Supporters of election claim that the public support an elected second chamber, citing in aid, for example, a recent YouGov poll for the Hansard Society (February 2006). In practice, public opinion is not that clear cut. The YouGov poll for the Hansard Society found that 57 per cent of those questioned wanted members of the House of Lords to be more independent of party politics than the House of Commons and 54 per cent wanted the House to have ‘experience and expertise’. These are not qualities likely to be delivered through popular election. And an ICM poll in 2005 found that most respondents thought that Lords reform was not a priority for government for the next five years.
The point was well revealed in a Populus poll for The Times last year. 75 per cent of those questioned in the poll believed the House of Lords should remain ‘a mainly appointed House’ in order to provide a degree of independence from electoral politics. In the same poll, 72 per cent of those questioned thought that at least half the members should be elected to provide for ‘democratic legitimacy’. As Peter Riddell noted, ‘These results are not as perverse as they seem. They reflect the lack of clarity in the debate.’ (The Times, 7 April 2006)
Survey data also show that over 70 per cent of those questioned think that the House of Lords does a good job. The conclusion to be drawn from the various surveys is that the public recognise the value of what the present House does and want to retain the strengths it displays, but are uncertain over the issue of election - as the Populus poll suggests, it all depends on how the question is phrased. We believe that support for an elected House is not deep and we are committed to explaining the value of retaining an appointed chamber. We believe that the more people are aware of the case for a House of experience and expertise, the more likely they are to oppose a partly or wholly elected second chamber.