Thursday 27 Nov 2014
Four in 10 people who say they voted Liberal Democrat would not have done so had they known the party would enter a coalition with the Conservatives, a poll for BBC Two's Newsnight suggests.
But 86 per cent of Tory voters would have voted the same way had they known their party would join forces with the Lib Dems, the ComRes survey found.
The poll of 1,009 adults for Newsnight also showed 37 per cent of Lib Dem voters felt their party was dishonest about cuts.
The survey, conducted last week, appears to show support for the coalition is much stronger among Tory voters than those who backed the Lib Dems.
Overall, almost three quarters of those who voted Conservative or Lib Dem said they would have still voted the same way if they had known a coalition would be formed. But while 86 per cent of Conservative supporters would still have voted for their party, the percentage drops to 58 per cent among Lib Dems.
Asked whether the Lib Dems had strengthened or weakened the party's identity since entering the coalition, 60 per cent of all those polled agreed the party had weakened its identity and that they no longer knew what it stood for, while 34 per cent believed it had strengthened it.
Among Lib Dem voters, 53 per cent believed their party's identity had been weakened, while 45 per cent believed it had been strengthened.
But former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown tells Newsnight that he believes the Tory/Lib Dem coalition was the only combination that had offered "a stable government with a clear majority in the House of Commons at a time of crisis".
He says: "Coalitions are usually about establishing the lowest common denominator between the two parties. This coalition's not – it's genuinely reform-minded, a genuinely radical programme of reform. So this far, it's going far better than I imagined it could."
But Lord Ashdown also suggests he would like to see the Government "make haste a bit more slowly" and that it was sometimes wiser to test out new policies in pilot schemes before making decisions.
The survey also asked voters about their attitudes to public spending cuts – and whether they felt they had been sufficiently warned by the parties of their plans.
Conservative supporters were more likely to say their party was honest about cuts (82 per cent), compared to 58 per cent of both Lib Dem and Labour voters.
On the scale of the planned cuts, more than half of all people (57 per cent) agreed that the coalition's proposed departmental cuts of at least 25 per cent were too severe. Some 57 per cent of Lib Dem voters agreed with this statement, compared to 46 per cent of Conservative voters.
Two thirds of people (64 per cent) agreed these cuts were essential for the Government to balance its books. Again, Conservative voters were more likely to back the proposed level of cuts – with 89 per cent agreeing they were essential. This compared with 69 per cent of Lib Dem voters.
But despite the apparent Tory support for the coalition, former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit warned that his party should beware it was not paying "too high a price for co-operation in solving short-term difficulties", such as the economic crisis.
"We have to be careful that we do not slide into making constitutional reforms to please our Lib Dem colleagues, which are of infinitely greater long-term importance than some of the short-term economic decisions in which we need their help," he tells Newsnight.
"The Conservative Party has always taken the long view. That's why we've lasted so long as a party."
Watch a special edition of Newsnight about the coalition government on Monday, 26 July at 10.30pm on BBC Two and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
ComRes interviewed 1,009 British adults by telephone between 23 and 25 July 2010.
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