Of late polls on AV have shown somewhat contrasting figures. Most companies have been measuring voting intention on AV by just asking the bare question that will be on the ballot paper. This has tended to show a lead for the YES campaign. Meanwhile YouGov have a tracker question on how people would vote which they’ve been asking since last Summer, which includes brief explanations of what FPTP and AV are, until very recently when opinion started to shift towards YES this was showing a lead for the NO campaign.

The last Populus poll for the Times did both – splitting the sample and giving half of them just the bare referendum question and half of them a brief description of what the options were – describing AV as a system where “voters number the candidates they like in order of preference, and the candidate who gets more than half the support of the voters in the constituency is elected”.

They found pretty much the same pattern as the other polls – with the bare question, 41% supported YES, 29% supported NO and 30% said don’t know. When given an explanation of the systems the figures were 29% YES, 43% NO and (pesumably) 28% don’t know.

People do appear to like the idea of a change of electoral system, but are more doubtful when told about what AV actually is. In one sense this is probably better news for the No campaign than the Yes campaign as people are likely to find out more about the options on offer as the referendum campaign continues. However, whether it comes across as a good or bad change to them will be largely down to how well or badly the two campaigns sell it. It also suggests that people’s views are very open to change, and in that sense things could easily go either way.

(On other Populus news, Andrew Cooper has now been confirmed as David Cameron’s new director of Strategy, so Populus’s political polling will now be in the hands of Rick Nye)

UPDATE: Just to confirm, this wasn’t part of the normal monthly Populus poll for the Times, it was a seperate online poll.


136 Responses to “Different Populus questions show YES and NO ahead”

1 2 3
  1. @Barbazenzero

    In respect of your 4:57 reference to international observers, there is already a mechanism in place to allow for this. Sections 6C and 6D of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allow, respectively, individuals and organisations to be accredited by the Electoral Commission as observers at (most) elections and at (larger scale) referendums (such as the AV one). [Accreditation of observers at Scottish local government elections appears to be a devolved matter OldNat will be pleased to hear.]

    If you scroll down this page – http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/electoral_observers – you will find links to spreadsheets listing accredited individuals and organisations.

    It is, it must be said, quite sad that I am aware of this.

  2. JOHN B DICK
    Why is there so little debate among the political class on the merits of this sort of solution?
    Is it because party leaders would lose control?

    Just guessing, but the most logical answer would seem to be about the relative powers of the English FM vs the UK PM.

    Post fair federalism, the UK government would have much less to do, especially if the four nations have full fiscal autonomy, rendering the First Lord of the Treasury bit of his title obsolete [I digress but was Mrs T First Lady of the Treasury, I wonder] and possibly changing the funding of vestigal “central” government from taking everything and handing some out to the minnows to receiving block grants from the nations based on mutually agreed central requirements. Obviously there would be all the handshakes with foreign dignitaries as now, but it would most likely end up as being not a job for politicians on their way up but more a reward on the way down.

    The English FM would undoubtedly be the top job for those on the way up, but not exactly appealing to anyone currently in Westminster with hopes of eventually making it to the top of the current greasy pole.

  3. Barbazenzero

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Elsewhere in the Lady Grand Pooh Bah’s instructions to her minions there is a specific enjoinder to allow as many ballots as possible.

    As long as you vote for one of the parts of the curate’s egg on offer in the referendum, your vote will be counted – regardless of whatever else you scribble on the paper, and your scribbles will be ignored.

    I think we are in agreement on this interpretation?

    The effect of a blank or properly spoilt ballot paper would be if there was a significantly higher rate of category 4 papers after a high profile campaign to produce precisely that effect as a protest against the inadequacy of the choice.

  4. Mister_Ennui

    “It is, it must be said, quite sad that I am aware of this.”

    You simply betray an obsessive concern with constitutional niceties – Scots blood somewhere, I think. :-)

    (and, yes, I did know that observers at our local elections are our business. :-) )

  5. MISTER_ENNUI

    Thanks for the link and touché re your “It is, it must be said, quite sad that I am aware of this“.

