The public's verdict on Coalition: Out of touch and inept

Most voters think the Lib Dems have sacrificed too many of their principles, says Andrew Grice

Andrew Grice
Saturday 28 April 2012 01:40

Seven out of 10 people who voted Liberal Democrat at the last election believe the party has sacrificed too many of its principles since joining the Coalition with the Conservatives. And more than half of the party's 2010 voters think it has almost no influence over the Government's policies.

Click HERE to view 'Unpopularity contest: The poll results' graphic

The findings emerge in a ComRes survey of 2,000 people for The Independent which contains some bad news for the leaders of all three main parties. David Cameron's personal ratings are in line with those of the Conservatives. This suggests the shine has come off his image: only two months ago, Tory MPs were told that the Prime Minister was 16 points ahead of his party.

According to ComRes, 37 per cent of people say they like the Conservatives and 38 per cent that they like Mr Cameron. More men (30 per cent) than women (23 per cent) like the Prime Minister. While some three in four Conservative supporters (77 per cent) like both the party and its leader, a further 16 per cent like the party but not Mr Cameron.

In contrast, Ed Miliband has the biggest image problem of the three leaders. While 45 per cent like Labour, only 21 per cent like Mr Miliband. Even a majority of Labour supporters (54 per cent) like the party but not its leader. The findings will worry Labour strategists, who accept privately that Mr Miliband needs to close the gap.

Nick Clegg trails his party but by much less than the Labour leader does his. Some 37 per cent of the public like the Liberal Democrats, while 30 per cent like Mr Clegg. Although 63 per cent of current Liberal Democrat supporters like both party and leader, this falls to just 35 per cent among Liberal Democrat voters at the 2010 election.

The poll gives Labour a five-point lead. Labour is on 39 per cent, down one point since the ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday published last weekend; the Conservatives on 34 per cent (unchanged); the Liberal Democrats on 10 per cent (down one point) and others on 17 per cent (up two points).

If repeated at a general election, the latest figures would give Labour an overall majority of 69, with the Liberal Democrats' 57 MPs reduced to just 18. Only two in five people who voted Liberal Democrat at the 2010 election say they would do so now. The party is just one point ahead of the UK Independence Party, which is on 9 per cent.

By a 2-1 margin, people think the Coalition Government is incompetent. Only 27 per cent agree that it is proving competent, while 56 per cent say it is not. By a margin of 67 to 21 per cent, the public believes Mr Cameron and George Osborne are out of touch with ordinary people – including two-thirds of people (65 per cent) in the highest AB social group and three out of 10 Tory supporters.

And by 68 to 20 per cent, people agree that the Government can no longer say "we are all in it together". One in three Conservative supporters (35 per cent) thinks the slogan is no longer valid. The ComRes findings suggest the Liberal Democrats have a mountain to climb to avoid heavy losses at the next election. A majority of voters (58 per cent) think Mr Clegg's party has sacrificed too many of its principles since joining the Coalition, including more than half of today's Liberal Democrat supporters (55 per cent). Only 22 per cent of the public disagree.

By a margin of 49 to 35 per cent, people agree that the Liberal Democrats seem to have almost no influence over the Government's policies – including one in three current Liberal Democrat supporters. But a majority of Conservative supporters (62 per cent) disagree with this statement.

According to ComRes, 18 per cent of people would be more likely to vote Liberal Democrat at the next general election if Mr Clegg stood down as party leader before then – including 31 per cent of the party's 2010 voters. But 61 per cent of the public disagree.

One positive note for the Liberal Democrats is that more people (40 per cent) agree it is better for the country that the Conservatives have to work with the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government than if they had won an overall majority in 2010, while 36 per cent disagree.

However, only 31 per cent of people would be happy with another coalition government after the next election, while 47 per cent would not.

ComRes interviewed a representative sample of 2,015 GB adults online between April 25-27, 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Timeline: How the Lib Dems have fallen since 2010

2010 May (general election) 23% Up on last general election, but they win five fewer seats.

June 19% Weeks after chummy scenes in Downing Street Rose Garden, support begins to wane after formation of Coalition.

July 16% Backing slides sharply following George Osborne’s austerity Budget.

September 16% Holding steady as widely predicted bloodbath at party conference in Liverpool fails to materialise.

October 14% George Osborne sets out to cut spending by £81bn. Lib Dem support falls, Tories up.

November 13% Violence at student march against £9,000 tuition fees. Lib Dems face criticism for reneging on election promises.

December 11% A new low as the Commons approves tuition fees, with the party split over the issue.

2011 January 12% Party comes second in Oldham by-election.

March 13% Minor recovery, but party crashes to humiliating sixth in Barnsley Central by-election.

April 13% Government forced to “pause” NHS reforms plans.

May 11% Dire performance in local elections, losing 750 councillors. Clegg humiliated in referendum on electoral reform.

June 11% Clegg steps up efforts to differentiate his party from its coalition partner and calls for shares in privatised banks to be given to voters.

July 13% Phone-hacking scandal erupts. Labour gains in polls.

August 13% Nation’s attention on riots around the country.

September 12% Conference goes off without major hitch.

November 11% Lib Dems stage major Lords rebellion over health reforms, but get no credit.

December 12% Clegg critical of Cameron’s European veto .

2012 Jan 13% Lib Dems hope their fall in support has bottomed out as they enter the new year.

Feb 12% Chris Huhne quits to fight charges over speeding fine

Mar 11% Post-election low after controversial Budget.

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