YouGov’s latest fortnightly tracker on voting intention in the referendum on the Alternative Vote shows a significant narrowing of the No campaign’s lead, with the Yes and No campaigns now virtually neck and neck. In this week’s poll 39% said they would vote in keep First Past the Post, 38% would vote to switch to the Alternative Vote. To rule out the chance that this is just an unusual sample or a rogue poll we re-ran the question last night and found the same result – a lead of just 1 point for the No campaign, with FPTP on 38% and AV on 37%. It looks as though there has been a genuine tightening of the race.

YouGov has been asking voting intention in the AV referendum regularly since June 2010. Initially it found a strong lead for the Yes campaign, but this declined throughout last year, largely due to Labour supporters, initially pro-AV, moving against it. By September last year the tracker was showing a consistent lead for the NO campaign, it peaked in November and has been pretty steady since then. The two YouGov polls in January both showed a nine point lead for the No campaign. This week’s polling therefore represents not just a much lower lead for the No campaign, but a reversal of the previous trend.

Graph of YouGov AV voting intention

Looking at the breakdown of support in this most recent poll Liberal Democrat supporters, always strongly in favour of AV, have become even more pro-AV, with 84% saying they would vote in favour of AV, Conservative supporters while still opposed to AV were also slightly less hostile, with the proportion of Tory voters saying they would back AV rising to 28%. It may be that the coverage of Labour opposition to the legislation setting up the referendum in the House of Lords has convinced some partisan Conservative and Lib Dem voters that AV itself can’t be bad, or it may just be a sign that the Yes campaign is starting to have an effect upon public opinion.

UPDATE: There is a persistent myth about why YouGov tend to show results on the AV referendum than other companies that I’ve seen crop up again today. Basically there are two explanations put about, one which seems perfectly likely and one which has been tested, found to be wrong, but which refuses to die. This first is that YouGov preface the question with explanations of the two systems and that this makes a difference – in my view this is almost certainly the case, YouGov also tend to show lower don’t knows suggesting telling people about FPTP and AV results in some people who would otherwise have said “don’t know” saying “No”. The second is that it’s because YouGov’s introductory text identifies the referendum as something the coalition is doing – we know this doesn’t make a difference because YouGov have tested it using parallel surveys with one mentioning the coalition, one not, and otherwise identical wording. It made no significant difference.

95 Responses to “YouGov have AV and FPTP neck and neck”

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  1. @Chris

    I am a Labour supporter and card carring member and well like I said I am not entirely happy with AV but we are not presented with any alternatives. My views of voting reforms are expressed above so I don’t repeat myself.

    What I will say is that their will be a lot of voters out there not all Labour but the most being Labour who will be horried of the idea of any governing party grovelling to the Lib Dems to support them as bread crumb pickings. Especially former lib dem now labour voters.

    Personally I thought Caroline Lucas had a right idea if the government we’re serious about electoral reform and giving people the say then we should have had a referendum on all the electoral possibilites, done this throughout this parliament until we get say the top two and then have a vote on them.

  2. @Thegreenbenches
    Re Voting Age
    The first country to lower voting age at 16 was Nicaragua (1984), followed by Brazil (1988), Austria (2007) and Ecuador (2008). In Austria voting age is 16 for all kinds of election except the European one, for reasons of conformity with the other EU countries. In 5 German States voting age is 16, but only for municipal elections.

  3. @Alex (appolygises if I am taking up a lot of space)

    Well yes we shouldn’t jump on it but with this and the recent resignation of a Lib Dem Lord in the government arguing that George Osbournes plan doesn’t go far enough does send alarm bells.

    If you ask me there was always going to be a catch, a hidden agenda or some clause allowing the banks to opt out at any time of this agreement. It’s in GO’s DNA, apart from IDS he is the most right-wing, Thatcherite member of the lot. Yes DC might be more liberal but to win this deal he had to keep the Tory right happy.

    Always, I can not help but laugh that a Conservative government, yes a conservative government the party of free enterprise and markets would actually set a banking lending target which sounds like a throw-back of the Stanlist era of a socialist planned economy. Also, we all know how their targets were “zero”. The Soviet Union had a habbit of setting out what was seen as overambitious targets which had to meet through ruffel enforcement which in the long term made their economy bad.

