Polling on AV: what works, what doesn’t


by Sunny Hundal    
11:35 pm - July 4th 2010

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YouGov conducted some extensive polling on electoral reform last week, the results of which Anthony Wells discusses here.

A few points made by Anthony that stick out:

1. The strongest argument in favour of FPTP was seen as its simplicity – 63% though that the argument that “The present system is better because it is straightforwards: the candidate that wins the most votes locally becomes the MP” was an effective argument.

2. The strongest argument in favour of AV: that AV is good because the winning candidate needs the support of at least half the voters. 62% effective, 20% ineffective.

3. Also very effective was the argument that ‘the present system worked badly by allowing a party to win a majority with little over a third of the voters’. 59% effective, 24% ineffective.

4. A note for PR advocates: the argument that AV was bad because it is not proportional was seen as effective by only 44% of people. But the argument that proportionality was good and AV was a first step towards it was judged as effective by 54%.

5. 53% thought the argument that AV would be fairer was effective, 52% that the curent system was out of date and AV would be a modernising move was.

The poll also had bad news for the ‘No to AV’ team.

6. Only 51% saw the negative argument that AV would lead to a succession of weak coalition governments as effective.

7. The argument that FPTP delivers clear-cut arguments and lets voters kick out governments accepted by only 46% of people. 38% was it as ineffective.

8. Labour voters will be key to winning the vote on AV. Initially they were 44% to 31% in favour of AV, with 20% don’t knows. Asked after exposure to the arguments, this reversed to 32% support and 44% opposed, with 19% don’t knows. Conservatives are mostly unswayed by arguments for AV and against while Libdems are mostly for the change.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


So Labour voters are turned off of the idea of a fairer more comprehensive voting system that doesn’t let parties win power on minority of the national vote….oh…just a sec, I see why now.

Re point 6, ‘only 51%’? 51% is a majority…describing it as only is a little bit of underplay.

4. A note for PR advocates: the argument that AV was bad because it is not proportional was seen as effective by only 44% of people.

Of course, FPTP is also not proportional (and while AV results can be less proportional, that would only actually have been the case in one of the elections since 1979)

6. Only 51% saw the negative argument that AV would lead to a succession of weak coalition governments as effective.

Similarly the only recent election for which AV would have given a coalition government when FPTP didn’t was 1992, and it’s not as if Major’s Conservative government was actually effective, or even managed to keep a majority for a full term.

7. The argument that FPTP delivers clear-cut arguments and lets voters kick out governments accepted by only 46% of people. 38% was it as ineffective.

The same applies to AV, of course. In a proper “anyone but them” election such as 1997, AV will magnify that effect. If you want to be able to kick out an unpopular government, AV is probably the most effective system.

Lee Griffin: a fairer more comprehensive voting system that doesn’t let parties win power on minority of the national vote

That’s not what AV can do, though. You still have the massive regional distortions that make FPTP so unproportional, and you can still get a majority in Parliament with far less than 50% of the national vote [1] (or even with second place in the national vote). It’s not any worse than FPTP for this, but it’s not any better either.

[1] The theoretical extreme case is the same as FPTP: have 1 first preference vote in 326 constituencies, none of which have any other votes, and have last preferences on every ballot paper in the remaining 324 constituencies, all of which have 100% turnout

#1

This is Labour voters we’re talking about, not Labour activists. You can (unfairly, ignoring the fact that many of us genuinely think FPTP is the least worst system) tar activists with that brush if you like, but it’s insulting and incoherent to do the same to ordinary voters.

Labour voters will be key to winning the vote on AV. Initially they were 44% to 31% in favour of AV, with 20% don’t knows. Asked after exposure to the arguments, this reversed to 32% support and 44% opposed, with 19% don’t knows

Forgive me for sounding like a blockhead, but does that as many who supported AV opposed it after hearing the arguments, and vice versa? What arguments were being used? Pretty bad ones, it seems.

I think we should work on a list of arguments for Labour-minded voters to get them to vote Yes.

After having looked at the crosstabs and details on this poll, I came to the conclusion on my own blog that it was Voodoo polling, and shouldn’t be taken as meaningful. http://ukelectiontrend.blogspot.com/2010/07/yougov-av-poll-is-voodoo-polling.html


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Polling on AV: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu

  2. TheBiPolarBearMD

    RT @libcon: Polling on AV: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu

  3. wheatles

    RT @libcon: Polling on AV: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu <_must read, which ever side of the debate you're on

  4. sunny hundal

    Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  5. Andrew Tindall

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  6. Kevin Dykes

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  7. Rich Watts

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't: http://bit.ly/9yYaYu < Lab voters appear to be the key group

  8. fljf

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  9. TheBiPolarBearMD

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  10. Becky Luff

    RT @sunny_hundal: Useful polling info on vote reform: what works, what doesn't http://bit.ly/9yYaYu – especially for PR advocates

  11. Andrew Ducker

    Polling on AV: what works, what doesn’t http://bit.ly/bl4tot

  12. Clegg unveils election reform plan | England News

    [...] Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy considers the arguments that would be effective in an AV [...]





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