Libdems tumble to 12%; lefties keep leaving


9:44 am - August 1st 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Libdems have fallen to 12% in the latest YouGov poll, published today in the Sunday Times.

The polls also show that Labour continues to gain from the party. It now stands at 38%, just 4 pts behind the Conservatives at 42%.

Anthony Wells from YouGov says:

I doubt this poll reflects a sudden drop in Lib Dem support – they’ll probably be back up around their current YouGov average of 14% on Monday – rather it’s a continuation of that downwards trend [since the election].

This is how the polls have looked after the recent election (data from all pollsters)

It’s likely the ‘Free Schools’ fiasco will cause further disruption within the Libdems.
Newsnight’s Michael Crick said last night:

The resolution has been specifically picked by Lib Dem conference organisers for a substantial debate.

First, it calls for local councils to keep their role in the “oversight” of the provision of state schools. This is quite contrary to Gove’s strategy of greatly reducing local authority involvement in education.

And second, the resolution urges Liberal Democrats not to get involved in Michael Gove’s cherished new policy of free schools.

Given how important local councillors are in the structure of the Liberal Democrat Party and the prevalence of teachers in the party, there must be a pretty good chance that the motion will be passed.

YouGov report that the Coalition’s approval reporting stands at just net +2% (40% approve, 38% disapprove).

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


An interesting early sign of where things are really at will be the Norwich local elections, on Sept. 9. Labour and Green Party set to do well in these, LibDems to do worse than ever?

2. George W. Potter

I should point out a few things.

1) Lib dem support always falls to around 15% between elections before going up again as election time nears. Sot this is nothing new.

2) There has been a substantial increase in membership since the election – to the tune of several hundred. So once again we have a misleading headline. I wish someone would tell the people who write the headlines on LibCon to be less sensationalist.

3. George W. Potter

Also, anyone interested in a more detailed look at the Free Schools motion at Lib Dem party conference would be advised to go here:

http://www.libdemvoice.org/bbc-coalition-faces-lib-dem-revolt-on-free-schools-20526.html

4. paul barker

3 points
The Libdems hit a low of 11% in the last parliament, they got 24% at the GE
All the Pollsters have changed their methodolgies to reduce Libdem figures, a response to the overestimate at the GE
Dont confuse voters & Members. Labour & Libdem memberships have both risen by about 14% this year, both, presumably a response to the GE. Any coalition effect is invisible, so far.

Isn’t this actually quite normal for the Lib Dems following elections?

Labour’s glee at the Lib Dem’s low polling scores is severely misguided for three reasons:
1.) As has already been pointed out, Lib Dem support always falls this low in the middle of parliaments, and it is interesting to note that Labour’s high poll ratings are probably because of, not despite, the fact that they lack a leader at this time.
2.) Again, as already pointed out Lib Dem membership has increased massively, my local party has doubled its membership since the election. In total as reported on Lib Dem Voice, 4,500 new members have joined with only 450 leaving. So lefties are not deserting. The increased membership means the Lib Dems will be able to fight better campaigns in future elections.
3.) It is not in Labour’s interest for the Lib Dem poll rating to be this low. There are far more Lib Dem-Tory marginals that Lib Dem-Labour ones. Meaning a fall in Lib Dem support is far more likely to deliver a Tory majority than a Labour one. It wasn’t Labour that stopped the Tories getting a majority, it was the Lib Dems. Labour also will almost definitely not get an outright majority in the next election, their best hope would be if the Lib Dems stay strong enough for the coalition maths to actually work this time (for the record, a Labour-Lib Dem government would have been mathematically impossible, something lots of people seem to ignore).

Cameron took a clever gamble in forming a coalition government with the LibDems.

He is virtually assured of being PM for the next five years and electoral experience of the coalition will do untold damage to the prospects of the LibDems at the next general election.

How many seats is it where the Conservatives and LibDems take the top two places?

8. Margin4eror

Three things need saying.

1 – This downward trend is not itself proof that the coalition deal is killing the libdems.
2 – This result is the most extreme so far and so may be a little anomolous
3 – Liberal Conspiracy has a tendancy to laud every such stat as a left-wing backlash, which is unproven.

However,

This downward trend since the election has gotton so strong now that the “this always happenens” (not true) and “membership is up so it’s nothing to worry about” complacency is also now looking myopic.

For example, take the view that Lib Dems always fall to around 15% in mid-term.

