Some of the internet got very excited over a LibDemVoice poll earlier this week showing 46% of Lib Dem members don’t want Nick Clegg to stay on as party leader at the next election.

The question itself was rather more nuanced than some of the comment upon it suggested – it gave respondents options of Clegg staying for the election, stepping down just before the the election or stepping down sooner than that (and also separate opinions for stepping down as leader and deputy PM). Most of the 46% of Lib Dem members that wanted Clegg to go were happy for him to stay on for now – 32% of respondents wanted him to step down as party leader at some point, compared to only 14% who wanted him to step down in the next year. It suggests to me that this is more about Lib Dem members thinking Clegg is probably not the leader to get them votes at the next general election, rather than a sign of unhappiness or opposition to him per se.

While I’m here I should write quickly about how representative the polls on LibDemVoice are. Stephen Tall and Mark Pack don’t make huge claims about representativeness and are always quick to stress that they can’t claim they are representative. This is admirable, but is sadly not a carte blanche, as however much the person doing a poll hedges it with caveats and warnings these are rarely picked up by third parties who report a poll and are more interested in making it newsworthy than reporting it well.

That said, I think they are actually pretty worthwhile. They have the huge advantage of being able to actually check respondents against the Liberal Democrat member database so we can be certain that respondents actually are paid up Lib Dem members and not entryists, pissed off former members, other parties supporters causing trouble, etc. LDV also have access to some proper demographic data on the actual membership of the Lib Dem party, so while their sample is unrepresentative in some ways (it’s too male for example), they know this and can test to see if it makes a difference. They have also compared it against some YouGov polling of Lib Dem members which had very similar results, and actual Lib Dem party ballots, which had excellent results in 2008 and rather ropey ones in 2010. Mark Pack has a good defence of them here.

Of course, there are caveats too. The danger for such polls is if they end up getting responses disproportionately from one wing of the party or another, from supporters or opponents of the leadership. I am not a Lib Dem activist so such things may be over my head, but from an outside perspective the LibDemVoice website doesn’t seem to be pushing any particular agenda within the party that might skew the opinions of their readers or which party members take their polls. If reading LDV does influence their opinions though, it could obviously make respondents different to the wider Lib Dem party (for example, here Stephen suggests Nick Harvey’s increase in approval ratings could be the effect of making regular posts on Lib Dem Voice, which would indeed be a skew… but not on a particularly important question!)

I do also worry about whether polls that are essentially recruited through online party-political websites or supporter networks get too many activists and not enough of the armchair members, or less political party members (not an oxymoron, but the type of party member who joins for family or social reasons, because their partner is a member or because they want to contribute to their local community through being a councillor and the party is really just the vehicle).

All that said, while they aren’t perfect and Mark and Stephen never claim they are, I think they are a decent good straw in the wind and worth paying attention to, especially given the verification of whether respondents are party members.


192 Responses to “On that poll of Lib Dem members”

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  1. PAUL CROFT

    @”I am cheered by the thought that such differences in attitude indicate that I am a nicer, more sensitive bloke than wot you are.”

    Delusions like that can be treated these days you know :-)

  2. “There are those who believe problem lies with January marking of English #GCSE. Marked too generously meaning June looked unfair.”

    Alex Forrest
    ITV news
    Twitter

    The plot thickens.

  3. @Carfew

    “Yeah, that’s a bit cart-before-the-horse. Wages didn’t just magically start going up for no reason… there was a reason for it – hint: the oil crisis you strangely keep leaving out of the analysis.
    I mean inflation started going up under Heath remember, and went up under Thatcher too. And wage pressures started under Heath, though he resisted – Hence the miner’s strike. Maybe read a few more chapters?”

    I don’t know, Carfew, there was I enjoying Colin’s re-writing of history when you come along and spoil it! lol

  4. @Colin

    “I observe that mantras are used in many religions.
    I think their purpose is to suppress the critical faculties, and enhance the power of the “received wisdom”.”

    Well that finally explains why the Tory faithful keep muttering about ‘necessary cuts’ over and over again. Thanks for clearing that up ;)

    On a serious note: RIP Neil Armstrong.

  5. Colin: That was a brilliant joke**… very well done.

    ….. oh, hang on……. that’s my delusional side at it again.

  6. Is anybody aware of tomorrow’s STimes YG yet? If not, I guess we just assume it is moving to the 7am timing or is unremarkable & not worth a tweet.
    8-)

  7. @crossbat11

    I don’t know, Carfew, there was I enjoying Colin’s re-writing of history when you come along and spoil it! lol

    _____________________________________

    Yeah I know, I keep doing that. Guess I won’t be getting many invites to parties. Still, on the bright side, Colin may be reading through his book as we speak!! I’m hoping it doesn’t just stop at chapter 8, as so far he only seems to be interested in circa 1975, and even then, leaving bits out.