    It’s okay saying you have a £190bn lending target but even the Soviet Union no that targets do have a set back. It’s basically numbers, a propaganda idea to make the economy or government sound better than it is but we all know that a lot of their targets were never met and having targets with no returns are basically redundent.

    Also, it doesn’t say in the agreement that the banks will lower interest rates. At the end of the day that is the key of economic success it’s not that businessess can’t get lending it’s just the rates are too high.

  4. Sorry i see to have spet know with no on the fifth paragraph lol….it’s been a long day at the office lol

  5. @CHRIS

    I feel the same and will be voting NO

  6. Virg,

    Ta for that.. I am working on it… all the Private member Bill space for this year is taken up so the options are

    a) attach it to a bill currently going through the house…

    b) wait for a PMB next year…

    It really depends on the numbers… Support for it is growing quicker than I had hoped so we will see… 7 MPs back it so far..

  7. Roger,

    That made me chuckle ta…

  8. Interesting article in Independent “Poll of polls shows cuts denting PM’s ‘Teflon’ image”

  9. @ Alec

    From the agreement:

    1.5: “Each bank’s lending expectations, capacity and willingness, as set out above, will be subject to its normal commercial objectives, credit standards and processes and regulatory obligations, as well as the availability of the required funding”

    3.5: “Nothing in this statement derogates from the obligation of the banks, and their boards and remuneration committees, to manage pay policy in a way which protects and enhances the interests of their shareholders.” Oddly, this one is quite hidden (as far as one can hide something in a 6 page document – it also raises questions about the seriousness of the agreement – will there be an “executive instruction” to it, because otherwise it is really rather dubions.

    But… Well, we see…

    There is an interesting entry of the Private Bank of the Conservative Party (aka Big Society Bank): 4.7. “Fourth, they will support the establishment of the Big Society Bank to act as a sustainable provider of wholesale finance to social investment intermediaries, including, subject to objectives, business plan and structure, the injection, on a commercial basis, of £200 million of capital (and, thereby, funding) over two years, commencing in 2011. This will not affect the operational independence of the Big Society Bank, within its agreed business plan, and is in addition to the money provided from dormant accounts, the provision of which the banks also support.”

  10. Anushka Asthana and David Brown in the Times (paywall) say the government will underwrite a £160m loan to the Turks & Caicos Islands, a tax haven.
    “The decision to provide financial support for a country that levies no income tax or capital gains tax, particularly during a period of severe austerity at home, has brought criticism.”

    News like this wont help the government’s popularity. Wonder if this will be reflected in tonight’s poll.

  11. Chris , I agree.
    Neil, why should 16 year olds not be able to vote.? They can marry and have children.

  12. Neil, that should read shouldn’t ***

  13. Liz:
    THanks for that information, that seems a typical action of the government. I would not expect that to be popular, but I wonder, has it been widely reported?

  14. They can only marry with their parents’ permission.

    And anyone can have children. 12 year olds can have children.

    I think if you’re adjudged too immature to buy cigarettes or alcohol, to play violent video games, to watch horror movies, to have sex with whoever you choose, to drive, to fight for your country, to enter a casino etc then you shouldn’t vote.

    Quite apart from the fact that I’ve met very, very few 16-17 year olds whose understanding of the world was sophisticated enough for their vote to mean very much (admittedly that applies to plenty of adults too – but then there are very clever and well-informed 13 year olds, should they vote too?)

  15. Pam F

    I think you got confused by your double negatives! :-) You were right the first time.

  16. From the Guardian re Coulsongate:

    The Met have found evidence that Prescott’s phone was hacked and have promised to do a number of things including:

    Warn some public figures that they had previously been misled when they asked the Yard for information.

    That really is a can of worms, ain’t it? Of course we don’t see the word “wilfully”…yet?

  17. @Chris

    “I’m a Labour supporter but I am now against AV, despite previously being a strong advocate – the reason is because it would always lead to the Lib Dem’s forming some sort of government”

    Not true. It can be more decisive than FPTP. Remember that AV is not PR so the Lib Dems won’t get their fair share of seats. This all means that AV is still likely to produce majority governments. Voting systems don’t make hung parliaments, 3rd parties winning a good number of seats does.

  18. Pam this was reported in the PoliticsLive with Andrew Sparrow in the Guardian today.

  19. Surely as the UK government has already loaned money to Ireland, a corporate tax haven, there is a precedent for lending to the Turks and Caicos?

