Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Lib Dem polls - keep calm and carry on

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

There have been a number of polls out recently that have shown Lib Dem support starting to slide. We were on 18% with ComRes yesterday and ICM and YouGov have both had us as low as 16% in recent days. This on the surface looks like a drop of between a quarter and a third of the support we had on election day (24%).

I suppose the first thing to say is that these polls always have a margin of error so it is possible that the real figures are not quite as bad as indicated. But more importantly this is exactly what I expected to see happen. We are only a few weeks into the coalition government and this is the point at which the difficult decisions are being announced. The party has had to compromise in order to get what it wanted in the agreement and a number of the measures announced recently will of course not be to the liking of some Lib Dem supporters and voters. This is one of the reasons why it was vital for the coalition agreement to include fixing the length of the parliament to a reasonable length in order to make sure there is enough time for the Lib Dem measures to be implemented properly and for the electorate to see how we have influenced things for the good.

It is also worth bearing in mind that this is often what happens to the Lib Dems after elections. After the 2005 election we were down as low as 12%.

I do not think there is anything to panic about. I of course would prefer us to be higher in the polls but I would expect the early weeks and months of this government to be the time when we are at our lowest. There is plenty of time to increase our support levels once we are in a position to show people how we have positively affected their lives.


Sunder Katwala said...

Keep calm is very sensible, though there is no particular

1. Margin of error. So could be better; equally, could be worse. No reason at all to see that as more a cause for potential optimism unless you put the downside in too.

2. What happens to LibDems after elections. But why? Isn't the normal reason that you slip off the media radar, and then get a boost in the campaign when you don't. Well, being in government, having the deputy PM, you've never been higher profile or more talked about. So 2010 is different to 2005 or 2001.

3. Why would the early period of the government be toughest? Most people would assume the opposite.

Don't forget the government is broadly popular or at least accepted right now - on the "give a government a chance" principle - and that the budget had broad majority support (because "we have to do something" was enough for those who don't read Guardian reports of IFS analysis to find out that the expert consensus is that the fairness claim was broadly lost). Still, that must matter more to LibDems who don't want the government to flunk its central rationale.

That shows up clearly in the polls - in the boost for the Tories, at the expense of the LibDems.

Certainly, LibDem expectation management would be steeling the party for doing worse in the Autumn and winter, and creating some plausible narrative about why the party could recover. Why it might yet benefit from a successful Coalition as much/more than the Tories (which these polls cast doubt on) and might not take as big a hit on the Tories when the government does become less popular.

dougf said...

LibDem 'support' has always been soft after a certain level. Lots of Labour supporters who sometimes decide to take a road trip.

The way to build a bigger base is to be a serious Party, and the way to be a serious Party is to be successfully in Government.

Hang tough,never retreat,never allow your Labour enemies to control the narrative, and stay the course until 2015. It's that simple.

paul barker said...

Two points, first all the pollsters have changed their methodology in the last few weeks, to bring their polls into line with the result of the GE.This means reducing the Libdem score by an average of 3% & raising Lab & cons.
Afew weeks ago we were averaging 21%, now its 18%, hmmm.
Second, no one knows why Libdem votes go down between GEs. One explanation is that most voters simply stop thinking much about politcs & revert their Party "Identification" The existence of the Coalition isnt likely to affect this in the short run. What we are seeing is a sort of Political Inertia.