views on immigrates, multiculturalism and the welfare system. Although most Mail columnist would want the social insurance system which is done in most European countries which I have my reservations about although I have never gone into detail on it.

  48. Alex

    One aspect of nuclear power that is overlooked is who pays for the clean up when it goes wrong. The answer of course is the public purse, because let’s face it what insurance company is going to write a policy for unlimited damages without some pretty good get out clauses, this constitutes an enormous public subsidy, how big we don’t know because even if we got a quote from an insurance company it would include a calculation that in the event of a major accident it(the insurance company) would be bailed out.

    On the subject of windmills I have sympathy with Colin views. However if we don’t want to spoil the countryside we could always move them to the cities on a smaller scale. We already have unsightly satellite dishes why not have a windmill on every house. I was reading an article about how small windmills can be fitted with a brake so they can produce power even when the wind is too strong. the by product from the brake is heat which can be captured and used to heat the house, this is great because the average house loses a lot of heat when it is windy but hardly any when there is no wind.

    I think there is always a tendency to look for big solutions. Big business, big windmills, big govt, big nuclear power stations and dare I say it big society, but sometimes small imaginative solutions would be better.

  49. Neil A

    ” the ones on the hillsides turn my heart to stone.”

    Come now! As a right winger, you might have said that “they metamorphise your heart to granite” (rather appropriate for Cornish hills), but to pretend that your heart was originally anything softer than sedimentary rock is really stretching our credibility. :-)

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