In 2005 the Lib Dems remained on or above 20% in yougov polls for six months after the election.

Also, Lib Dems are typically believed to fall back because the press never report on them. Clearly that’s neither applicable to the Lib Dems this time, nor hindering Labour who have failed to impact on headlines without a leader and strategy in place but seem to have picked up a lot of support since the election.

Worse still for Lib Dems, although this poll is the worse of a bad bunch rather than the typicle result, even the most anomalous results only saw the Lib Dems fall this low in midterm last term (late 2007). That was when they sacked Ming over terrible polls. So Lib Dems must recognise that this level of polling, even where it is the worst of a bad bunch of polls, is worryingly bad.

And again, Ming could at least claim that mid term is when the problem of lack of press attention is most accute. Clegg has no equivelent excuse.

So – the big question.

What is calling this unprecedented tumble in LibDem polling and how low will they go before they bottom out or change whatever they think is causing it?

9. Margin4eror

Bob & BCM

The interesting thing to see if the LibDems do utterly collapse – is how many of their votes go to Labour and how many go to the Tories.

You can imagine Lib Dems losing 30 seats to the tories quite easilly either way as those marginals have little labour base – but actually, the tories might in turn lose lots of marginal seats to labour if the 2010 lib dem voters vote labour next time.

I’ve not seen any analysis of which trend would be strongest in different scenarios.

One reason that it’s usual for the Lib Dems to slump in support post-election is that they’ve lost. When not in government, and not the main opposition, they get less press, and people pay more attention to the bigger parties. Also, the new government usually gets a boost in support that affects all opposition parties.

But this is very different – the Lib Dems are in government and should be getting some benefit from the extra exposure. At the very least not lost up to half of their poll ratings in such a short time.

Of course, while a lot of people support the Lib Dems because they aren’t Labour, there’s a load who used to support them because they weren’t the Tories.

Looking at recent local government by-elections, the Tories are not doing so well either, while the Lib Dems are getting slaughtered.

11. Margin4eror

A quick look at the marginal constituencies on ukpolling report is interesting.

If the 2015 election had the same result as 2010 (gerrymandering aside) then it would take only about 1.1% of lib dem voters to shift to labour (in an even national swing) to dliver Labour 20 seats at the expense of the tories.

So a LibDem collapse could really hurt the tories if it is left-wing lib dems who jump ship – while right wing ones stay on board.

George – they usually fall because of lack of press. That isn’t the case this time.

Secondly, membership does not equal voting sentiments

13. George W. Potter

Sunny – true, but you didn’t mention any of that in the article.

Secondly, I never said membership equalled voting sentiments, but it is this article’s headline which states that “lefties keep leaving” when there is no evidence in this poll, or in party membership data to back that up. So please could you explain how the headline is in anyway justified?

I don’t see much surprise in the poll results. Yes they’re getting more exposure than usual but it is almost entirely all negative. They’re taking the shit from the left wing press for not being left wing enough and somehow not pulling the coalition in to a socialist form despite having the little sister’s share of the power.

They’re also taking it from the right where they’re being blamed for forcing Cameron to water down their policy.

Aside from Gove and Osbourne they’ve also been the ones most public in telling the public of all the cuts and stuff that are going to happen.

Now, they’ve also screwed it up a lot themselves, the university graduate tax was a big blunder as far as I’m concerned, and they’re absolutely not explaining themselves well on their intentions (trying to claim you were always for the type of cuts they’re doing despite arguing against them, VAT, etc).

All of this to me just culminates in the big two parties successfully managing to character assassinate the Lib Dems while, unfortunately, the Lib Dems pretty much play the part and let them.

when there is no evidence in this poll, or in party membership data to back that up. So please could you explain how the headline is in anyway justified?

What else would justify the big fall in polls? Nick Clegg is constantly in the media – it’s not like the LDs are suffering from non-exposure. The only people unhappy are the social liberals – who are being shafted over VAT, Trident, nuclear power over these schools, over welfare cuts and front-line services cuts. Do the maths.

Lee Griffin: They’re taking the shit from the left wing press for not being left wing enough and somehow not pulling the coalition in to a socialist form despite having the little sister’s share of the power.

Hey, you can’t attack Labour when in power for not being left-wing enough, and think the LDs are going to get a free pass when they do the same.

The left’s job is to attack whoever is in power for not being left enough – whether Labour or Tories or a coalition. There’s no point whining about it.

