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. Any system that produces a greater correlation between votes cast and number of MPs returned can only be an improvement upon the current system – but will AV deliver the greater correlation?

    I am sure the august posters on this site have already offered insight but I’d be grateful to hear it.

  2. Anyone wondering about the antics of their noble lordships over AV may be amused by the BBC’s new Rebellious peers to use AV voting,Rebellious peers to use AV voting, concerning a by-election for a ‘new’ hereditary peer and especially its closing: You could not make it up.

  3. I think this might be a highly significant poll, not as a trend of what the public think; there is clearly a great deal of flux on this issue.

    Rather, in how it will mobilize the Tory (and Labour) backbenches; those in the press, and in the online media – such as Tim Montgomerie, (notably in the New Statesman), in renewing their calls for the PM to come out forcibly against AV –
    It may also lead to more money and expertise being given over to the No camp which so far has been pretty shambolic. (look to Mark Pack and the Lib Dem Voice for evidence of this)

    I think polling thus far has made the anti AVers feel as if they would win without having to invest in a campaign. Given that large sections of the Tory party feel they were lied to by Cameron on this issue, in order to get the coalition, this poll may well change all that.

    It must be fun when an opinion poll directly changes the dynamics of a campaign.

  4. I cannot undertsand why this narrowing should be happening now?! Although the coverage of the antics of their Lordships might have had an impact on a handful of the population, I suggest it is unlikely to have moved minds on the issue to any appreciable extent. Anthony suggests the Yes campaign might have had an influence – frankly, the campaigns on it seem pretty invisible so far for either side of the argument to have had any influence of voting intention.
    This result baffles me?
    Anthony, a question – will the 40% turnout rule introduced by the Lords be dumped by the Commons before it receives Royal Assent – I cannot find any statements on this issue from either side of the Coalition on the net?

  5. I think the Tories will for the 40% rule, don’t you? So it will only be defeated if Labour vote against.

    Which would be ironic if they defeat their own amendment.

    Anthony talked about ping pong and it might be just that the naughty Lords (not all of them Labour, it appears) are playing.

  6. Previous YouGov polls on the issue have found a lower Yes vote than other pollsters. Many commenters have put this down to the specific wording of the YouGov question. Has the question changed this time or is there a genuine movement in public opinion?

  7. Aye, there seems to be no obvious reason why the gap has narrowed.

    I may be wrong but given that AV was in neither the LD nor Con manifesto, what on earth do they think they will get out of a Yes result?

  8. Tony Dean – Number 10 press briefing yesterday morning asked about it:

    “Put that the Government would reverse the amendment, the PMS replied that it seemed likely that the House would amend it back. There was a consensus view on this issue in the Commons.”

    On the subject of the Bill, the remaining issue of contention is really the strict 5% limit either side of the quota. There is a crossbench amendment on the paper today proposing a soft limit of 5% with an exception to allow 7.5% in exceptional circumstances. That really isn’t asking the government to move a great deal, so it’ll be interesting to see if they bite (and indeed, whether Labour would accept that as enough of a compromise)

  9. Yes, NICKP, that is what I suspect the Tories are up to too – interesting on such a vital point that nobody in Government has said anything yet. Makes me suspect negotiations are going on between Clegg and Cameron on the issue of whether to put the 40% rule back in front of the Commons? If the 40% rule stands I suspect even if it sneaks through on the actual referendum vote, because the turnout is likely to be below 40% the Conservative backbenchers will rat on the LDs and argue (like Scotland in their 1979 referendum) that there is insufficient support for the change.

  10. Thank you Anthony – posts have crossed, so ignore my last one Nickp – seems like they’ve sorted it!

  11. Colin – exactly the same wording as usual.

  12. Mike N

    “I may be wrong but … AV was in neither the LD nor Con manifesto”

    STV was in the LD manifesto. No change was the position of the Tories. AV was a compromise drawn up in the coalition agreement. It is the least the LD would accept for a full coalition and the most the Tories would allow. David Laws, in his book, suggested that there would have been a confidence and supply agreement instead of coalition if DC hadn’t conceeded AV.

    From what I understand from my tory friends, many tories are more or less ambivolent on AV. There are a few for and some against. The Lib Dems by and large like AV as it is some improvement. A few are against, wanting STV or nothing. Others actually like AV in itself.