    It is equally sad that I am interested in understanding the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, although clearly not quite enough to be fluent on all 300+ pages of it! There are myriad references to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 [it uses the shorthand “2000 Act” throughout], so it is probably me who was [and remain] too lazy to follow up any of them.

  6. OLDNAT
    I think we are in agreement on this interpretation?

    Yes, spot on.

    The effect of a blank or properly spoilt ballot paper would be if there was a significantly higher rate of category 4 papers after a high profile campaign to produce precisely that effect as a protest against the inadequacy of the choice.
    I do like the word properly used in that context, but the problem as I see it is that it will be at best not proven how many were “deliberate”, undoubtedly ignored as much as possible by the MSM and if it is successful to the extent of tipping the balance to NO will give the most reactionary forces in Westminster ammunition in their long-term campaign to prevent any electoral reform at all.

    That’s also in part why I think a back to the future approach for the grey vote, extolling the joys of being a voter before 1872 could do no harm.

  7. @Amberstar

    You said “…Isn’t that what happens in democracies; majority opinion wins? It’s hard to see what is so great about ‘democracy’, if it has to be tweaked to make it fair…”

    Many countries do tweak it, the United States being an obvious example. Its Head of Government (the President) is (indirectly) elected by the people at one date, its legislature is split between two houses (House of Reps plus the Senate, collectively referred to as the Congress) elected at another date, its Government (the Cabinet) is appointed by the President but approved by the Congress. All bodies are constrained by its Constitution and the Constitution requires a supermajority to change it. This system is still democratic but the separation in time and in powers and the difficulty in changing the Constitution is designed to prevent a “tyranny of the majority”: the possibility that a majority of the citizenry may enact mob rule, pogroms, or worse.

    Consequently, despite many counterexamples we can all think of, the USA generally is not as cruel to its citizenry as European states.

    This is why democracy must be constrained by law and a constitution: because any Government, whether democratic or not, has the potential for unbearable cruelty on an industrial scale. The Coalition’s desire to weaken its constraints by repealing the HRA or ignoring the ECHR is (to put it politely) highly regrettable.

    Glad you asked now, aren’t you… :-)

    @catmanjeff

    You’re assuming you’ll get another chance: I am not so sanguine. These are unusual circumstances (people forget how weird the current Government is) and I can’t help thinking this is literally the only chance we’ll ever get to reform the system: a “no” vote will entrench the existing system forever. It’s unfair, but them’s the breaks: turn this chance down and you’ll never get another one.

    @TheGreenBenches

    Didn’t I call it for a FG/Lab coalition some weeks ago?

    Regards, Martyn

  8. @All

    Some of you may recall I release a four-weekly data visualisation series on the performance of the parties. The series for weeks 36-40 of the coalition (2011-01-13 to 2011-02-09) are now up. The links are as follows:

    * grid_all_week: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625478048341/show/
    * historical_grid_all_week: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625484534863/show/
    * raw_all: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625484575847/show/
    * term_all: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625491341803/show/
    * term_blue: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625617047896/show/
    * term_red: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625645207632/show/
    * term_yellow: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625645211058/show/
    * term_gray: h ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625491334241/show/

    They’re self-explanatory, although I may give a precis tomorrow. The next set will cover weeks 41-44 of the coalition (2011-02-10 to 2011-03-09) and will be released by 2011-03-20.

    Regards, Martyn

  9. Barbazenzero

    My current attitude is that it is wholly irrelevant which voting system is used to elect MPs to what is now the

    “Parliament for England’s domestic affairs and various issues differentially affecting different parts of the British Isles whether represented there or not.”

    Though it isn’t the snappiest of titles! :-)

  10. JOHN MURPHY
    Thus the oddities, inequities were inplicit in Union and have always existed but over time have manifested themselves in different ways at different times.

    AW must have better things to do this evening than moderate, so this is a re-post of my 8:02 response without the links two two acts of the Scottish parliament…..