  20. Colin Green

    “Voting systems don’t make hung parliaments, 3rd parties winning a good number of seats does.”

    An interesting observation. The truth of that may be determined in Scotland in May.

    The result of the election here seems most likely to depend on whether the 4th party wins a “good number of seats”.

  21. Neil, I thought the reason for lending to Ireland was that they were one of our biggest export market.

  22. But surely we have interests in the Turks and Caicos as well? As we a) Own it and b) Run it since 2009 when the (Labour) government took direct control of it’s affairs?

  23. You Gov

    CON 36%, LAB 43%, LD 10%; APP -24

  24. Neil A

    You are a good chap, but please stop embarrassing the other Brits by quoting evidence.

  25. Sorry Oldnat, it’s my job and stuff (was in court this morning, must have rubbed off on me)..

  26. Tories up 1 – Labour n/c, Lib Dem n/c, Other n/c?????

    Am I missing something????

  27. Thanks Neil for that. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it seems that the Island is directly ruled by us. It seems strange to me that we would allow a tax haven in our territories and yet pretend to disapprove of tax avoidance.

  28. @Liz,

    I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of international tax and finance. Perhaps allowing these territories to be tax havens gives them an income and reduces the need for direct subsidy. Or perhaps its simply a case of not wanting to tell them what to do for fear of being labelled “Imperialists”.

    Personally I’d rather close down their tax operations and subsidise them with direct aid, but there may be reasons why that’s a bad idea.

  29. I’ve said before, will people please not treat the comments and as “show and tell for latest thing the other party have done that I don’t like”.

    And please, for crying out loud, will people please at least TRY to get some sort of perspective about what things actually influence voting intentions. Sheesh.

  30. Sorry Anthony. Wont happen again.

  31. @Chris, @Andy

    You said “…What I will say is that their will be a lot of voters out there not all Labour but the most being Labour who will be horried of the idea of any governing party grovelling to the Lib Dems to support them as bread crumb pickings. Especially former lib dem now labour voters…”

    The misconception that AV is more likely to lead to coalitions is probably too heavily ingrained now for me to eradicate, but it’s just not true. But don’t take my word for it: let’s look at the evidence:

    1) The Curtice models

    John Curtice is a Professor of politics at Strathclyde University. He looked at second preferences for the 1983,87,92,97,01,05 elections and postdicted the results if they had been held under AV. Did Yellow hold the balance of power under his postdictions? He said:

    * 1983: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1987: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1992: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1997: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2001: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2005: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2010: Yes (Blue plurality in HoC)

    (Sources: h ttp:// , see also h
    ttp://, h ttp://, h ttp://

    So the answer is no: under the Curtice models, Yellow would not become kingmakers as you fear. It would have happened exactly as it did in real life.

    But these are models, not real life. What happens in real life?

    2) The Australian House of Representatives

    The Australian House of Representatives has been AV since 1918. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then the election results since 1945 were:

    * 1946 No (Red victory)
    * 1949 Yes (Hung: largest party 55 out of 121)
    * 1951 Yes (Hung: largest party 52 out of 121)
    * 1954 Yes (Hung: largest party 57 out of 121)
    * 1955 Yes (Hung: largest party 57 out of 122)
    * 1958 Yes (Hung: largest party 58 out of 122)
    * 1961 Yes (Hung: largest party 60 out of 122)
    * 1963 Yes (Hung: largest party 52 out of 122)
    * 1966 Yes (Hung: largest party 61 out of 124)
    * 1969 Yes (Hung: largest party 59 out of 125)
    * 1972 No (Red victory)
    * 1974 No (Red victory)
    * 1975 No (Red victory)
    * 1977 No (Red victory)
    * 1980 Yes (Hung: largest party 54 out of 125)
    * 1983 No (Red victory)
    * 1984 No (Red victory)
    * 1987 No (Red victory)
    * 1990 No (Red victory)
    * 1993 No (Red victory)
    * 1996 No (Blue victory)
    * 1998 No (Red victory)
    * 2001 No (Blue victory)
    * 2004 No (Blue victory)
    * 2007 No (Red victory)
    * 2010 Yes (Hung: largest party 72 out of 150)

    (Source: h ttp://

    So the answer is yes (1945-1970) but no (1970-date): under the Australian system, Yellow did not become kingmakers as you fear. Instead, they split into two parts: the leftish half fell away (analogous to the UK Beveridge group Yellows) and is now defunct, the rightist half (analogous to the UK Orange Book Yellows) is now permanently joined to another party (analogous to the CDU/CSU in Germany?)


