Radio 4’s World at One programme ran a fringe on Sunday evening looking at the attitudes of those who vote for the Liberal Democrats and the consequences of these for the Party.
Chaired by Martha Kearney the fringe was presented with data on voter attitudes from Ipsos MORI. Then Chief Executive of the RSA and former New Labour insider Mathew Taylor and Chris Huhne MP discussed the findings.
The main theme that came out of the data was that what people want is contradictory. They hold several incompatible opinions on an issue at the same time. For example, wanting both better public services but wanting to pay less tax. People’s personal experience of public services is often better than their perception of how good they are in the country as a whole.
Liberal Democrat voters do tend to be more concerned about environmental issues but they are unlikely to have actually taken action to do anything about it at a personal level. The most important issues were the economy, health care, education and crime. But also taxation is becoming a stronger concern.
One interesting statistic that would be challenging for the Party is that 55% of Liberal Democrat voters are in favour of 42 days detention. Although there was some discussion about how this would be dependent on how the question was framed.
There is also the postcode lottery issue. People say that they want more local control but they also want public services to be the same everywhere.
The theme of the discussion section of the fringe seemed to be the conclusion that the problem is the voters! These contradictory attitudes of the public make it difficult for politicians to take decisions and retain public support. The response should be greater leadership on difficult issues. Politicians should make more effort to explain and educate. It is not that we can “change the government and everything will be OK….we need to change the people”.
Finally, I want to repeat the joke about sociologists that Mathew Taylor told:
“What do you get when you cross a mafia boss with a sociologist – someone who makes you an offer you can’t understand.”
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.