Contentious Coalition

July 22, 2010, 5:14 PM GMT+0

Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters are divided on some contentious issues, which may prove a difficulty for both parties in the Government Coalition, a poll carried out by on behalf of Chatham House has revealed.

One notable difference concerns whether British foreign policy should be, in part, shaped by ethical considerations, even if this means sometimes acting against immediate national interests, or whether policy should be shaped by national interest even if this means doing things some people regard as unethical. Just over two thirds (67%) of Conservative voters agree that foreign policy should be in the national interest, whilst 55% of Liberal Democrat voters believe that foreign policy should be shaped primarily by ethical considerations.

The public are also divided on whether the coalition government should renew the fleet of Trident submarines or whether the UK should give up nuclear weapons altogether. Nearly three quarters (74%) of Conservative voters believe that it should either be replaced with a new fleet, or that it should be replaced with a smaller, cheaper system, whereas 35% of Liberal Democrat voters would like to see nuclear deterrents scrapped completely. Interestingly, just over a third of supporters for both parties preferred the idea of replacing Trident with a smaller, cheaper system.

There are, reassuringly, some areas where the two camps are in agreement. For example, the issue of troops in Afghanistan unites supporters – a quarter of both Liberal Democrat and Conservative voters believe that British troops should be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, and 55% of both groups agree that a timetable for withdrawing troops over the next couple of years should be drawn up.

However climate change is another contentious subject, with half of Liberal Democrat supporters thinking it is vitally important to minimize climate change, and 38% of Conservative voters believing that climate change is not a serious threat.

It seems the Coalition faces a significant challenge if it is to bridge the gap between their respective voters. Perhaps by focussing on areas of agreement, they will be able to find some common ground.

Survey details and full results