    I’m looking forward to what he does with 1978…

  8. AS:

    I know nuffink BUT ……………………….

    45/31 is coming soon or my name is not Gunga Din.

  9. A Labour lead of anywhere between 8-12% would be unremarkable.

    Whatever happened to the short-lived spate of very early (Sun) tweets which appeared earlier in the year, whenever Con managed an occasional moe lead?

  10. You Gov do not poll over bank holiday weekends

  11. Ooups!

    Bank holiday again, and it’s raining… looks like the double-dip is here to stay. :(

  12. @Dave Bryant

    “You Gov do not poll over bank holiday weekends”

    So we can luxuriate in Labour’s Thursday 12% lead a while longer then.

    When a poll like Thursday’s comes along it’s rather like the sheer pleasure of sinking, slowly, into a warm bath, with each percentage point of the lead acting like the soap bubbles tickling and titillating my tired limbs. Then, when the warm and soapy water has fully enveloped my corpulent physique, I enter a blissful state of semi-consciousness, dreaming of a socialist paradise on earth.

    I think I may need help.

  13. Sounds like you’ll need help getting OUT of the bath – depending on exactly what you mean by corpulent.

  14. Thanks Crossbat11…….at least I now know I am not the only one who thinks like that :-)

  15. Um, Guys –
    YouGov/Sunday Times –
    Con 34, Lab 43, LibDem 10

    Leader approvals –
    Cameron -26 (-1)
    Miliband -24 (+7)
    So last week’s massive drop for Miliband seems to be an outlier? Because this reverts back to the trend of neck-and-neck between Dave and Ed.
    Clegg -57 (-1)
    Clegg still in the position he’s been in for months now.
    George Osborne -43 (-3)

    Should Osborne be replaced?
    No – 18 (-1)
    Yes – 54 (+2)
    So still basically in the same position he has been in.

    Is it important to reduce the deficit?
    Important – 75
    Not – 13

    How well do you think the government is doing at deficit reduction?
    Well – 22
    Badly – 60

    “Below are measures that people have suggested to help the economy grow and/or reduce the deficit. Would you support or oppose the following?”
    Bigger spending cuts –
    Support – 35
    Oppose – 53

    Increase tax –
    Support – 27
    Oppose – 62

    Cut business regulation and employment rights –
    Support – 56
    Oppose – 29

    Borrow more in the short term to spend on infrastructure projects –
    Support – 44
    Oppose – 39

    Borrow more to fund tax cuts –
    Support – 25
    Oppose – 55

    Borrow more to reduce spending cuts –
    Support – 35
    Oppose – 44

    Unsurprising division based on party –
    Cons want bigger spending cuts and regulation reform.
    Labs want infrastructure spending and slower pace of cuts.
    Libs are a lot more divided on the answers and given the sample size of 131, reporting those answers would probably be rather misleading.

  16. Clegg -57 (-1)
    Clegg still in the position he’s been in for months now.

    ___________________________________________

    Now there’s a caption competition right there…

  17. Is it important to reduce the deficit?
    Important – 75
    Not – 13

    How well do you think the government is doing at deficit reduction?
    Well – 22
    Badly – 60

    _____________________________

    Oof!! That is not great news for the Tories. Not only are they doing badly on their key objective but despite all the bluster, people know it too.

  18. PAUL

    :-)

  19. Osborne set a trap then walked himself right into it. Cutting the deficit is of great importance but he doesn’t know how to do it.

    As we can see, the polls & focus groups are no help. Opinion is utterly divided & everybody wants it done in a way which only affects ‘other people’.
    8-)

  20. Just because most people don’t think the Government is succeeding in cutting the deficit, doesn’t mean that people BLAME the Government or will vote them out.

  21. I think some of the polling around deficit reduction just reveal obvious answers. Of course most people want to reduce deficit/debt, but they don’t know how this will be achieved. They slightly think that infrastructure projects should be undertaken, but I am not sure they clearly state how these will be funded.

    In my opinion the private sector will only invest the money, if the government offer them certain guarantees, which may cost them money and certainly any planning submissions will cost the government in admin. So infrastructure spending is a good idea, but some government expenditure will be incurred.

    The problem for the coalition is that their strategy was to reduce the deficit and that economic growth would return to create jobs. So they would have this expansion of the private sector, who would take on some of the public sector employees they would make redundant.

    The growth has not happened for a variety of reasons and may not return until Q2 2013. Unemployment is a lagging indicator, so some of these public sector redundancies will show, once they are able to claim, if they have been living off their redundancy payoffs. So there is potential for unemployment to go up before 2015, with an increase in government spending. So if they want to avoid this, the government needs to do something to help the private sector. Perhaps not having to pay employers NI contributions for a year, when they take new staff on or some other tax incentive. Does not tackle the big issue, which is demand in the economy, which is the next question.