    Anthony W

    Thanks for the clarification

  13. @ Mike N

    The answer to your question is what I would call “Voluntary or Optional AV” – although everybody, including the governemnt is calling this AV, it isn’t really!!!! Original AV insists upon mandatory preferences against all candidates standing by the voter, so that the over 50% at the end of the process can be achieved. What is being put in this referendum is strictly speaking STV in single member constituencies! In STV the voter can stop listing preferences as soon as they like. This does not guarantee over 50% at the end of the process and allows what the Australians call “Plumping”. This is where voters tick, cross or put a 1 against one candidate only – what one might call the FPTP option. So, what we have in this bill is a compromise in that even if it is introduced Conservatives can encourage “plumping – voting as you always have done” whilst the LDs can encourage using preferences! Lord Ashcroft has already worked out that this form of “AV” will not damage the Conservatives at all – indeed it may help them with UKIP 2nd preferences etc! I suspect the “No” campaign will be surprisingly muted therefore.

  14. I guess this 7.5% issue will really determine how exceptional “exceptional” really is. If it comes down to a handful of seats where it really does make sense to differ slightly from the 5% limit I can’t see much resistance from the government.

    As always the devil is in the detail, and picking through the details is important here.

    As to Sergio’s opening point, if you want a representative democracy (In so much that each constituency has an accountable representative directly voted for) you’d want MORE MP’s not fewer.

    I suspect that reducing the number of MP’s by 10% won’t drastically affect the balance of things, it’ll be the equalisation of constituency size that will do that.

    It’s pretty well understood that if constituencies were normalised this would pull things back towards parity (how close remains to be seen), reducing Labour’s current advantage (I define parity as being “with equal shares of the vote, parties would gain an equal amount of seats”).

    Is it as easy to understand how the Lib Dems would have done at the last election, (to compare apples with apples) or is it REALLY in the details of the new borders as to how they would benefit/lose out?

  15. Labour’s opposition to AV is fairly overstated.

    The yes to AV group in Labour boast more than 100 MPs.. even the CLP’s that are uncommitted to AV, such as my own agreed to disseminate neutral material explaining the workings of the AV system. Two or three of the main red websites also back AV.

    It tends to be the older MPs/ Peers than are most opposed to AV.. and their voice seems to be more vocal.. but many of the newer, female, and younger MPs in reds are quite well disposed towards it…

    So, if there is a genuine a)hardening of LD support towards it b) Softening of Blue opposition towards it… then id does mean that the race is perhpas wide open…


    On a separate note for anyone interested.. I have been lobbying for a Private Member’s bill to lower votes to 16 year olds so that future generations can have a say on EMA cuts/ Tuition fee tripling… I have secured the support of a small group of MPs… and I am working on compiling a list of the MPs in favour…

    If there are any supporters of such a proposal from other parties such as yellow & blue that might know of an MP well disposed to such a piece of legislation.. could you let me know please..

  16. Tony Dean

    I think you are being a little pedantic, if I choose not to put an 18, 22 or 47 (depending on the number of candidates standing) beside a BNP candidate how does it reduce the legitimacy of my vote?

    All you really get from your system is “In the end everyone (with a legitimate vote) voted for X” through forcing everyone to place a vote for every candidate. A pretty meaningless point for the hassle it would introduce.

    I guess it could make you happy if you added a “Don’t care option and make people fill the AV form out until they hit “Don’t care”. That way out of everyone who does care, you’d get to your magic 50%.

    If you take it for granted that someone who stops his AV vote short doesn’t care, we’d get to the same situation with a lot less hassle.

  17. Alan

    I wasn’t being pedantic at all. I was simply describing the different features of Optional AV (STV in single member constituencies) versus Original AV as used in Australia. I was not promoting any of these preference systems, as I dislike all of them. As longtime contributors to this forum will know I am a supporter of Limited AMS through and through! 500 FPTP constituencies plus 100 ish county top-ups would do. I would rather stick with FPTP than go to any preference voting method……..I don’t want somebody’s n’th preference trumping my and others 1st’s!

  18. What campaign?!

  19. Graeme,

    Labour’s Yes2AV have Phonebanks and regular hustings many of which prominent reds including Ed M/ D M have presented at..

