The Coalition's plans for an elected House of Lords are backed by the public by a majority of more than two to one, according to a ComRes poll for The Independent.
The findings are a boost for Nick Clegg, the architect of Government plans for 80 per cent of peers to be elected, before he faces a knife-edge Commons vote next week that could scupper his hopes of forcing through the landmark reform.
Conservative MPs who oppose the shake-up claim that it should not be a priority at a time when voters want Parliament to focus on the economy. They argue that the public has little appetite for another layer of elected politicians. But the survey suggests strong public backing for modernising the second chamber. Asked whether the current all-appointed House of Lords should be replaced by an 80 per cent elected chamber, 67 per cent agreed, 24 per cent disagreed and 9 per cent replied "don't know."
According to ComRes, there is widespread support for an elected second chamber among backers of all three main parties – 57 per cent of Conservative, 76 per cent of Labour and 64 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters. The proposal enjoys backing among voters in all social classes and regions, with young age groups more likely to support it than those aged 55 and over.
Mr Clegg said: "This poll shows the overwhelming majority of the British public want to see a mostly elected House of Lords."
The Deputy Prime Minister added: "The top priorities of the British people are the same as mine – jobs, growth and good quality public services. But that doesn't mean they don't strongly believe in making our country more democratic. People like democracy. It gives them the chance to have a say in who runs their country. The people who live by the laws want to elect those who make them. In 21st-century Britain, that doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to ask."
Tory whips are struggling to contain a backbench rebellion over the proposed timetable for the House of Lords Reform Bill. Rebel Tories claim up to 100 backbenchers oppose the Bill. If about 50 were to vote against the timetable motion, it could be defeated. That could mean that the Tories eventually pull the plug on the measure so that it does not dominate Parliament for up to two years.