YouGov looks at why former Lib Dem voters aren’t returning to the fold
Following strong by-election results in Richmond Park and Witney towards the end of last year, there was talk of a possible Lib Dem resurgence. With only a few days until polling day, the much awaited #LibDemfightback has not yet materialised, with current figures suggesting that the party is only doing marginally better now than in 2015.
So why is the party not seeing the boost that some predicted? Part of the reason is its failure to regain its previous voters. The 2015 wipeout saw the party lose about three quarters of its 2010 support. In fact, in the last election more 2010 Lib Dem voters made the decision to switch to the Labour party (30%) than stayed with the Lib Dems (28%), while a fifth (19%) went to the Conservatives. The remaining third split between the smaller parties, including 10% who chose UKIP.
Skipping forward to now, only 15% of these lost Lib Dem voters plan to return to the party in 2017. Instead, almost half intend to vote Labour and a quarter plan to back the Conservatives.
To find out why its former voters aren’t coming back into the fold, we asked those who voted Lib Dem in 2010, but didn’t in 2015 and won’t in 2017 to tell us in their own words why they would not return to the party. The answer will make for painful reading for those Liberal Democrats who supported entering into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 in order to have the party participate in government for the first time since the Second World War.
The pledges the party discarded in entering the coalition are still stunting its vote today. Even with a new leader and being out of government for two years, almost four in ten former Lib Dem voters (38%) say “broken promises” are the reason they refuse to go back to the party.
Other reasons are more mundane: 16% say they feel a vote for the Lib Dems is a wasted vote – a perennial concern for any third party. Just over one in ten (11%) are not impressed with the party’s current policies, while 7% of this group say it is because of Brexit.
2015 Lib Dem voters
The Lib Dems don’t seem to be doing a particularly good job of holding on to their 2015 voters either. Almost half (44%) are planning to leave another party – primarily Labour (23%) or the Conservatives (18%).
Asking departing 2015 Lib Dem voters why they are moving away from the party doesn’t yield as clear cut a result as asking lost 2010 Lib Dem voters. Tactical voting and dissatisfaction with policies top the list, but only at 14% apiece.
Brexit comes third (12%), although this rises to a fifth of 2015 Lib Dem voters who voted Leave in the EU referendum. Dissatisfaction with policies (14%) and the leadership (13%) also score strongly with Lib Dem Leavers voters.
Clearly, regaining lost voters is only part of a party’s strategy and the Lib Dems have had some success in gaining new voters. But with the party having alienated so many of its former voters, the Lib Dems look increasingly likely to be associated with a throwback than a fightback.