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. I can confirm that all AW writes is correct (being one of the polled). I still regard it as voodoo.

  2. They also have a response rate of 40% (500+ out of 1300 panelists). YouGov would die for that.

    Judging from your history of comments here, while the LD Voice polls may not include “pissed off former members”, they do appear to include one pissed off current member.

  3. Phil
    No I am typical. We are free thinkers or had you not noticed? :-)

  4. Phil – no we wouldn’t, our normal response rate is 40%-60%.

    Did you think we emailled 350,000 people and only 1,700 replied?

  5. @Howard
    I should have added “at least”. I’m sure you’re free thinking, but you’ve also struck me as being a touch discontented. There do seem to be a lot of pissed off LD members judging from these polls.

    Even more instructive than the one AW highlights is the one which finds that while a net 95% of respondents want Cable to stay in post as opposed to being removed, only 55% think the same about Clegg.

  6. AW – Apologies. I’d just believed all the stories about low responses to internet polls in general and assumed YouGov were typical.

  7. They (LD pollsters) are going wrong in one certain way (apart from anything else).

    For a start, funnily enough I have just this minute done one on my race and gender for Tim Farron (always happy to oblige the somewhat gauche northerner).

    They don’t ever ask Mrs H to do one so it does not surprise me that they miss the women. The reason they miss the women is because they are less likely, by far, to join the online sites (LDV or otherwise). They have her email address but often this will be the same as the male partner, who intercepts generalised requests and thus replies.

    Just because women are less likely to join debating society sites (e.g. UKPR) has no relevance to their ability to hold opinions. So while I write this, Mrs H is cooking our meal in the kitchen while listening to PM on the Home service. She may be thus better informed than I.

    I just checked and it’s sweet and sour pork and that beansprout thing. They are on about Lance Armstrong so she is not better informed as I caught up with all that while watching the Vuelta.

  8. Cast your minds back to 2010. Nick Clegg said he would not go into coalition with Labour unless Gordon Brown resigned.

    Labour (same to you but double it, Nick) say we’d refuse to have a Lab/LD coalition whilst Nick Clegg is leader of the LibDems.

    So for LibDems to have a coalition with Labour rather than Tory, if the electoral maths in 2015 permit them to make a choice, Nick Clegg would have to step down.

  9. On the question of whether Nick Clegg should stay or go… and since AW referenced Paul Goodman’s ruminations (ConservativeHome) on the forthcoming budget…

    Goodman in the same string of articles dwells on “Mr Cameron’s postion (which is grim)… he is at risk”.
    The lack of an obvious contender did not prevent the downfall of other Tory leaders.

    Goodman is not advocating change but he goes on to ask “if Mr Cameron wants a stable second term as Prime Minister, he has only one means of achieving it – to re-form the Coalition after 2015. Is that now his aim?”

  10. for budget read *reshuffle*

  11. @AmberStar

    Can you recall if he said that before or after the election?

  12. @The Sheep

    Nick Clegg kicked off his campaign with the words “the beginning of the end for Gordon Brown.”

    Huhne underlined the point: “Certainly in British history there have been examples of parties that have said that they won’t serve unless there is a different prime minister”.


  13. Having read that Indie article it will be very interesting to see how many MPs they do actually keep at the next election. The Peter Kellner estimate on current polling has it at 10 and the Indie columnist reckons maybe 25.

    I don’t think national polling will be much of a guide. I think each MP will have to be taken according to individual circumstances. For example under normal circumstances you would expect Nick Clegg to be one of the 10 but clearly there has to be some doubt after the Ashcroft polling a year or so back and many other factors that must lose him virtually every single Labour tactical vote and maybe a load of Tories too. The voting is very much complicated as it looks to me like a 3 way marginal.

    Equally there is Simon Hughes popular for so long but with a constituency that is more likely than others to be problematic as he took a solid Labour seat and made it his own. There could be a big swing here from natural Labour supporters who were previously happy for him to be their MP.

    The only one I can really comment on is Ed Davey in Kingston which was my constituency for the first 40 years of my life. Never thought I would see it be anything other than Tory and the demographic has changed such that it should be even more so. Yet he appears to be high up the list of those expected to keep their seat perhaps because of his big majority. The fact is he had one of the smallest majorities in 1997 and has increased it by seriously squeezing the Labour vote and presumably also appealing to Tories as a decent bloke. So in his case I do doubt that he is anywhere near secure.

