Two nuggets of polling today. Firstly Mike Smithson has the voting intention figures from the SNP’s YouGov poll, which shows a drop in support for the Liberal Democrats since YouGov’s previous Scottish poll a week earlier.

Holyrood Constituency: CON 16%(nc), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 14%(-2), SNP 36%(+2)
Holyrood Regional: CON 17%(+1), LAB 26%(nc), LDEM 12%(-4), SNP 30%(nc)

Secondly, the Electoral Reform Society have released a question they commissioned from YouGov asking if people would be more likely to vote Labour if they held a referendum on changing the voting system.

On the topline figures, 17% of people say this would make them more likely to vote Labour, with only 6% less likely. Looks like this could make a real difference, doesn’t it? Well, probably not, no.

Regular readers will know I have deep reservations about this type of question. Respondents tend to use the question to express support or opposition to a policy regardless of whether it would actually change their vote and saying “I’d be more likely to” is miles short of actually saying it would change your vote.

The way YouGov asks the question (giving people the chance of saying “No difference – I would vote Labour anyway” and “No difference – I wouldn’t vote Labour anyway” to weed out some of the partisan answering) addresses these as much as it can, but I’m still very doubtful about them.

Looking at the detail of this one, YouGov gave people the choice of saying “much more likely” and “a little more likely”, so we can at take those who are saying this would be a major issue for them.

The vast majority of people who say they would be more much likely to vote Labour are people who would vote Labour anyway (yes, it may firm them up, but realistically they are down to their core anyway. If you’re still voting Labour now, you are pretty loyal!). That leaves us with 8% of Liberal Democrat voters who say they are much more likely to vote Labour if they give a referendum on PR.

With the Lib Dems on 17% in YouGov’s last poll, that’s the equivalent of just over 1% of the vote, and that’s assuming all those “more likelies” translated into actual vote changes.

I suspect in reality if the government were to offer a referendum on PR at the time of the next election (which seems to be the suggestion that is floated sometimes) the actual impact on party support would boil down to whether the public ended up seeing it as a Labour attempt to gerrymander the system (which would presumably be how the Conservatives and newspapers opposed to it would try to paint it), and how the parties lined up in favour or against the actual referendum question and whether that made them look democratic, progressive and so on.

8 Responses to “Sunday Polls – PR referendum and Scottish voting intention”

  1. I think you will find that Labour gave a manifesto commitment in 1997 to change the voting system.

    It’s now 2009 . . . & WE’RE STILL WAITING !

    What’s the point of asking them the same question that they’ve already LIED about?

  2. The telling result is the neglible difference it makes on Con support.

    Unless PR were an issue which would somehow change the voting intentions of current Con support, Labour will not be in any position to deliver a referendum on PR. In any case, the most ardent supporters of PR would still be best advised to vote LD to produce a Hung Parliament as tonly then could teh LDs extract a referendum on PR as a condition of tehir support.

    [Of course there is nothing to stop a minority Govt acceding to a referndum then campaigning for FPTP to be retained..]

  3. Surely the point about the polling on a possible referendum is the effect on tactical voting? Other polling has shown LD voters more likely to go for the conservatives as a second choice, by nearly 2 to 1. If a side-effect of any referendum was to reverse that , in marginal seats, the effect could be significant.
    A thonys point about the overall effect depending on how its spun is right but there willbe more than the big 2 parties & the media involved, the LDs , the Greens & others will all have an influence.

  4. I agree with you, Anthony, about hypothetical questions.

    I suspect that people would be more well-disposed towards Labour, rather than acutally vote for them. The indications are that most electors at the general Election will be thinking mostly about economic matters, and related matters concerning the competence and integrity of MPs.

    I think all the indications, specifically from Scotland and Wales, is that once PR were introduced people would be more likely to vote for minor parties as there would probably be no overall majority at Westminster, so a minor party vote would not be a wasted vote.

    It is not practicable to ask about specific sorts of electoral system in opinion polls. However, if there were any sort of “closed list” element to the system, as there is now for European, London, Scottish and Welsh elections, I would think that opponents could (and I hope would) campaign against the change on the grounds that voters would have no realistic chance of preventing the election of candidates at the top of a major party list. Such an argument would have added force after recent events concerning MPs’ expenses.

  5. I believe I took part in the ERS survey. I wont tell you what my responses were, but it occurs to me to wonder why a referendum should change my vote in the General at all, assuming that the referendum was held before or at the same time.

  6. I’m not sure that the public fully understands how PR works, the various different PR and semi-PR systems, which of these the govt would try to introduce, and how it would impact in Britain. We need a lot more debate and discussion, and a better informed electorate, before a referendum can have any real meaning.

  7. Poll alert? – today’s Herald mentions a YouGov survey commissioned by the Conservative Party (headteachers article). It is amazing the range of clients YouGov have.

  8. Hmm, so this winter we could see Labour pushing through legislation for a referendum in Westminster while opposing legislation for a referendum in Holyrood…