Polls show mistrust in Lib Dem talent: Changes needed in Lib Dem mindset to gain electoral success

YouGov shows that the public do not believe that the Lib Dems are led by people of ‘real’ ability. This is a worry as the Lib Dems’ short and medium term future depends on the perceived success or failure of our role in the Coalition Government. So does our success in the Coalition Government depend on the perceived talent of the Lib Dems? Are there things which the Lib Dems could do which would improve the perception that they have talent?

This research from Harvard University may give us reason to worry

Chia-Jung Tsay and Mahzarin Banaji presented more than 100 professionally trained musicians with two profiles of two professional musicians, and a sample musical clip to listen to from each musician. The participants were then asked questions about how talented and successful they perceived the performer to be, and how willing they might be to hire this person. In fact, both clips were the same musical excerpt, and the profiles differed only in their mention of whether the musician had natural or learned talent. The results ultimately showed two effects: “We found even in experts and ostensibly professionally trained musicians, most of them could not tell that the recordings were the same. And on average, people seemed to prefer the ‘naturally’ talented individual, even when they said they believed hard work was more important than natural talent.”

While it may suggest that people may trust people more with perceived natural talent it does offer the Lib Dems a unique opportunity to show that they are indeed a different kind of political party. The research by Carol Dweck shows how this can be achieved. She distinguishes between two types of beliefs about human capabilities and traits. The first is what she calls a fixed mindset: those who see their capabilities as unchangeable and assume that how capable you are is largely determined by a natural talent which cannot be developed. The second belief is a growth mindset: those who view their capabilities as a potential which can be developed. Her research has shown the following differences:

A fixed mindset culture encourages internal competition, defensiveness and an emphasis on judging people. We don’t need to go far before we see this as the norm in political culture and the Lib Dems have fallen into the trap of this mindset too often. If we continue down this road then we will not learn the lessons we need to learn to improve our performance, the Government or the poll ratings.

A growth mindset culture encourages cooperation, openness and an emphasis on learning. By developing a growth mindset culture we will improve where we are now and we will be seen as different by the public. The Lib Dems campaigned on being different only to then begin to sound very much like the Tories or Labour because we fight and bicker in the same manner as they do. Nick Clegg often berates Labour and dismisses complaints. An open, plural politics is not based on berating other parties, it is based on learning from their mistakes, being open to why people want to vote for them and showing we care about their concerns. This can only be achieved with a growth mindset otherwise we preach to the converted – as we did in the AV referendum.

To develop a growth mindset we need to start seeing that criticism of the Lib Dems offers us lessons. We need to show that we are listening and taking action to improve. We need to show that we believe that we can learn and grow as a Political Party and that our ministers are able to do the same.

Feedback can be motivating or demotivating and the way we receive feedback influences how we think about our capabilities. Negative feedback can threaten people’s sense of competence and the relationship you have with them. Positive feedback supports people’s sense of competence, is motivating and supports relationships and performance. However, a fixed mindset will become defensive in the face of negative feedback which will not win over any voters and we will not learn from what they are saying. While a growth mindset will allow for us to listen to what the public are saying and learn and adapt showing our growing capability in Government.

The importance of this cannot be understated. The Labour Party were kicked out in part because the public believed they had run out of ideas i.e. closed with a fixed mindset. If we want to improve our perception in the public’s eye, if we want to improve our performance, and if we want to work better in Government (something we have not done for 60 years) then having a growth mindset will produce success and provide us with a strong political narrative come 2015:

We entered government for the good of the country. We made coalition work. We have done some things well and made many improvements. We have learnt from our mistakes and have shown we are capable of listening to the people and delivering strong and necessary reforms.

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2 Responses to Polls show mistrust in Lib Dem talent: Changes needed in Lib Dem mindset to gain electoral success

  1. Sam says:

    I have some sympathy with the public’s perception of us. John Hemming was on the Daily Politics the other day and he didn’t come across as terribly professional. He didn’t come across as though he was taking his appearance on the show very seriously and I think that would have had a negative impact on the viewer’s perception of us as a party.

    We should view every appearance on TV as a very important chance to positively impact the public’s impression of us. It is the only medium in the media that isn’t legally allowed to be biased against us so we should work hard to make sure that we consistently make strong appearances on TV, winning debates and appearing as strong people who can be trusted with running government.

    Specifically on what we can learn as a party from our recent troubles, I would say that we need to have a clearer identity. Some see us as left of Labour and anti-capitalist and that is probably a contributing factor to why we have lost support. “Marketising” higher education has probably made some people lose faith in us as much breaking our promise on tuition fees.

    I would like to see the orange bookers and social liberals working together to create a strong manifesto that gives us a clear identity with clear expectations of us as a party, rather than fighting against eachother for the “soul” of the party.

    • Hi Sam and thank you for your comments. I totally agree, working together is much better than fighting and it is a shame we see this in the party. As for John Hemming! I don’t really agree with a lot of his views and it is a shame he represents the LibDems sometimes.

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