    I cant vouch for yellows, but there is a red campaign for AV.

    Follow Yes2Av on Twitter, they’ll keep you updated.

  20. Good stuff- this is an improvement for the YG AV tracker!

    Any reform that takes us closer- practically and psychologically- to STV is excellent.

    It also looks like the 40% threshold will not be in place either.

  21. There are yellow phone banks being set up for the AV campaign and also the Yes2AV campaign are themselves setting up a large network of phone banks. I’ve just had an email about one being launched in Oxford this week and had one a few weeks ago about them in Winchester and Reading too.

  22. Does this have anything on likelihood to vote?

    I’d consider that those wanting change will more likely turn out and vote; those doing typical British ‘all change is evil’ will be less fussed overall.

  23. In my constituency LDs are putting out yes to AV literature separate from party ones (blanketing). Also local meetings are being held at which both speakers and attenders from various parties turned up. We are only talking a few dozen in the latter case but to turn out on a cold night in January does indicate an interest.

    Whether this level of activity is replicated elsewhere I haven’t a clue.

    Further, Anthony knows my opinion on YG’s question so we can at least conclude, as does he, that there is movement.

  24. Jack
    Yes, I think you may be right. Both Conservatives and conservatives opposed every item of electoral reform such as devolution, but do not seek to reverse it once in power.

    It’s a sort of grudging shake of the shoulders.

  25. Labour appear pretty much split down the middle on the issue but there hasn’t been a proper debate on AV yet.

    The No campaign isn’t as strong as I thought it would be either though.

  26. The Pannick amendment on the Bill (keeping a soft 5% limit, but allowing 7.5% variation in quite tightly proscribed exceptional circumstances) was opposed by the government… but passed.

    I’ll be interesting to see whether the government actually try to reverse this one. It shouldn’t actually have huge effect except where 5% would have produce downright odd results, so they may just accept it.

  27. This is an interesting one. Conservative MPs are almost universally against AV but are in government with the LDs who are almost univerally supportive of AV (even though it is not proportional representation, but a move in the right direction). It is Labour who are most divided on it (between the true liberal Social Democrats, and the “Strong Government” Labour members – some of whom are New Labourites like Blunkett).

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the Labour leadership start campaigning for a vote for the change and whether the Conservative support for AV slips.

    Personally, and probably only on this issue, “I agree with Nick”. As he himself argued, this is a “miserable little reform” which doesn’t bring in proportional representation or stop tactical voting, just gets the least disliked candidate.

  28. Adrian B

    “Conservative MPs are almost universally against AV”

    Not as much as you might think. I know one who likes AV but has been told to keep quiet.

  29. @JACK
    I find it a bit of a laugh you think the Brits are all small c conservatives who dislike change. I have felt in recent years, that the mentality has been “all change is better than leaving well alone”. I suppose thats the basic difference between gut party politics.

  30. Government defeated again in Lords…

  31. Pam F

    Where can I read about the latest defeat?


  32. It’s okay, I found it!

  33. I’ve read that Lord Oakshott (Lib Dem Treasury spokesman in the HoL) has been relieved of his duties this afternoon by Danny Alexander after saying “if this is robust action on the banks then my name’s Bob Diamond’.

  34. Alec

    tee hee

    Them Lords don’t toe the line at all, do they?

  35. @ NickP and Alec

    Yeah! And just imagine what they’d be like if they were elected in their own right!!!! How long would it be before a real constitutional crisis between the Will of the then two elected Houses?

  36. Merci, Pam.

  37. Be interesting to see if the government try to reverse this one – in terms of the actual effect it has on boundaries it really should be minimal (and generally positive – for example, on the October 2010 electorates it would mean that the Wirral could be given three very slightly oversized seats, rather than having a seat crossing into Cheshire or crossing the Mersey).

    The government’s objection to it is that it leaves the door open to long legal challenges and judicial reviews of the boundary commissions recommendations based on whether a seat is “viable” and whether circumstances actually are “exceptionally compelling” or not, whereas the original bill was at least extremely clear in exactly what rules the boundary commission was required to follow.

  38. Pam F

    Don’t you love the accuracy of the Beeb’s reporting?

    From your link

    “On Tuesday the government suffered another defeat when peers backed a plan to make the referendum on the voting system binding only if 40% of the public took part.”