    I agree with oldnat’s response in its entirety, but would add that the Claim of Right Act 1689 – effectively a renewal of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath and still in force unamended – gives the people of Scotland sovereignty, in contrast to the bizarre English concept of parliamentary sovereignty. Irrespective of the desires of those who brought into law the Union with England Act 1707, this means that the people of Scotland do have the right, albeit not currently the power, to say enough is enough and to terminate the union.

  11. OLDNAT
    My current attitude is that it is wholly irrelevant which voting system is used to elect MPs to what is now the
    “Parliament for England’s domestic affairs and various issues differentially affecting different parts of the British Isles whether represented there or not.”
    Though it isn’t the snappiest of titles!

    As you suggest, not snappy but accurate.

    From my own point of view, perhaps I’m not as confident as you that Scotland will be in a position to secede soon. Obviously if the appetite for fiscal autonomy is not sated and the MSM prove unable to suppress the fact, sparks will begin to fly, but that’s probably at least a full Scottish parliamentary term away and with the “peace offering” from the UK coalition it will not come to the boil until 2016, well after the 2015 UK general election if the coalition runs it term, as it may well have to if the economic green shoots are later than they hope.

    If I’m right, then the chance will have been missed to make a tiny democratic step forward across the UK before the 2015 elections, arguably not having a great deal of effect in Scotland or Wales but in England it will make even less likely the rise of a civic nationalist party in England who would be invaluable allies of Plaid and the SNP, unlike what currently passes for English nationalism. We could also see a blue UK majority government with no seats at all in Scotland and so nothing to lose by repeating experiments like the poll tax.

    On balance, and reluctantly [if not in an expat way!] I do think you’re wrong.

  12. Barbazenzero

    “but in England it will make even less likely the rise of a civic nationalist party in England who would be invaluable allies of Plaid and the SNP, unlike what currently passes for English nationalism”

    That’s the first reasonable argument for AV that I’ve heard. I’ll need to think about that one.

  13. Anthony

    As we seem to be running with a Scottish theme tonight, how do YouGov handle party ID with members of their panel in Scotland (and for that matter Wales)? It’s clear that many voters may have a different loyalty at National and Westminster level, and even more confusingly for constituency and regional votes. How are the weightings managed for this?

    Also, now that the two-headed monster has slouched to Royal Assent and the gun fired for the Boundary Commissions to start their work, do we have any figures for the December electoral rolls and has the number crunching started yet?

  14. MARTYN
    You’re assuming you’ll get another chance: I am not so sanguine. These are unusual circumstances (people forget how weird the current Government is) and I can’t help thinking this is literally the only chance we’ll ever get to reform the system: a “no” vote will entrench the existing system forever. It’s unfair, but them’s the breaks: turn this chance down and you’ll never get another one.

    Very well put, and I agree completely.

  15. barbazenzero

    [I digress but was Mrs T First Lady of the Treasury, I wonder]

    I think she would have been First Lord, some titles become gender-free with use. Consider the Queen who is both
    Lord of Mann
    in the Isle of Man and Duke of Normandy in the Channel islands.

  16. PB are reporting a new YouGov

    YES 34%: NO 30% (still bespoke wording)
    CON 37%: LAB 41%: LD 10%

  17. ROGER MEXICO
    I think she would have been First Lord, some titles become gender-free with use.

    Yes, you’re almost certainly right. I must be having a senior moment because I can’t recall any mention of it in 1979 yet the tabloids were perhaps more influential then than now, and would have had “fun” either way.

  18. @ Martyn

    “Consequently, despite many counterexamples we can all think of, the USA generally is not as cruel to its citizenry as European states.

    This is why democracy must be constrained by law and a constitution: because any Government, whether democratic or not, has the potential for unbearable cruelty on an industrial scale.”

    Agreed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  19. @Colin Green
    When you responded to my question, ‘Am I a stick in the mud’ and said
    Not at all, though you may have stronger than average opinions
    Perhaps I have, my views started to form when I studied British and European History 1831-1914 for School Certificate which I took in 1946.

    This course of study made me laugh when Nick Clegg made his ill-informed remarks about the 19th century reform acts. But he is Nick, so it’s not very important is it?