    The point I’m trying to make is that from what I’ve found so far, AV does not result in Yellow holding the power between Red and Blue. I’m sure Yellow thought that when they arranged for the referendum, but so far it doesn’t look as if it does. If I find something to the contrary, I’ll tell you.

    Regards, Martyn

    (see also: h

  32. @Anthony Wells

    Just a courtesy note, that I’ve just posted a rebuttal of the flawed logic in your parallel question test on my own blog at

    Basically, you have *not* proven what you think you have proven, because you did not eliminate possibility of effect overlap.

  33. Okay, this AV referendum:

    It seems to me that it’s still a pretty difficult thing to accurately poll on, but I have a sense that the “Yes” campaign may well prevail. After all, won’t most people ultimately see it as an opportunity to make more than one choice?

    Ironically, I have been urged by Tory councillors on my neighbourhood’s local internet discussion forum to campaign with them for a “No” vote. Yet their party almost certainly stands to benefit if AV goes through. Why? Because the remaining Lib Dem voters are likely to break in favour of the Tories when it comes to the redistribution of their second preferences.

    On today’s PMQs, Nick Clegg looked visibly uncomfortable when David Cameron replied to a question by urging a high turnout for the “No” campaign. Yet his party will probably see off the Labour challenge in about a dozen seats precisely because of the redistribution of Lib Dem first preferences if the next general election is fought on AV. (And that this is so will become painfully obvious when we see a series of narrow Labour pluralities on the first ballot get turned into narrow Tory victories on the second or third ballot).

    Hilariously, it looks like the Labour leadership and a large part of the party will be campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum. Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas! Can someone – anyone – PLEASE explain to Ed Miliband that since the formation of the coalition, AV no longer benefits Labour????

    The reason why is simple: the structure of what remains of the Lib Dem vote has CHANGED. Those who are still willing to vote for Nick Clegg’s party are, by definition, more right wing than those who have deserted it.

  34. @Martin

    Thanks for very informative post plus useful references.

    Looks to me like it doesn’t matter much whether AV passes or not for all the small difference it will make in practice? I think both advocates and opponents are probably unaware of how limited the results of the change would likely be?
    Perhaps the voters at large are unconsciously wiser and therefore not worked up about the issue much?

  35. Sorry Martyn (please excuse my typo ‘Martin’)

  36. @Robin Hood,

    I am still undecided as to what I think the net effect of AV might be on the current UK political scene. You are right that the remaining LibDem supporters are (slightly) more likely to give their second preference to the Tories than Labour, but I am not convinced that will continue.

    If the LibDem vote share recovers somewhat by the time of the next election, then the way its second preference splits will depend on where those extra votes come from. If the LibDems put some Clear Yellow Water between themselves and the Tories in the year before the GE (which I think is tactically very, very likely) and this results in some return of people who are currently saying “Labour” or “Green” then I think the second preference split of LibDems will probably move back towards the left. If any extra LibDem share comes from the Tories then it may go in the opposite direction – but I don’t see very much sign of movement from Tory to LibDem so far.

    I also think there may be some local variation in the way second preferences split. In areas where the LibDems have always competed hard against the Tories and where LibDems and Labour have traditionally see each other as allies against the Blue Enemy, I think there will be an ingrained tendency for LibDems to support Labour. This would include quite few Tory-LibDem marginals. And remember that the LibDems are a very schizoprenic party locally. In some places they position themselves as a crystal clear Left party, in other places they are gruff and populist (Oldham and Saddleworth for example).

    Also, even if the effect of AV is beneficial for the Tories in 2015 (which is possible) then assuming the coalition doesn’t get re-formed after the election, I believe it may well work against the Tories after that. I certainly believe that AV would have been bad for the Tories in elections up to and including 2005, maybe even 2010.

    And finally I haven’t seen much analysis of where the “small party” vote is likely to go with second preferences (or first preferences if people still vote “tactically” out of habit).