    It’s going to be damn difficult to work out which voter has to be rugby tackled to prevent their getting in to the polling station to ask for a voting paper which will invalidate the referendum by taking the turnout above 40%.

  39. Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott resigns on BBC

  40. I don’t what interest is like in other parts of the UK but as far as I’m aware in East Anglia this issue has got a low profile to put it mildly. I haven’t heard any politician refer to it at all. Then again apart from complaining about her constituency party and abstaining on tuition fees our two local MP’s could have been dead for all the impact they’ve had.

  41. Yep, Wolf.

    For the electorate it is all a non issue. Not one thing about it matters a jot.

    It’s a political football, no more.

  42. “Both Lord Oakeshott and the party leadership agreed he could not speak for the party when he did not support the party’s policy, the spokesman said.”

    The party’s policy? Or the coalition’s?

  43. According to the BBC:

    Lord Oakeshott [is] a former City financier who advised Vince Cable in opposition but has not held a formal position in the party since last summer…

    ht tp://

    Though everyone else seems to think he’s a ‘Lords spokesman’, so maybe it’s another example of the more you pay BBC staff the less they know.

    There are some nice quotes from Matthew Oakeshott in the article. He’s definitely someone you’d want inside the tent, rather than outside …looking in.

    The full Lords defeat details are here:

    ht tp://

    if you click through you can see how people voted. (Am I the only person to be childishly amused that this will now be called the Pannick amendment?)

    Alan raised an interesting point above about how Lib Dems would do under the new boundaries. Of course the devil is always in the details, but it’s often forgotten that most of the Lib Dem’s Parliamentary success is built on a foundation of local government seat wins.

    Because of the very tight margins on constituency size in the new Bill, the new seats will be much more likely to made up of pieces of different local authorities than before and in urban areas even wards will be split in two. This will make it much more difficult to build up from an LA base – particularly if boundaries change again every 5 years. This time they’ll only have a maximum of two years after the boundaries are known before a new election. (On my reading of the Pannick amendment, I don’t think that will make any difference).


    About your campaign for votes at 16. Of course some of the more advanced democracies are ahead of you …

    ht tp://

  44. Just for that OldNat, I have a feeling the turnout will be exactly 40%:)

  45. Lets place beats…….WHO THINKS AV REFERENDUM WILL PASS?????

    My personal view is that it will be rejected by a small margin 51-49 is my rough guessing….just a bit of fun as Peter Snow would say : D

    As for my view well I haven’t decided yet, I’m actually studying AV very carefully because personally I believe that we should have a mix of AV with 100 “top-up” seats voted by STV and 535 FPTP but done a 2nd preference vote so in a way I feel slightly cheated that they’ve belittled my intelligence of having a election system that produces strong governments with strong consistency connections with their MP’s but with a few representation.

    I guess when I vote on AV it will come down to will this make things more representation on people’s voting or will this system just belittle the system by having a “least” favourite candidate as a MP. Personally, AV is not my favourite…I am not found of FPTP but I don’t believe in elections being strictly PR which is why I prefer my alternative 535 FPTP based on the French system with 100 top-ups.

  46. Sorry Eoin,

    The idea of votes for 16 year olds sends a chill down my spine.

  47. Also interesting that Balls is tonight blogging that he has found a clause in the Merlin agreement that appears to allow the banks to override any requirements of the agreement by placing protection of shareholder value first.

    I’ve only seen his post on the matter so I wouldn’t like to comment further until I’ve seen a response, but on the face of it you would have to suspect that Osborne might start to come under some pressure on this now.

  48. 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, and lets just say how they’ve behaved in government, has been a real eye opener.

    Wonder how many other Labour supporters feel like this.

  49. Sorry I mean’t AM (Additional Members System) not AV. Unlike Jenkins Report my idea would have 535 FPTP constituencies but elected on two rounds like they do in France with 100 “top-ups” elected by full STV based on regions.

    It’s very similiar to Jenkins AV+1 but individual MP’s would be elected under 2nd round voting and instead of half being FPTP and half being PR it would be 84% elected by FPTP and 16% by PR.

    This is not a political point I’m just stating that for millions of people like me (these could be people that want full PR, STV, Additional Members, 2nd round voting etc.) people who are not really craving for AV this referendum will be redundent to them : ).

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