“Hey, you can’t attack Labour when in power for not being left-wing enough, and think the LDs are going to get a free pass when they do the same.”

I think the issue is much more complex than this. Labour not being left wing enough is a betrayal of the movement. Lib Dems in coalition with Tories not being left wing enough is a fairly blinkered view of the situation (for example, that ignores how much LESS left wing the coalition would be without the Lib Dem’s involved).

But, as I said and hope I conveyed, I think Lib Dems have got themselves in to this polling position as much as anyone else putting them there.

for example, that ignores how much LESS left wing the coalition would be without the Lib Dem’s involved

But that’s like saying we should be uncritical of Labour when they’re in power because they’re better than the Tories.

The Coalition has to be attacked from the left, otherwise the only side attacking will be from the right, and that will inevitably push them rightwards. Unless the Libdems think seriously about how to appease their social liberal base, then they should rightfully be chastised for not doing enough.

18. Margin4eror

Lee

“Labour not being left wing enough is a betrayal of the movement. Lib Dems in coalition with Tories not being left wing enough is a fairly blinkered view of the situation”

Erm – very blinkered by the looks of things. Labour were a centre-left government that a lot of left-wingers wanted to be more left than centre. The coalition is a right wing government. And not even particularly centrist given some of their proposals.

Would it be more right wing without the libdems? Well no, obviously not. it wouldn’t exist without them. The tories would be a minority government that had to negotiate every bill and proposal in parliament to get anything done. And that would be a tougher ask that moved them more to the centre than simply brandishing the whip while the Lib Dems fret that breaking the coalition will undermine their case for electoral reform.

Of course they are going down in the polls. They have sold out on almost everything they claimed to believe in. Whatever that was, because Lib Dems in one part of the country usually campaign in complete opposition to Lib Dems in another part of the country.

The Lib dems supporters on here can do their re arranging the deckchairs on the titanic routine , but they are up shit creek without a paddle. The Lib Dems have become irrelevant., They cease to exist, they are finished as a party of the centre left. They have just merged themselves into tories. They have been played like a Steinway by the tories who are pushing through far right wing agenda and then claiming it is progressive. A so called progressive and fair budget was how Osborne claimed. All thanks to the Lib Dems,

The next election will be a straight fight between Labour and Tory, and the tories will have the advantage of having had chance to govern thanks to the Lib Dems. There does not seem to be anything the Lib Dems won’t sign up to. Destroying the NHS the BBC, stacking the political system in the tories favour for the next 50 years.

20. Rhys Williams

Although I cannot stand the odious Nick Cohen. He did make this point in the Observer.
The liberals are becoming irrelevant.
The Orange bookers will join the Tories, the left will join the greens or a more liberal labour party (I wish).
To save his party Clegg has to force Cameron to bring in some type of left of centre bone to his more leftish colleagues.
But comrades the labour party may look in glee but the real winners will be the Tories.
The end of the liberal party means perpetual tory government unless the Tories give the job to Gove after Cameron

21. Margin4eror

Rhys

I just don’t see how on earth people think the demise of the libdems would be bad for labour.

As I said above – a swing of around 1.1% from lib dem to labour on the 2010 election result (if uniform across the country) would have cost the tories 20 seats to Labour.

Meanwhile that same 1.1% swing from Lib Dem to Labour would give the tories just 3 – literally just three seats from the Lib Dems.

The maths on this are pretty simple – if we we assume that lib dem support is more left wing than right wing. (quite an assumption I grant you, but in terms of the ones leaving the party that seems the most likely bunch)

22. George W. Potter

@Sunny

“What else would justify the big fall in polls? Nick Clegg is constantly in the media – it’s not like the LDs are suffering from non-exposure. The only people unhappy are the social liberals – who are being shafted over VAT, Trident, nuclear power over these schools, over welfare cuts and front-line services cuts. Do the maths.”

That might be the reason sure. But it is your interpretation of the facts and you don’t mention it in the article. So, back to the same question: how is the headline for the article justified?

George – you want me to include that paragraph in the article above?

24. Margin4eror

Sunny

I think he wants you to include it in the title.

“Libdems tumble to 12% in possibly-unreliable poll; reasoning suggests it might be because lefties might be leaving” ?

It’s not really as catchy…

Bit confused though, sunny. Why respond to requests to change an OK headline when you never seem to countenance changing the really misleading titles?

