‘Lack of trust and broken promises’: Why Lib Dem support has dramatically dropped

Eight months is a long time in politics, and for no one more so than Nick Clegg, whose party formed a Coalition with the Conservative Party last May. Our latest poll for the Sunday Times shows that more 2010 Liberal Democrat voters would now vote Labour (31%) than continue to vote Lib Dem (25%). With little movement of past Labour and Conservative voters to support the Lib Dems, it will be up to the party to win back its disillusioned 2010 voters in order to prevent significant losses at the next General Election.

This will be no easy feat. Our poll finds ex-Lib Dems expect long term, negative effects as a result of forming the Coalition and say that the party has broken its pre-election commitment by backing higher VAT and tuition fees.

We asked the British public, both in May 2010 and last week for the Sunday Times

Thinking about the long term, in the years ahead do you think the Coalition will be a good or a bad thing for the Liberal Democrat party?

When we asked this immediately after the General Election, the Coalition appeared to be offering the possibility of a new style of politics. Whilst expectations were not heady, the British public did have overall positive predictions of the long term effect of the Coalition on the party. 55% of Brits thought that it would be good for the Lib Dems in the long run and 34% thought it would be bad.

The situation has now completely reversed. When we re-asked this question for the Sunday Times on 13th -14th January, 61% predict that it will be bad for the party and only 22% think that it would be good. This is a long way away from the overall positive scores 8 months previous.

When looking at the responses of disillusioned Liberal Democrat voters – those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 but who will not now vote Lib Dem - nearly three quarters (74%) think that going into Coalition will be bad in the long term for the party; only 14% think it will be good.

Coalition

Further results show why these disillusioned voters have given such a prediction.

In the same poll for the Sunday Times, we asked respondents how much they trusted each of the main party leaders to keep their promises. Disillusioned Lib Dem voters say that they have more trust in Ed Miliband and David Cameron than in Nick Clegg. A huge 80% of this group has little or no trust in Clegg to keep his promises. Cameron came a close second, with 76% saying they do not trust him. Miliband fared the best of the three main party leaders with 32% saying they trust him a great deal or to some extent, and 50% saying they do not trust him at all.

Trust

What’s more, this latter group consider the Liberal Democrat party to be ineffective in Government - 74% of ex-Lib Dem voters believe the party has little or no influence on decisions taken by the Government (13% think they have a good influence, 2% think they have a bad influence).

Influence

When asked their opinions on whether the Liberal Democrat party should be blamed or not for going back on their pre-election pledges and policies, 69% of this group say they believe the party has ‘utterly betrayed that commitment by backing higher VAT and student fees’. Only 21% think that as ‘minority members of the Coalition at a time when the Government finances are in a terrible condition’ they should not be blamed.

It is clear then why the disloyal Lib Dems predict a less than rosy future for the party, and this gives a few indications as to why only a quarter of the 2010 voters are standing loyal after only 8 months of Government. In their view, the Liberal Democrat party has broken its commitment to a new style of politics, has little influence on Government despite being in Coalition, and is led by a leader that they do not trust.

In the run up to the next election, we may well see an attempt by both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to woo these ex-Lib Dem voters to their respective party, as a quarter of them say they do not know who they would vote for and are therefore effectively ‘up for grabs’. The Liberal Democrats may well try and persuade voters that by being in Government they are able to make policies more Liberal. Labour may offer the option of a change from a Government that has introduced many unpopular cuts. If Labour are able to retain the two fifths of ex-Lib Dems which they have attracted in past few months, and even persuade some of the uncertain to support them, this will certainly help the party’s position at the next General Election; a movement which we will be monitoring closely in our daily polls.

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