LONDON, March 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Only one in twenty British adults both voted Liberal Democrat at the 2010 election and would do so again tomorrow, according to new polling by Lord Ashcroft.
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As the Liberal Democrats prepare for their Spring Conference in Brighton this weekend, the study - titled What Are The Liberal Democrats For? - finds that Nick Clegg faces a dilemma over how to rebuild Liberal Democrat support before the next election. While many left-leaning former Lib Dem voters want the party to be more vocal in opposing Tory, such a move would put off more moderate, Conservative-leaning voters who might otherwise stay with the party or even switch to it.
Lord Ashcroft's research, published today, is based on a poll of over 20,000 voters as well as focus groups among Lib Dem voters, those who would consider voting for the party, and people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 but have "defected" to another party.
The main findings of the research include:
- Only 29% of those who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 say they would do so again tomorrow (5% of the electorate). 71% say they would vote for another party, or don't know. However, nearly a quarter of those who say they would vote Lib Dem in an election tomorrow did not vote for the party in 2010.
- As many 2010 Lib Dem voters now say they would vote Labour or Green as say they would vote Lib Dem again (29%). Many are angry that the party joined the coalition in the first place, and are more inclined to blame the Lib Dems for allowing in a Tory-led government than to give them credit for moderating Tory policies.
- 15% of 2010 Lib Dem voters now say they would vote Conservative (8%) or UKIP (7%). They are more likely than most to say the coalition has been better than expected, and trust the Conservatives most on the economy, but rate the Lib Dems more positively than most voters and have a high opinion of local Lib Dem MPs. Most want the party to stick with the government's policies and make the coalition a success.
- More than a fifth (22%) of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 do not know how they would vote in an election tomorrow. Though many have lost confidence in the Lib Dems, they are resistant to Labour and do not know whom to trust on the economy.
- 85% of voters support raising the Income Tax Threshold to £10,000 - but 4 in 10 think it was a Conservative proposal. The most recognisable Lib Dem policy is an amnesty for illegal immigrants, which only 25% of voters support (though this rises to 50% among former Lib Dems who have defected to the Greens).
In his commentary on the research, which will be published on Conservative Home on Friday, Lord Ashcroft says:
"After the Eastleigh by-election Lib Dem activists will be relieved to think that despite the polls, strong local government and an invincible leaflet-dropping network will see most of their incumbent MPs safely back to Westminster.
"But that is not the whole story. Localness matters, but a general election decides who walks up Downing Street. Clegg must have something to say about the Liberal Democrats and government. He must define his party's purpose."
He notes that the Lib Dems' problem is that it fuelled inflated and contradictory expectations:
"The Lib Dems attracted a group of voters who did not want to vote for Gordon Brown and thought they had the luxury of voting against Labour without helping to elect a Conservative government. These people are numerous, and furious. What the Lib Dems have achieved, or how different from the Conservatives they can claim to be, is for them neither here nor there. As far as these people were concerned, the Lib Dems' most important job - their only job - was to keep the Tories out.
"Some of these voters say they would be prepared to listen to the Lib Dems again if they distanced themselves further from the Conservatives, set out a distinctively left-leaning agenda, and found themselves a new leader (not because a better candidate is on hand, but because a sacrifice is needed to show the party's contrition)."
This creates a strategic dilemma for Nick Clegg:
"The Lib Dem dilemma, then, is to decide how far to go in trying to win back people who have largely made up their minds to support Ed Miliband, and indeed only voted Lib Dem in the first place as a left-wing alternative to Labour. The more they do so, the less success they will have with the smaller but much more biddable moderate voters, who are also open to the Conservatives, want the party to play a constructive part in government and would be unimpressed with the antics that the angry left require."
Lord Ashcroft concludes that like all Conservatives, he hopes Nick Clegg follows the instincts of his party and pursues the left-leaning voters - but warns the Tories not to solve his problem by abandoning moderate voters who could be persuaded either way:
"Conservatives will hope that the Lib Dems choose to do most of their fishing in places like Hornsey & Wood Green - ideally with a great deal of success, but if not, at least loudly enough for Tory leaners to notice and be put off.
"Meanwhile, the Conservatives must be careful not to solve Clegg's dilemma themselves. For the Tories to learn the wrong lessons from Eastleigh and exclusively pursue the UKIP leaners would be to leave the part of the field occupied by moderate centrist and even centre-right voters - who want responsible and economically conservative government without the strident tone that can all too easily go with it - wide open to the Lib Dems. The Tories must not make the Lib Dems' decision for them. While Nick Clegg's party have a choice, there is always the chance that they will make the wrong one."
Notes to Editors
- 20,022 adults were interviewed online between 22 and 31 January 2013. Results have been weighted to be representative of all adults in Great Britain. Full data tables will be available at LordAshcroftPolls.com on Friday 8 March. In addition, 14 focus groups were held between 23 January and 21 February 2013 in Hornsey & Wood Green, Eastleigh, Sheffield, Solihull, Chippenham, Cheadle and Plymouth.
- Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, author and philanthropist. He is founder and Chairman of the Board of Crimestoppers, a member of the Board of the Imperial War Museum and a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum Foundation, Chairman of the Trustees of Ashcroft Technology Academy, Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and Treasurer of the International Democrat Union. From 2005 to 2010 he was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
- His political books and research papers include Smell The Coffee (2005), Minority Verdict (2010), What Future For Labour? (2010), What Future For The Liberal Democrats? (2010), Crime, Punishment & The People (2011), Project Blueprint (2011 & 2012), The Leadership Factor (2011), Degrees of Separation (2012), The Armed Forces & Society (2012), Blue Collar Tories (2012), Project Red Alert (2012), and They're Thinking What We're Thinking: Understanding The UKIP Temptation (2012).