26. Daphne Millar

In a litany of really sad postings I should just like to highlight as saddest of all Mr. George W. Potter.
“2) There has been a substantial increase in membership since the election – to the tune of several hundred.”
“Several hundred?” Significant? Well I suppose it will be by the time the next election comes. The best thing to come out of this coalition i9s the probable demise of the Liberal democrats. Good riddance to bad rubbish say I.

Some prominent LibDems are really taken with Cameron’s Big Society prescription.

“Brennan has spoken of his passion for delivering Sutton’s own big society. Speaking about the benefits of a Big Society for Sutton residents, the Council Leader said . . ”
http://www.24dash.com/news/communities/2010-07-29-We-can-deliver-the-Big-Society-say-Sutton-Council

Curiously, this is the reality of Sutton’s Big Society:

“Police warning [on 20 April] after spate of burglaries in [Sutton]
http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/topstories/8109570.Police_warning_after_spate_of_burglaries/

“A spate of burglaries in Sutton is being attributed to the warmer weather as residents leave windows open to cool down. At least four separate burglaries occurred over the weekend with thieves climbing in through open and unlocked windows.

“Overnight on Friday July 9, £5,500 cash and jewellery was stolen from a property in Constance Road after a bedroom window was left open. The householder believes the suspect may have posed as a window cleaner.

“On Saturday, on Woodstock Road in Carshalton, a thief got away with two laptops and other equipment after he put his arm through the top window of a lounge to open the larger window immediately below. A thief also gained entry to a property in Eastway, Wallington on Saturday afternoon after a kitchen window was left unlocked.

“A neighbour who thinks they saw the intruder described him as a 30-year-old white man, 5ft 8in tall wearing a white T-shirt with a pattern. He had short fair hair and was clean shaven.” [15 July]
http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8271199.Residents_warned_after_Sutton_burglaries/

28. George W. Potter

@Daphne: Well, I’d call a net membership increase of around 4,000 pretty significant. “In the first half of this year (1st January to 30 June), Party membership increased by 14%. There were increases in every Region. This compares with the last General Election year (2005), when there was membership increase of just 1.6%.” I’d say that this debunks the argument that people are abandoning the party in droves. Here are the numbers if you don’t believe me: http://www.libdemvoice.org/official-4500-new-lib-dem-members-have-joined-party-since-election-and-coalition-agreement-20301.html

@Sunny: What I’d like is for the headline to match the article. I’d have thought that a website which professes to be against the shoddy journalism of the tabloids would understand that.

29. paul barker

You continue to live in a fantasy world, Polls, except for the 2 months before a GE, are useless as a tool for predicting Libdem performance at any level. Dont take my word for it, go to UKPR & check the facts for yourself.
The coalition got 98% approval at a special conference, delegates all elected by members. 450 members have resigned over the coalition, thats 0.7%- scary.The Libdems arent the Party facing debts of 10 Million Pounds. We are not going to collapse, dream on.

30. George W. Potter

Further to Paul Barker’s comment, I’d like to express my agreement with him.

I can’t predict how people will vote in 2015 and, if I’m honest, I am expecting a backlash in some constituencies but other than that I really can’t say. What I can say is that the core party membership will emerge pretty much unscathed, along with our coffers. This means that even if we are punished by the electorate in 2015 (which is by no means certain) we’ll still be strong enough to bounce back in the election after that.

“What I can say is that the core party membership will emerge pretty much unscathed, along with our coffers.”

Quite regardless of how the Big Society works out or whether the economy slips into a double-dip recession because of the early public spending cuts?

If so, that doesn’t say much for the capacity of the LibDem membership to learn from experience about the capabilities of their present leadership.

Btw I’m a habitual floating voter having at various times voted Conservative, Labour, Liberal, LibDem, and Social Democrat. I chose not to vote in the 2005 election – this time, I voted tactically for hung parliament, which us what we ended up with.

32. George W. Potter

@Bob B – I think you can expect that, if this government well and truly bollockses things up, the knives will be out for our party leaders. My point is that any negative effects of the coalition will almost certainly have dissipated two parliaments down the line.

33. Margin4eror

@29

Thing is – polls are not a fantasy world. They are a rough guide wth which to guage trends. a poll at 12% might not mean you’d literally get 12% if people went to the ballot box. But a whole bunch of polls showing a significant drop in support over three months do suggest some trend is underway.