  20. Another question, —sorry.

    If we have AV and most of us only vote for one candidate.
    Does that turn AV into a form of FPTP?

    If so, is there any point in having a change?.

    Can it true that we are all wasting a lot of time.—– Think about it before you pour scorn on my head.

  21. Correction to my last post.
    It should read, Can be true that we are all wasting a lot of time.

  22. Another back to the future suggestion, for use in the tabloids perhaps, although it clearly needs a little work:

    If preference voting was good enough for the extra votes the toffs had until the Attlee government abolished them in 1948, why isn’t it good enough for the workers now?

  23. BOB MILTON
    If we have AV and most of us only vote for one candidate.
    Does that turn AV into a form of FPTP?

    First, you would have to define most. If you mean 50.0001% it would merely advantage the other half of the electorate. If you mean 95%+, it would be for that particular election. By the next election who could tell how many might wish to avail themselves of the facility?

    At any rate, if it was 95%+, there would be no additional adminstration cost, since no extra rounds of counting would be needed.

    But how can you possibly know, even before the new boundaries are set for the expected 2015 UK general election, let alone the parties or candidates fighting it, that even just you will then reside in a constituency where you will vote for one candidate only?

  24. Barbazenzero,

    “But how can you possibly know, even before the new boundaries are set for the expected 2015 UK general election, let alone the parties or candidates fighting it, that even just you will then reside in a constituency where you will vote for one candidate only?”

    Work it out if you like,
    I always vote, I’m not a floating voter, my present constituency is Bexhill & Battle.

  25. Just to add a comment (having got only partly through page 1, so my apologies if this is redundant).

    Barbanzero posted: “Overall, the effect will be more to filter out the white noise of “irrelevant and unpopular candidates” as KEITH DEATH describes above.”

    IMO this is outrageous. So, we allow all thos who have choen their preferred candidate/party to have another vote if ther original (and subsequent) vote(s) prove to have been wasted/pointless?

    Why should these voters be given preferential and superior rights to those who choose to make a single vote?

    IMO, this is a strong argument against AV.

  26. @Mike N – they don’t get an “extra vote”. AV simulates an exhaustive ballot, without all the hassle and expense of conducting one. What this means is that everyone gets exactly one vote in each round. That a vote may be transferred from an eliminated candidate to another candidate doesn’t alter that.

  27. Keith Death
    (Great name btw, whether or not it’s a pseudonym. Is ‘Death’ pronounced like ‘Keith’?)

    So, if we boil away all the nonsense votes we eventually end up with, say, a two or three horse race?

    Hmmm, I’ll think about this a bit more.

  28. Another comment…AV is not like a ballot where candidates are eliminated and then another ballot of the survivors is conducted, and so on etc until one candidate gets more than half the votes cast in the final ballot. A big difference is that in the second and third ballots etc the voters get to see who is left and can make their judgement and cast their vote accordingly.

    Under AV the voters have to vote ‘blind’.

    Under AV we’ll probably see many voters not listing those candidates or parties that they would not want in office/power. For example, I wouldn’t list the Con candidate nor (based on current situations) the LD candidate. I expect Cons and LDs may feel the same.

    I have to say I am not convinced that AV is better than FPTP.

  29. Barbazenzero,
    Work it out if you like, I always vote, I’m not a floating voter, my present constituency is Bexhill & Battle

    OK….

    Bexhill & Battle had an electorate of 81,032 at the 2010 GE, with a 68.9% turnout and Con won with 51.6%, so no 2nd round would have been needed under AV. Only four candidates opposed the Con with L-D getting 28.0%, Labour 12.0%, Trust 4.9% and BNP 3.6%. If you’re not a floating voter you must have voted Con, L-D or Lab in both 2010 & 2005 because only UKIP stood against them in 2005.

