Pessimism over the future of the Lib Dems is as bad as before the election – and there is less clarity over what they stand for than for any other party
The new Liberal Democrat leader will be announced today after former leader Nick Clegg led the party into near-annihilation in May. The Lib Dems lost 49 of their 57 MPs and 411 councillors, along with all but one member of the European Parliament in 2014. In spite of this the party has increased its membership by 30% since the general election, although Labour has seen a similar surge, suggesting leadership contests have some appeal.
New YouGov polling reveals that perceptions of the resilience of the party are as bad now as they were before the election. British people still tend to expect the Lib Dems to fade away from British politics in 10 years (47%) rather than remain an important force (29%), however electoral defeat has not worsened the perception (on average before May, the figures were 46% fade, 31% stay). There was a slight confidence boost in February.
Lib Dem supporters are now more pessimistic about their party than before the election (23% now say the party will fade away compared to 12% in October 2014).
The party has sustained blows in the past, having as few as 20 seats in 1992, steadily climbing to 62 in 2005 and 57 in 2010. But this time the situation is far worse – with 7.8% of the national vote (their previous low was 16.8% in 1997), the party can’t even blame the electoral system.
The Lib Dems are also seen as being the least clear about what they stand for compared to the other parties, but the news is only slightly better for Labour. Net -38 say the Lib Dems are clear, while the figure is -23 for Labour and +46 for the Conservatives. Lib Dems themselves are also the least clear about their own party (net +23 compared to +35 for Labour and +85 for the Conservatives).
There is some minor consolation in perceptions of honesty and trustworthiness, where all the parties are in negative territory, but the Lib Dems (-30) are tied with Labour (-29) and ahead of UKIP (-41). 35% say the Conservatives are honest and trustworthy, 58% say they are not.
Tim Farron, the favourite in today’s leadership election, has been critical of the party’s record in government, while Norman Lamb, his opponent, has defended it. British people are divided 43-43% over whether the Lib Dems were right or wrong to go into coalition with the Conservatives, but many (38%) say the government would have been worse without them. 18% say it would have been better and 25% say it would have been much the same.