    I am sure there are reverse cases and perhaps you will find some much lower down the list on a national swing have a better chance of keeping their seats than the ones I mentioned.

  14. My reading of the general tone on LDV is that members are more dissatisfied with the unfairness of the voting system than any other issue (e.g. leadership issues). However, having had to be very clever at manipulating local electorates, at least where demographically they at least stand a remote chance, usually in the more bourgeois areas (but indeed see Southwark) some have come to almost like their situation, especially where they have enjoyed success. In other words there is then an inbuilt feeling that ‘other constituencies should work harder’ in some sections and an inability, almost unwillingness, to work to reform the system, looking at the wider picture.

    It has been remarked that it is often difficult to get slaves to cooperate to remove the chains that bind them to their masters. I actually think that this is a general feature of English conservatism, not the celtic fringe, of course.

    If our electorate

  15. Belay the gash last sentence beginning.

  16. Kenneth Roy reports that, at the Olympics of the Mind in Edinburgh they stuck up a notice saying ‘Ashdown sold out’, someone added the obvious comment: ‘True’.

  17. The lib dems need a point?Some might argue that the whole government
    Needs a point!

  18. What I don’t understand about this story, is why PC Lovegrove isn’t being charged?

  19. Language, Anthony

  20. Now I know this off topic but I think it is important because the political heat is
    Ratcheting up.about GCSE results.I marked GCSE English literature this
    Summer.I used the mark scheme rigorously and used my own judgement
    Based on 30 years experience.Because I mark higher tier I only marked six
    D grades out of 340 papers this summer.However I have no idea what happens once the exam boards begin moderation and adjustment.I do think
    That who is responsible for the latest fiasco had better watch out.If teachers
    Start to refuse to mark these exams because marks are being changed for
    Whatever reason the whole exam system will collapse.

  21. There is some discussion on LDV about how difficult it is to remove Clegg as LD leader before the next election:

    “hey, i’m pretty sure it’s odds-on that neither cameron or clegg roll into the 2015 GE as leaders.”

    “I think our party constitution makes this unlikely with respect to Nick Clegg. Page 29 of the link below.”


    Having read through I’m not sure what the problem is… but they seem to agree on LDV that Clegg is safe up to the GE.

  22. @ Nick P

    I saw that story. The lad needs a restraining order against the Met, if the piece is accurate.

    To bring us back to polling, I am wondering will there be polls or polling questions about the police commissioner elections. Rumour has it that they will have the lowest turn out of any elections, ever.

    IMO, none of the public believe that elected commissioners will do anything other than side with the chief of police for their region therefore commissioners are a waste of time & public money.

    I wonder, has there been polling on the policy itself? And is there any evidence to back up what I’ve read about the public’s attitude to these commissioner elections?

  23. There is a lot of nonsense talked about ‘representativeness’ in surveys. Far too often it just refers to the survey results reproducing certain demographic characteristics of the target population (usually after weighting to precisely those characteristics). The key issues are:

    1. What was the TARGET population (e.g. LibDem members in good standing)?
    2. Which sampling frame (list of people) was used to draw the sample of this target population?
    3. How useful is this frame as a sampling device for the target population? Does it contain all, or nearly all, of them and no-one else? If not what exclusions and illegitimate inclusions are there in it?
    4. Was the sampling method used probability based? Did it have elements of over-sampling for specific groups? What methods of post-stratification were used to copensate for this?
    5. What was the response rate or, rather more relevantly, was there any non-ignorable non-response bias (NINRB)? What analysis was undertaken to establish the existence (or not) of NINRB? What methods were used (if any) to compensate for this?

    When we have answers to these questions we can comment properly on the merits and demerits of this survey and its likely accuracy. If not, then we can’t. Any such poll should follow the standards laid down by e.g. AAPOR for transparency in research. Otherwise they should be ignored.

    “Language, Anthony”

    The article is in English (I’m pretty sure of that).

  25. amber

    Did you watch the video? The lad was charged with assault and the policemen told a pack of lies.

    When the CCTV was produced they dropped the case.

    What about the lies?

  26. I can’t see why we need elected Commissioners, We have elected politicians to pass laws. The police enforce those laws.

    Making police into politicians will make them political animals.

