Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 17:00 UK

Four in 10 Lib Dem voters reject coalition - poll

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
Tory voters appear more supportive of the coalition than Lib Dems

Four in 10 people who say they voted Lib Dem would not have done had they known the party would enter a coalition with the Tories, a poll suggests.

But 86% of Conservative 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% of Lib Dem voters felt their party was dishonest about cuts.

Lord Ashdown said the coalition was the only option for a stable government.

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.

'High price'

But while 86% of Conservative supporters would still have voted for their party, the percentage drops to 58% among Lib Dems.

Asked whether the Lib Dems had strengthened or weakened the party's identity since entering the coalition, 60% of all those polled agreed the party had weakened its identity and that they no longer knew what it stood for, while 34% believed it had strengthened it.

Lord Ashdown
So this far, it's [the coalition] going far better than I imagined it could
Lord Ashdown

Among Lib Dem voters, 53% believed their party's identity had been weakened, while 45% believed it had been strengthened.

But former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown told Newsnight that he believed 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".

"Coalitions are usually about establishing the lowest common denominator between the two parties. This coalition's not - it's a genuinely reform-minded, a genuinely radical programme of reform. So this far, it's going far better than I imagined it could," he said.

But Lord Ashdown also suggested he would like to see the government "make haste a bit more slowly" and that it was sometimes wiser to test new policies out 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%), compared to 58% of both Lib Dem and Labour voters.

Cuts essential?

On the scale of the planned cuts, more than half of all people (57%) agreed that the coalition's proposed departmental cuts of at least 25% were too severe.

Some 57% of Lib Dem voters agreed with this statement, compared to 46% of Conservative voters.

Lord Tebbit
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
Lord Tebbit

Two thirds of people (64%) 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% agreeing they were essential. This compared with 69% 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 told Newsnight.

He added: "The Conservative Party has always taken the long view. That's why we've lasted so long as a party."

The Newsnight poll also found that more than a half of all those asked (56%) agreed that the scale of cuts was likely to threaten economic recovery. This compared with 38% who disagreed.

A total of 61% of all people asked believed the cuts would affect them directly.

ComRes interviewed 1,009 British adults by telephone between 23 and 25 July 2010.

Watch a special edition of Newsnight about the coalition government on Monday, 26 July 2010 at 2230 on BBC Two and then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer .



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