    Under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, Bexhill & Battle will be one of the constituencies which is made smaller if the current best guesstimes of about 75,000 for the electoral quota are correct, as it is well over the 5% margin allowed. The actual quota cannot be calculated before the total roll size provided to the four national boundary commissions is known, along with the electorates of each of the “special” constituencies, but it seems probable that Bexhill & Battle will lose about 6,000 electors – possibly including you, of course!

    As the Con plurality was 12,880 over L-D, it seems likely that a Con would still win under both AV and the 1872 system, even if all 6,000 “lost” voters were Cons.

    In that event, the movement would be more likely to impact the two neighbouring L-D seats of Lewes & Eastbourne, with Lewes being the most likely to gain electors as it is below quota size. Or, of course that whole coastal stretch could see changes to all four constituencies between Brighton and Hastings & Rye, with eastward and/or westward contractions and/or expansions as appropriate. By the time you get as far east as Rye, a county boundary would be met and once you are as far west as Brighton there will be multiple town constituencies, but its only my guess that the changes won’t reach even further.

    But, back to Bexhill & Battle…. I have no personal knowledge of your constituency beyond having driven and ridden though it on the A259, and the impact of losing 6,000 potential voters will depend on which wards are removed. If the eastern or western fringe is a hotbed of political apathy, you could “lose” 6,000 people who didn’t vote in 2010 anyway, and little would change. If the fringes contain a majority of the older people, it would be statistically more likely to reduce the Con plurality; if of younger people it would likely increase it.

    If you’re a Con, and your ward isn’t moved out of the constituency then I can at least understand your personal content with the status quo. If you’re an L-D, perhaps you’re happy you have two MPs next door, still livid that Lab weren’t interested in the Rainbow Coalition because it might mean being nice to separatists and prepared to accept representation by the other half of the coalition, whilst being against your own party on electoral reform, though you would probably be unique in holding all of those views. If you’re a Lab, then perhaps you’re simply happy that the Libertarian L-Ds didn’t get in and regard a Con vistory as less than awful. Of course, if you are a Con, you might still have some sympathy with other Cons outwith your constituency condemned to live in perpetuity under the yoke of a Lab or L-D MP, but it seems you don’t.

    If you’re moved out of the constituency eastward, much the same as above will apply, whether you’re a Con, L-D or Lab voter, except that Hastings & Rye was a Con gain from Lab in 2010 and things are rather tighter. Con won with 41.1%, trailed by Lab 37.1%, L-D 15.7%, UKIP 2.8%, BNP 2.6% and ED 0.7%. I can appreciate that in 2015, under the 1872 system, with Lab needing only a 2% swing to recapture the seat you would be praying that the L-Ds either did or did not vote tactically if you’re a Con or a Lab depending on which way you think the L-Ds can be persuaded. If it’s not honest to count 2nd preferences, then surely tactical voting is just as dishonest, and all of the 3 big parties will be out campaigning to try to prevent “honest” voting by the supporters (6.1% – MUCH more than the “swing” needed) of the 3 minor parties. In such a seat, what would you do and why if you’re an L-D? And wouldn’t you be wishing that AV was in operation to allow UKIP, BNP and ED supporters a 2nd preference?

    Whilst if you’re moved out of the constituency westward, how would you feel about being dumped in Lewes, where the L-D got 52.0% and/or Eastbourne where the L-D got 47.3% a plurality? In both cases, Con were fairly close in 2nd position well ahead of Lab in distant 3rd plus a sprinkling of others. Should a similar situation arise in 2015, and the Con fights under the 1872 system, would you not be hankering after the ability to get the second preferences of the voters who put their X against Lab, UKIP, BNP and independent?

  30. Ooops!

    My previous post was in response to BOB MILTON

  31. KEITH DEATH
    @Mike N – they don’t get an “extra vote”. AV simulates an exhaustive ballot, without all the hassle and expense of conducting one. What this means is that everyone gets exactly one vote in each round. That a vote may be transferred from an eliminated candidate to another candidate doesn’t alter that.

    Spot on. What some here don’t seem to understand is that it puts the voter in charge rather than the parties, by giving him the luxury enjoyed by voters before 1872 of making his one vote count at a time to suit him [or, nowadays, her] while still enjoying the secrecy that the 1872 Act brought in.