  27. Amber

    “Rumour has it that they will have the lowest turn out of any elections, ever.”

    What? Even worse than the NHS Health Board election turnout in Fife – 13.9%?

    Of course, there was a city council Republican primary election in North Carolina where IIRC the turnout was less than 1% – that would be hard to beat!

  28. @Old Nat

    We’ve been treated to “piss-ant” and “pissed off” in the last couple of days.

    Matthew Davis is probably worried about where this is *headed*…
    and frankly I share his concern.

  29. Who would replace Clegg as leader? From what I’ve seen pretty much all the likely candidates have been roped into supporting the coalition stance on key issues like the cuts or NHS. Can anyone enlighten as to who would be a likely candidate that isn;t aleady tarnished by association with the coalition wrecking ball?

  30. @ Nick P

    As I said about the Ian Tomlinson case & other similar incidents, it becomes very difficult to believe that juries in such cases are truly a random selection of people. The conviction rates are nothing like the rates for non-police cases. Given that cases against the police are only prosecuted when there is very strong evidence, it seems strange that there are so few convictions. IMO, it has arrived at the point when only convictions will be a deterrent; anything less just encourages the bad elements to believe they have immunity from the consequences of their wrongful acts.

  31. @ Old Nat

    What? Even worse than the NHS Health Board election turnout in Fife – 13.9%?

    Of course, there was a city council Republican primary election in North Carolina where IIRC the turnout was less than 1% – that would be hard to beat!
    LOL :-)


    I take your point. If this continues, Anthony will soon be reduced to writing in iambic pentameter with rhymed couplets.

    Obvious to everyone that no success can be gained from writing such stuff as

    “For me, I am here a Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i’ the forest.
    Send me a cool rut-time, Jove, or who can blame me to piss my tallow?

    That author is best left in his well-deserved obscurity.

  33. @Old Nat

    I will give you:

    “all horse-piss; at which my nose is in great indignation.”

    And let that be an end to the matter… google the word – it is a slippery slope!

  34. Amber

    I doubted the value of the NHS Health Board elections (though there is a need to find a better way to select representatives of the public). It’s difficult to see why the NHS, education, Police and Fire & Rescue should be governed in such radically different ways.

    The differences stem from their history, but logic suggests that a radical evaluation of the local supervision of all these major public services is required, and not left to arbitrary piecemeal decisions.

  35. Billy Bob

    Dangerous things “slippery slopes”. Any change can be the start of one.

    Better, therefore, to allow no change lest things go too far.

    Nice safe conservatism. I applaud your efforts in that direction. :-)

  36. Newsnight

    John Prescott showing himself as a solid (pun intended) conservative too! Protect the Royals at all costs!

    (Perhaps he would have preferred the restriction on reporting of naughty antics to have applied to all aspects of “The Queen in Parliament” – though I can’t think why! :-) )

  37. @Old Nat

    Conservatism these days is defined by “tough decisions”… now that is a slippery slope.

  38. Billy Bob

    “Conservatism these days is defined by “tough decisions”… now that is a slippery slope.”

    How true!

    “We would make some tough decisions on cuts” (Ed Milliband – English Local Election Manifesto)

    (I took your advice on googling “piss” :-) )

  39. Liberal Democrats should break now, and propose Labour alliance now, to save themselves, i think.

  40. @CHRISLANE1945

    “Liberal Democrats should break now, and propose Labour alliance now, to save themselves, i think.”

    I am not sure anything will save them now.

  41. @Ann in Wales

    Front page of tomorrow’s Independent leads on the escalating GCSE row suggesting growing anger amongst parents about Gove’s alleged political interference in this year’s marking regime.

    If this perception grows, particularly amongst Worcester Woman and Mondeo Man, the mythical swing voter types in marginal seats, that their little Johnny or Steph have got lower grades as a result of Gove’s interference, then the Tories will reap a political backlash.

    Lots of voters with 15 year old children, methinks. Very politically toxic this one and, if the Indy is right, it’s got legs and is gathering speed.

  42. CHRISLANE1945

    “Liberal Democrats should break now, and propose Labour alliance now, to save themselves, i think.”

    I can’t see that working in Scotland (and perhaps elsewhere).

    1. Those LD voters who saw coalition with the Tories as a “betrayal” and abandoned them don’t necessarily much trust Labour either, and would see this as the cynical ploy it would be. In the Lab/LD coalitions here, the LDs forced significant concessions from Labour as the price of support. That could never happen where the minor party is the supplicant.