We know the Lib Dems themselves believe that. Hence they sacked Ming when his polls got this low. Likewise we know Labour think the same, hence the moves (which failed) to overthrow Brown when the polls were bad. Tories did likewise with IDS.

So when polls all show a fairly clear trend either up or down – it is worth pondering what it is that causes that trend.

Any suggestions?

34. George W. Potter

“So when polls all show a fairly clear trend either up or down – it is worth pondering what it is that causes that trend.”

Fair enough, but that’s not what this article is doing. It mentions that the recent poll has them down and then goes onto suggest that the Free Schools motion will deminish our standing in the polls further (which I’d say is a rather tenuous prediction to make). So, whilst the headline boldly states that the decline is because left wing members are leaving, there is nothing in the article looking at possible causes for the downwards trend at all.

“But a whole bunch of polls showing a significant drop in support over three months do suggest some trend is underway.”

It also doesn’t occur over a long enough period to determine that it’s not an active correction (or over correction) by polling companies. It may well be a trend, but it may not.

36. margin4error

george

don’t get me wrong, I was on the side of “too early to asume that” when these articles started cropping up. But three months of the trend now has me looking for answers. I assume it has libdems doing likewise.

lee

a correction might lead to a one off change in figures – so from averaging 20% to averaging 14% – but it probably wouldn’t cause the gradual reduction seen over three months by yougov who are the most prolific of the pollsters.

Likewise – the election result was about 20% for the Lib Dems and 30% for Labour – so it is hard to see what correction they’ve concocted that diverges so far from those actual results.

But you are right it is still early days. They key is to wait until the polls bottom out. Then we’ll have a guide to whether this is a general realignment in voting intentions (ie lefties leaving the lib dems) because the new level will stay relatively stable baring the usual occasional ups and downs of everyday politics.

One key point here that needs to be remembered for those that like conjecturing about future general elections. When the next election comes, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will stand as seperate parties, with presumably clearly stated different directions in which they want to move (this will be a chance for both to promote the ideas frustrated by coalition). They will not be standing as a coalition, and will push that message. So those frustrated at the Liberal Democrats at the moment will still have the option of going back to them without supporting the Conservative agenda.

There is also the minor matter of Labour are popular at the moment (but not as popular as the Conservatives) without having a direction or policy. If they get this wrong, their support is not any more fixed than Liberal Democrat support.

38. margin4error

Watchman

In theory you are right about that – they may decide to stand as seperate parties with entirely seperate positions. Though they would thn also stand defending their government which blurs that a little.

But people who believe manifestos despite past experience, and who vote accordingly with no emotional preference about any party and without any inclination to judge by past actions – are not who we are speculating about.

We are talking about people who either
1 – are left wing and saw the Lib Dems as an option among non-right-wing options only for that vote to deliver right wing government.
2 – genuinely believed a manifesto that the lib dem leader has since said he didn’t believe when he was out campaigning for it during the election. (Clegg claims to have decided we needed immediate cuts before the election, but forgot to tell the public)

Those people – if they have memories and a fairly basic human capacity to learn from experience – may struggle to vote lib dem again.

We don’t know how numerous they are – and we don’t know if they are weighing that struggle against other things. hence the speculation.

But it would take quite some spin to convince them that the Lib Dems would stand by a manifesto in future – or would never back right wing government again.

Indeed the biggest question they face at the next election – standing alone or not – is “which bits of the manifesto do you really mean and which will be reversed to sign with the Tories again?”

39. clare sawdon-smith

Hi, read your piece and the comments on the falling support for the Liberal Democrats with interest. I joined the party for the first time just before the election although I’d always voted Liberal Democrat. However, the reason I had voted Liberal Democrat in various areas is because the choice was between them and the Conservatives and I believed the Liberal Democrats to be a left of centre party. I joined the party because I was inspired by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable. However, the only reason I have not sent back my card and left the party is because I forgot I had it. I think this will be true for many ‘newer converts’. We were evangelical before the election because we believed in what the party was saying. Now I just can’t believe I did such a stupid thing as listen to a politician and take him at his word. I am totally disillusioned with the Liberal Democrats and so are many of my friends in a similar postion. By not voting Liberal Democrat in the future I risk letting in a Conservative to the seat in my area. I don’t really care. I would rather cut off my hand than put a cross next to Liberal Democrat again. I think the party is seriously fooling itself if it thinks it is exerting any softening effect to the current government. In fact the insistence by the party and my local MP that her campaign policies are now an integral part of government just take my breath away.


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