UK polling query
April 25, 2012 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Why have the Lib-Dems completely crashed in the polls, to the benefit of Labour, yet the Conservatives have hardly been scratched? Any links to informed and insightful commentary explaining why the Lib-Dems are wearing the opprobrium for the UK austerity program would be appreciated.
posted by wilful to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Simply put, the coaltion's policies have been more or less in accordance with the wishes and expectations of Tory voters and dramatically different from the wishes and expectations of Lib-Dem voters. Student loans are just one example.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 11:28 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: But that is Tory voters as of the last election. Not the rump, but all of the swing voters as well.
posted by wilful at 11:54 PM on April 25, 2012

The commentary is sparse and basically says what Busy Old Fool has told you, but you might be interested in pollster Peter Kellner's recent analysis of how voters are moving between the parties from Prospect magazine.
posted by Abiezer at 12:07 AM on April 26, 2012

The Lib Dems are enabling the Tories to enact incredibly unpopular policies by remaining in coalition with them. They're pissing off their own rank-and-file in a big way.
posted by skybluepink at 1:52 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Many, many Tory voters will never vote for anyone else, irrespective of the party's policies at the time.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 2:09 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I voted Lib Dem in 2010 because I thought it offered the best opportunity for electoral reform. But after the AV referendum last year (disastrously mishandled by the Lib Dems), there's no longer any prospect of electoral reform in the foreseeable future.

I was also foolish enough to hope that the Lib Dem presence in the coalition might act as a brake on the Conservatives. That has now been exposed as a delusion. Indeed, as Anthony Cox has cogently pointed out, the NHS reforms have been driven by the Lib Dems just as much as by the Tories. Under Clegg, the Lib Dems have effectively become a centre-right party, so it's not surprising that centre-left voters are now moving back to Labour.

Some recent commentary from Anthony Wells and Left Futures. Short version: it's not looking good for the Lib Dems.
posted by verstegan at 2:35 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

To put a slightly different spin on things than some of the replies, there appear to be many Labour voters who voted for the Lib Dems because they thought they were "Labour Lite", without appreciating that the LibDems were not Labour's lapdogs & were a party that would make their own choices post election.

The Labour Party itself was woefully underprepared for the possibility of the need for a coalition government: the upper echelons of the party also seem to have assumed that the LibDems would simply fall into line, even though the numbers for a Lib/Lab coalition made such a deal very difficult to pull off. Certainly the perception amongst the political hacks was that the extremely slim majority of a Lib/Lab coalition would have made for an unstable government that have been likely to fall apart again very quickly, which given the chaotic state of the financial system at the time was seen as being fraught with risk for the country as a whole (regardless of people's views on austerity). I think of the options available at the beginning of this Parliament, the LibDems chose the least worst. Sometimes that's the best you can do.

The problem for the LibDems, is that the voting patterns appear to show that Tory voters won't vote for them in marginal seats in sufficient numbers to make up for the loss of the "soft Labour" vote, which is intent on blaming them for everything that the coalition does that they don't like. As a consequence, the LibDems are likely to get squeezed at the next election.

Of course, as we all know, how people say they will vote in the middle of a Parliament & how they actually vote can shift quite radically, so I imagine most LibDem MPs are crossing their fingers and hoping things improve come the next election!

(I also think that the LibDems should never have gone into the AV vote without preparing the ground first; without a true parliamentary majority for it they were always going to have an uphill struggle with the media to get their message across. Combine that with the swathe of Labour voters who were determined to cut their own noses off to spite their face by voting against it (and against their own interests as a number of pollsters pointed out) in order to "get back" at Nick Clegg and the AV battle was lost from the start.)
posted by pharm at 2:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of people were fed up with Labour, they lost a stack of voters post Iraq, but not enough to be out of power, they there were student fees, hikes in tax for the very lowest paid (this was what did for me so it sticks in my mind) and quite a few other things which meant they were on the wane. Then we ran bang into the biggest economic downturn in 80 years and the Prime Minister (who had basically been responsible for UK economic policy since 1997) looked like an out of control eejit. So a lot of people who would have naturally voted Labour went over the the Lib Dems, some on the back of strong performances by the Lib Dem leader in pre-election TV debates. Some borderline people went back to the Tories also, but the shift to the Lib Dems in terms of vote share went up (though notably, they had a net loss of MPs in 2010). Then they got in and proved to be wankers on policy after policy and not at all a natural home for left-thinking ex-Labour people, which has lost them all their Labour voters.

I have to confess I was amongst this number and even donated money to the Lib Dems in last election. They won't be getting any more. Problem is I live in a Tory-Lib Dem marginal so not sure who I will be voting for next time.
posted by biffa at 3:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Ask Metafilter isn't a general discussion space, so please provide links to explanatory material, or else summaries that address the question, preferably with cites. Avoid "here's how I feel" sort of answers and focus on analysis over personal commentary. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:36 AM on April 26, 2012

The Conservatives are reliably scoring about 10 points behind Labour in the polls, so to suggest they haven't been scratched is simply not true. Both they and the Lib Dems have lost a great deal of their swing support.

The difference is that the Lib Dems had fractionally more swing support to lose in the first place than the conservatives. They are centrist, they attract a pragmatic vote, and the local electoral maths allows them to pick up (and lose) tactical voters easily. On the other hand, the Conservative core vote is about 30% of the population of the UK and has been for decades. Also, as others have pointed out, Lib Dem swing support was mostly from the left rather than the right, and those people are obviously particularly unhappy.
posted by caek at 5:10 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was just thinking about this yesterday. I came across this article which does a good job explaining the difficulties all three major parties face in the coming May elections.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 11:12 AM on April 26, 2012

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