    2.The right wing supporters that they have kept would be away like snow aff a dyke, if they were to commit to supporting Labour.

  43. LizH

    ‘I am not sure anything will save them now.’

    Unable to sleep, so check on UKPR and even my favourite Labour contributor (alongside Amberstar and Chris Lane of course) makes such a gloomy prediction. Surely you have a few words of comfort in these tough times.

    My view is that NC will go prior to the election and as it seems from the poll the Party will favour this. I think Tim Farron would be the best chance in the GE. I am not fond of him but I respect him.


  44. Amber

    Given that the case NickP referred to took place in London where there is effectively already an elected Police and Crime Commissioner[1] in the shape of Boris[2], I would say that your guess about their ineffectiveness in pretty accurate.

    Of course they were never really intended to be checks on the police, but were invented because of Tory fantasies that the only thing preventing the complete obliteration of crime was the minimal police supervision that came from local politicians. In reality the job will be nice sinecure for redundant pols with a decent salary (£65k upwards depending on area) and enough perks and retinue to make them feel important. But the real power will continue to lie with the Chief Constable.

    The sort of harassment that was revealed in the case mentioned will continue while those at the top of the Met show little will to stop it. It’s reminiscent of the persecution that Duwayne Brooks[3] had from the Met after the Stephen Lawrence murder – also in South East London as it happens:

    [1] Idiotic name that suggests they go round commissioning crimes. Which may well be true in some cases, but still shows the usual tin ear.

    [2] London – both the Met and the City forces – will be the only area in England and Wales not having an elected PCC. Incidentally it shows how low profile the PCC elections are that even this nest of political super-geeks, when discussing how much of an indicator next year’s Locals would be, forgot a genuinely (almost) country-wide set on 15 November.

    [3] Now a Lib Dem councillor in Lewisham – proving me to have been on topic all along.

  45. @Henry

    “Surely you have a few words of comfort in these tough times.”

    You know you are my favourite LibDem too. Unfortunately the only words of comfort I can offer you is that the party can rebuild again after the next GE if they shed some of the tainted ones.

  46. Chris Lane

    ‘Liberal Democrats should break now, and propose Labour alliance now, to save themselves, i think.’

    Interesting poll as we were only discussing this the other day. I would leave it much later., and pick Tim Farron. I think his stance will be that while a coalition with the Tories was ok, he would have preferred Labour if possible. However, we had made a few poor decisions as coalition partners; this could include tuition frees, although there is no way he would offer fee free tuition now. It is here to stay but could be reduced to 6K.

    There are alternatives to the above including reconsidering our position on the electoral spectrum, by returning to our pre-sdp alliance position of not so much left or right more liberal; I think this has appeal and always did; every day I feel my freedom/rights are being compromised in this global world, either by Government or big business. I cannot think of any of my friends ( Lib. Lab, Tory, green and UKIP) who does not complain about the high handiness of government officials or call centres etc. from time to time.

  47. Henry

    “A few words of comfort”.

    Look at what 3rd/4th parties who have come back from the depths have done.

    If the supposed left and right wing parties have both occupied the centre ground of that political dimension, then you need to operate on and accentuate the place of the Liberals (I use the term deliberately) on different political dimensions.

    In this part of the world, simply campaigning alongside the Unionists – given the existing party policy in the Steel Commission seems frankly insane.

    Creating a unique position on what isn’t the dominant political dimension in the various polities would probably help – but being seen as a bit player on that dimension dooms you to oblivion.

    (Given the quality of your leaderships, maybe that isn’t as comforting as I set out to be!)

  48. OldNat

    ‘maybe that isn’t as comforting as I set out to be!’

    No, but thanks for trying. IMO we have always far better in the grass roots, whether activists, Councillors or MPs, less good at HQ. This did not matter in the old days, as the Liberal leadership always allowed the local parties to go their own way. Several good MPs lost their seats at their last election simply because of HQ. In my opinion all English political parties are very centrist (including LDs) imposing their ideas from Westminster. It works for Labour, Tory and Greens but it does not work for me.

  49. “We would make some tough decisions on cuts” (Ed Milliband – English Local Election Manifesto)…

    …and decide not to have any? ;-)

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