    How can the government stimulate demand in the economy, other than tax cuts ?

  22. I despair at the answers the British Public have given to the economic questions. It’s a bit like asking “do you want better public services”- yes, “do you want lower taxes”- yes. type thing. Apart from employment rights/’red tape’ the British Public seem to reject any mainstream proposal for growth and/or cutting the decit.

    I do have issues over the questions though as they are very general like the ‘increase tax’ one as this can cover anything from increase tax on the super rich to increase VAT, stamp duty, inheritance tax etc.

    Al it goes to show is that the British Public don’t have any more of a clue than George Osborne but it will be up to him to get it right if he wants re-election!

  23. @ Nick P

    Just because most people don’t think the Government is succeeding in cutting the deficit, doesn’t mean that people BLAME the Government or will vote them out.
    ———————
    The double digit Labour lead & Miliband no more unpopular than Cameron does however mean that people blame the government (just in wee letters, mind you, not yet in capitals) & will vote them out.
    8-)

  24. amber

    I’m sure you and I would be happy with that outcome. My point was that the answers to those polling questions are no indicator of that outcome.

  25. I thought we had established, on a previous thread, that the answers to the various questions in an OP cannot be compared with one another, in order to detect an overall opinion.

    They are not given in a holistic, inter-related fashion.

    They are given in segregated, un-related responses, using different criteria.

  26. Colin

    “There are those who believe problem lies with January marking of English #GCSE. Marked too generously meaning June looked unfair.”

    So instead of the latest marks being too strict, all the previous ones were too lenient?

    Yes, that’s what Gove thinks. But of course moving the goalposts without informing the players halfway through the game is a bit questionable.

  27. AMBER STAR

    @”Cutting the deficit is of great importance but he doesn’t know how to do it.”

    Deficit -FY 2009/10 £ 157 BN

    Deficit-FY 20011/12 £125 BN

    ………….if , on the other hand you had said ..” but he doesn’t know how to continue doing it”………I might have agreed. :-) :-)

  28. Even the support for cutting business regulation/employment rights is unclear. What regulations or rights? I suspect if you asked do you think your employer should be able to dismiss you unfairly without you having any legal redress the answer would no.

  29. NICKP

    @”So instead of the latest marks being too strict, all the previous ones were too lenient?”

    I rather thought there was a general consensus on that ( this specific issue apart). It’s why employers & universities have lost faith in it over time.

    On the particular issue , what I don’t understand is why the complaint rests on a comparison between English marks this time-and marks for the SAME exam only last January.

    Who sat this English Exam last January?

    Is this the re-sit thing from previous years.?……….but it wouldn’t be the SAME exam surely?-available in advance for the students who have just sat it?

    There is a coruscating criticism of the GCSE exam in today’s ST, by a former Head.

    . Tries to squeeze too broad an ability range into one exam. Boring to teach. Boring to learn. “General Science” the equivalent of a Pub Quiz.

    The whole thing needs to be scrapped & replaced.

  30. @Colin

    It’s not me who is saying Osborne doesn’t know how to do it. It is the voters. 60% of them reckon he is botching the job & only 22% think he’s doing well.

    Over 50% would give him the bum’s rush from the treasury, with just 18% thinking he deserves to stay.
    8-)

  31. @AMBER

    “Osborne set a trap then walked himself right into it. Cutting the deficit is of great importance but he doesn’t know how to do it.”

    I think you mean that people aren’t delighted with the fact he’s doing it. That was par for the course though, both from really affected folk, and from politically partisan folk. :)

  32. colin

    Just what is the evidence base for this so-called “consensus” that we need tougher exams?

    Anecdote isn’t evidence. Where’s the reports, inquiries, studies? The recommendations?

    Or have we just worked on idealogical “gut-instinct” again?

  33. @Colin

    “I rather thought there was a general consensus on that ( this specific issue apart). It’s why employers & universities have lost faith in it over time.”

    Is there a general consensus and have they “lost faith”, as you claim, or are you just listening to the siren voices who say things that you like to hear? A real consensus would involve all those who are involved directly in education, not just employers and universities, and would include the views of teachers, examination boards and pupils. If those views are taken on board in this debate, then there isn’t a consensus at all. There’s lots of “it were better and the exams were ‘arder to pass in mah day” homespun and received wisdom around, I grant you, but there is a tendency to ignore the contra-evidence, which is all around us in fact, that we are educating our young people far better today than we used to in the fictional golden days.

    I’ve heard a lot of talk recently about how “ludicrous and unbelievable” it is that our youngsters have got “cleverer” in every year that pass rates have improved since 1989. “Can’t be true”, the gainsayers say, so exams must have got easier to pass. That could be one, fairly negative and cynical, explanation, but what about the other possibility and that is that the ever improving pass rates are evidence that educational standards have improved, and continue to improve?