    I am assuming that UKIP will go Tory, Green will go Labour and BNP will divide evenly. I have no idea what will happen to SNP and Plaid votes but I assume that the Tories will only get a small fraction. Overall I think the Con/Lab split of the Others would be about 50/50. But any deviation either way could make a huge difference to results.

    Personally I am an STV man, but on the AV referendum I am a “floating voter”. As a Tory supporter I certainly don’t see it as something designed to boost my party in the polls. My vote will depend more on the practical pros and cons of AV and to what extent I think it makes a future STV referendum more or less likely.

  37. Neil A – the evidence from 2010 and before is pretty unambiguous that AV would have been much better for Labour than the Conservatives (it doesn’t always suggest it would have helped them, some projections have them losing seats, but the Tories losing much more).

    However, right now I’m with Robin Hood, that under current circumstances AV would help the Conservatives. The small scale testing we did of 2nd preferences post-coalition had Lib Dem second preferences pretty evenly split, but that was back in the days when the Lib Dems were in the mid-teens. Now their vote has fractured further I expect the remaining Lib Dem supporters are even more likely to be well-disposed to the Tories and less well disposed to Labour (as evidenced in their answers to other polling questions, which tend to show a strong preference for the Tories over Labour).

    Of course it might well change come the election – the whole point is that the effect of AV is not fixed in stone, it has different effects under different circumstances – but I think the Lib Dems would be hard pressed to get back the support of people whose vote they have currently lost and whose sympathies are anti-Conservative and pro-Labour.

    They can put some tactical yellow water in place as you suggest, but its questionnable how successful it’ll be (Picture the scene – “Hey guys, I haven’t seen you for oooh, four years. Now, I know we’ve been part of a centre-right government for all that time and have been supporting all those government cuts that you hated so much, but actually we’re just like you and we disagreed with all of it! What’s £9000 tuition fees between friends? Ouch! Argh! Not the face!”). The places where the Lib Dem vote was largely left-wing and anti-Tory may just be the places where it collapses the most, and where there are the fewest Lib Dems left to give second preferences.

    Anyway, more seriously on second preferences for smaller parties, in the BES model Greens tended to give second preferences to the Lib Dems (though of course, might not do so anymore), UKIP tended to give second preferences to the Conservatives, the BNP tended to give their second preferences to UKIP (meaning in practice their third preferences votes would normally come into play)

  38. @AW,

    I take all your points, but I’m sure that putting a distance between yourself and your past is that hard to achieve. After all, the current Labour leadership is trying very hard to put Clear Red Water between themselves and the government they were all cabinet ministers in until less than a year ago, with some success.

    I’d be extremely suprised if the LibDem election manifesto for 2015 doesn’t make it expressly, explicitly clear that there were a large number of policies that they disagreed with but supported for the sake of Coalition unity, and that they propose much more left-wing alternatives to those policies in future.

  39. Bah. “I’m sure” = “I’m not sure”.

  40. Anthony, I would tend to agree that the change of opnion of leftish voters and how that might affect voting patterns in AV. I suspect that alternative votes which might have gone to yellows might now go to Greens.

  41. I wonder, have there been any polls on how voters would use their AV votes?

  42. Pam F – there have been lots in the past. The best at the 2010 election was the British Election Study, resulting in this paper by David Sanders et al

    Of course, the problem with this is the one Robin Hood and I have both referred to: the pattern of second preferences will probably have changed as a result of the coalition and the Liberal Democrats losing many of their more left-of-centre voters.

    YouGov have repeated the exercise since the coaltion was formed, and it suggested that the pattern had changed, with Con & LD becoming more likely to swap second preferences and Lab & LD less likely

    However, that was way back in July 2010 when the coalition was still young and the Lib Dems were in the mid-teens. It may well have shifted further since then, but there have been no direct polling questions asking about it.

  43. Both are in the high 30s mind, and this should worry the AV Yes campaign for the Westminster referendum. If they are going to hold the Westminster referendum in May, then they should, by now, be starting to try pull away from the No AV campaign.

    This AV referendum is very far from being one, and holding it as soon as they are going to, will only hurt the Yes vote. It would be better foir it to be held either in October, or next year, and in the meantime set up the campaigns and make the arguement properly.

  44. Thanks Anthony, it would be really interesting to see some up to date polling on this.
    Perhaps there may not be any before the referendum…

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