Different companies and different questions are showing a wide variety of different results on the AV referendum, but they all show the tide moving in the NO campaign’s direction.

At one end YouGov’s latest poll, prompted with explanations of what the AV and FPTP systems are, has a 17 point lead for the NO campaign. At the other extreme Angus Reid have a 6 point lead for the YES campaign, and ComRes’s last poll – now almost a month ago, had a 10 point lead for YES.

Most of this difference is down to question wording – in the last month YouGov and Populus have both done parallel surveys, one explaining the systems to respondents and one not. In two parallel surveys for the No2AV campaign YouGov found the YES campaign ahead by 3 points when people were asked just the raw question, but when they were given the explanations of the systems NO led by 11 points.

In a similar exercise, Populus found a 12 point lead for YES when they asked just the raw referendum question, but found a 14 point lead for NO when they told people what the two systems were.

It may be that these differences gradually vanish as we head towards the referendum itself and the public become more aware of what AV and FPTP actually are… or it may be that the referendum campaign produces more smoke than light, and the public don’t actually end up better informed at all!

While polls are showing different overall figures though, they are showing the same broad trend.

Angus Reid have been polling roughtly monthly since January. In January they had YES ahead of NO by 37% to 20%, with 37% don’t knows. Their most figures are YES 32% (down 5 since January), NO 26% (up 6), and 35% don’t know.

ICM asked AV voting intention for the Guardian in both December and February. In December they found YES on 44%, NO on 38%, Don’t know on 18%. By February their figures had moved to YES 37% (down 7), NO 37% (down 1), don’t knows 27%.

YouGov ask AV most frequently, with data every fortnight, so we have more granularity there on the ups and downs of the campaigns. Since last summer YouGov had been picking up a gradual trend towards NO, at the start of 2011 YouGov had a NO lead of around 9 points. However, at the start of February YouGov picked up a shift towards YES, with the AV campaign briefly narrowing the gap to just one point (it looked like a rogue result so we ran it two days in a row to check – it wasn’t!).

It was to be purely temporary though, since then the campaign proper has started and YouGov have been recording a strong trend towards NO. A fortnight ago they recorded a 7 point lead for NO, then a week ago an 11 point lead for NO, today a 17 point lead for NO. The last one may turn out to be an outlier, but the trend is undeniable.

Finally ComRes have been asking about AV monthly for the Independent on Sunday. In January they had YES six points ahead (36% YES, 30% NO, 34% d/k), in February they had YES increasing their lead to ten points, at the same time as YouGov were picking up that sharp but temporary move towards the YES campaign. The next ComRes poll is due this weekend in the Indy on Sunday, so if they follow the same trend as Angus Reid, ICM and YouGov we’d expect it to show a drop in the YES campaign’s lead.

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