    Why couldn’t that be a possible explanation?

    I only pose the question., but maybe the real explanation is that standards did indeed improve from 1989 to 1997, but then, from 1997 onwards, the exams just got easier!! lol

  34. @ Colin

    Deficit -FY 2009/10 £ 157 BN

    Deficit-FY 20011/12 £125 BN
    ——————————–
    Transferred from the postal workers pension scheme: £28Bn.

    Actual deficit reduction £4Bn (which includes the small contribution of £1M from selling off our Harriers to the US which will now have to be replaced at a cost of several £Bns).

    The voters seem to be unimpressed by this £4Bn reduction; perhaps the fact that it’s taken £325Bn of QE ‘spending’ to ‘save’ £4Bn doesn’t impress them much.
    8-)

  35. @ Statgeek

    I think you mean that people aren’t delighted with the fact he’s doing it.
    ————————–
    No. I think they don’t believe he is actually cutting the deficit. See my previous comment.
    8-)

  36. AMBER

    @”It’s not me who is saying Osborne doesn’t know how to do it.”

    Oh good-for a moment there I thought it was :-)

  37. NICKP

    @”Just what is the evidence base for this so-called “consensus” that we need tougher exams?”

    The evidence that our school standards have fallen.

    PISA might be a good place for you to start.
    -or THe Chief Schools Inspector.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17368311

  38. nickp

    Just because most people don’t think the Government is succeeding in cutting the deficit, doesn’t mean that people BLAME the Government or will vote them out.

    _____________________________________________

    Well yeah, but if you had to bet your life on whether this news would favour their prospects of getting elected or diminish them, which one are you gonna pick?

    If you voted Tory because you believed them when they said they had the right plan to get down the deficit, then you are liable to be disappointed. Tories now have to explain why the plan they were so confident in actually turned out to be just a load of smoke.

    Smoke that not only failed on the deficit but ALSO cost us services and the growth we had.

  39. Colin

    I thought we had established, on a previous thread, that the answers to the various questions in an OP cannot be compared with one another, in order to detect an overall opinion.

    They are not given in a holistic, inter-related fashion.

    They are given in segregated, un-related responses, using different criteria.

    _______________________________________

    Yeah, you have to be careful with that.

    Because it’s not exactly unusual for people who don’t like an idea to keep upping the standards of proof, sometimes even claiming others as being partisan when in fact it may be they who are partisan.

    You may not always be able to say something definitively, but you can still garner useful information, like whether something is more or less likely.

    So, for example, if you know from a poll that 60 percent think the deficit is going badly, and you then learn from another that it’s important in the eyes of the populace, you know the government have a problem, unless it can be shown they don’t blame the government.

    But if you then learn that the chancellor is regarded poorly, it rather ups the odds that they blame the government for the deficit, even if you can’t be absolutely sure, especially since you know they think the deficit important.

    Again, if you had to bet your life, what would be the sensible bet?

    Whereas if they indicated they approved of the chancellor’s competence, it would make it rather less likely they blame the government.

    In the real world, people have to make voting decisions (and other decisions) based on likelihoods a lot of the time.

  40. CROSSBAT

    @”are you just listening to the siren voices who say things that you like to hear? ”

    Your sirens & my sirens come from different directions .

    :-)

  41. AMBER

    @”Transferred from the postal workers pension scheme: £28Bn.
    Actual deficit reduction £4Bn”

    Nope.

    You have the wrong year.

    PO tfr was in 2012/13.

    Please refer to Budget Red Book :-

    http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget2012_complete.pdf

    P23 1.49 refers.
    Also P24 Table 1.4 “memo”

    You will see at P 108, 2012/13 ( forecast) Deficit is stated as £92 bn after a Capital investment spend of £19bn. This latter is net of the PO £28 transfer.

    So the forecast Deficit for 2012/13 before PO tfr is £120 bn.

    The 2011/12 Deficit is shown there as £126 bn-subsequently adjusted to £125 bn.

  42. AMBER STAR

    @”The voters seem to be unimpressed by this £4Bn reduction; perhaps the fact that it’s taken £325Bn of QE ‘spending’ to ‘save’ £4Bn doesn’t impress them much.”

    I doubt it.

    Any voter who is interested enough would know what you do not.

    QE is a monetary policy applied to liquidity & credit supply.

    Deficit reduction is a Fiscal Policy , applied to Government Taxraising , Spend & Borrowing.

    One is not a function of the other.

    If you really want to ask how QE has impacted Deficit reduction you need to answer these questions :-

    How much GDP growth has QE facilitated, and how much extra tax revenue has the Government gained as a result.

    How much has QE impacted the interest rate paid by Government on Gilt Issues-and therefore the interest bill buried in Government Expenditure.

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