  32. MIKE N

    IMO this is outrageous. So, we allow all thos who have choen their preferred candidate/party to have another vote if ther original (and subsequent) vote(s) prove to have been wasted/pointless?
    The problem only arose with the 1872 Act ordering secret ballots and the growth to a mass electorate. Secrecy was brought in with the stated aim of reducing coercion, although nobody ever proved it changed anything except reducing the power of the voter. See my previous and others’ posts on what voting was like pre-1872. It’s all about making ONE vote count.

    We should also ask ourselves WHY parliament have continually increased the “deposit” to stand as a candidate unless it is to help the parties who already have snouts in the trough? On general principles, if the politicians – especially of the old school and/or intake – DON’T want it, we should at least examine its merits.

    So, if we boil away all the nonsense votes we eventually end up with, say, a two or three horse race?
    It certainly usually comes down to that in Scottish council by-elections. OTOH it is not unknown for one candidate to get 50%+ of first preferences and win on the first round.

    Another comment…AV is not like a ballot where candidates are eliminated and then another ballot of the survivors is conducted, and so on etc until one candidate gets more than half the votes cast in the final ballot. A big difference is that in the second and third ballots etc the voters get to see who is left and can make their judgement and cast their vote accordingly.
    Under AV the voters have to vote ‘blind’.

    But voters do have the opportunity to see all the candidates during the campaign and can prepare their own “list” in advance of the vote. It isn’t as though parties are allowed “substitutes”. As ROGER MEXICO brilliantly puts it, near the top of p2:
    And everyone also misses the real point about AV (and for that matter STV). You can put the person you most hate, loath and despise at number 10 or whatever. Then you work your way up, numbering down, through the repulsive; the unpleasant; the mildly nauseous; the merely incompetent; the unknowns; the known unknowns; the OK in a really bad year; the people you could just about send out for chips; the sort of literate; the sort of numerate; the occasionally coherent.
    Then, if there’s anyone better than all that left, you give them number 1.

    Under AV we’ll probably see many voters not listing those candidates or parties that they would not want in office/power. For example, I wouldn’t list the Con candidate nor (based on current situations) the LD candidate. I expect Cons and LDs may feel the same.
    That’s your choice, and many (of all party allegiances) will act that way, but if the Con is the person you most hate and you mark him or her Nth (where N is the number of candidates) and rank all the others, then your vote can never be passed to him or her irrespective of how many rounds of counting there are.

  33. AV works brilliantly in Australia and the cost offered by no 2 AV is just lies. You just count them manually like you do with FPTP, you dont need electronic counters.. I hope the NO2AV can do better than the current ‘advertising because, to be honest, they dont address the issues of whether a system is fairer / better for the country.

    I am totally for AV as by definition it finally delivers a govt which has the support of the majority of the people to at least some degree. The current system allows that a govt can be easily formed by a party loathed by the majority of the population.

    WE want a cohesive community? Then have a govt supported by the people. The current system encourages alienation from parliament.

  34. Catmanjeff

    To pretend that the system for electing the Labour leader is anything other than AV is mischievous. You could easily have FPTP with weighted votes if you wanted.

    Interesting that a “consensus candidate” – I would prefer the expression “majority-supported candidate” – is required to lead a party but not to represent me in Parliament.

  35. @Mike N

    Thanks – It’s pronounced like it reads – my friends saw fit to bestow that “nick-surname” on me, following a long geeky conversation about Pratchett’s books as I recall :)

    Re “Under AV the voters have to vote ‘blind’” – that’s true to a point, though relatively few people are likely to want to change their preferences between rounds. If you put Labour first, for instance, you’re highly likely to keep with Labour unless the Labour candidate is knocked out.

    Where AV really shines over FPTP is in eliminating the spoiler effect – for instance, if an Independent Labour (or back in the day, SDP) candidate stands against the official Labour candidate, voters can choose between them without risking splitting the vote and letting a Tory or Lib Dem in by mistake.

1 2 3