Populus have released new polling figures on the Alternative Vote. As in February they used a split sample, asking half the respondents how they would vote using the bare referendum question, but prompting the other half with explanations of the two systems. In February Populus found a 12 point lead for YES in the unprompted question, but a 14 point lead for NO when people were given an explanation of the two systems.

This month they have repeated the exercise and found significant convergence between the two questions. Now on the bare referendum question Populus found YES on 33% (down 8 ) and NO on 37% (up 8). On the prompted question there is much less movement – YES is unchanged on 29%, NO is up three on 46%. No still have a much bigger lead when the systems are explained, but the difference is considerably smaller.


260 Responses to “Latest Populus AV polling has NO ahead”

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  1. Down B)?

  2. Gah! Corrected.

  3. It’s looking more and more that ‘NO’ will win.

    Anecdotally on a very small scale: in the last fortnight I have failed to convince my parents/ both sisters/ several cousins and 2 separate groups of undergrads (both by a rough 3-1 majority against) to back AV.

    Though that could well be my powers of ‘persuasion’

    8-)

  4. C37 L42 LD9

    Funny, I was expecting an increase in the Labour lead after a return to some unrelenting bad publicity for the government.

    I suspect this is a bit of an outlier concealing a Labour boost. My prediction for tomorrow is C35 L44 LD10

  5. @Rob,

    I can offer you a chance to redeem yourself. I am gradually edging towards a “No” position myself. If you can persuade me I’m wrong them that’s two votes saved (as Mrs A, despite my best efforts to encourage proper Suffrage in our household, will inevitably vote the same way I do).

  6. I think it was on the BBCPolitics show, where it was reported that when polled people were in favour of voting reform, but not for AV when the system was explained.

    This represents my view. I want to move from FPTP to a system of PR, but think that AV is a silly system, which is soon to be junked by the three countries that currently use it. The supporters of AV appear to believe that AV is a half way house to proper reform. I cannot see this, as neither of the two main parties has any intention to move to a PR system. A proper PR system detatches voting for a local candidate and replaces it with a party list system. I am in favour of this, as most people vote for a party and not the candidate.

    As for current polling on parties, I can’t see these moving too much. Although the government are being made to look cackhanded in regard to NHS reform and MOD redundances.

  7. Government approval -22

    At one point they seemed to be diving through -30

    Hanging on in there :-)

  8. @R Huckle,

    That’s pretty much where I’m at. I want STV. I once thought AV might be a positive step on the way there, but worried that AV might actually just end up the default system for eternity. Now I also worry that AV will be unpopular and might tarnish the cause of reform. Add into the mix that I suspect AV will harm the chances of my favoured party and so far I am not convinced I should vote Yes.

  9. Fascinating stuff – the Yes campaign must hope that the number of D/Ks stays high and they simply stay at home. I wonder if the only salvation of the Yes campain maybe to get a super turnout in Wales and Scotland (who are more used to AV-ish systems) – is there any regional breakdown to the support.

    With Neil A, I am certainly leaning “no” but I was moved back into undecided by the yes campaign leaflet – anything Benjamin Zephaniah is supporting must be taken seriously.

  10. Adrian B

    “is there any regional breakdown to the support.”

    The last poll that I looked at (can’t remember which one :-) ) showed the English regions (except London which had a small Yes majority) all No, but Scotland had a 2:1 Yes.

  11. Very candid Neil A – thank you, and in the interests of providing a cross-section of qualitive polling data (which Anthony can then weight up to form a national sample …)

    My problem is this – I don’t mind FPTP, it’s not that bad but would prefer something more proportional. I’m not that keen on AV – it would give me a 1, 2, 3 choice but could actually lead to some even more disproportional results (e.g 1997) and I just don’t get why those who vote for the least favourite candidate get first stab at choosing the winner. So am not that bothered really BUT … like Neil A, I am concerned this could become the default setting.

    So now I simply think – if I vote yes and the referendum is won does Cameron get a kicking and his party fracture (they are vehemently anti-AV), or if I vote No and they win does Clegg get a kicking and the coaltion fall apart (both options are pretty favourable to me … I wish that was the choice in the referendum).

    Perhaps the referendum should be worded to allow a 1, 2, 3 choices with second preferences counting …

  12. Intresting that once AV explained the lead for no increases significantly. Surely this should encourage the no camp.I am def in the no camp. This referendum is not wantedby public. This is a Westminster village thing being imposed in the country .

  13. @ Old Nat,

    Thanks for that – so London not voting could make a small influence, although presumably if nationally there been a move towards NO then London’s small “yes” lead could easily have evaporated by now.

    @ Anyone else

    Can someone please explain to me for AV why can not everyone’s second choice votes be counted (not just the eliminated candidates) and then simply take the winner of 1st & 2nd prefs combined (if there is no 50% winner) – am I missing something important in the maths? That would kill the No Campaign’s best line – some people (the supporters of fringe parties) are getting two votes and would decide elections.

  14. That a change is small, or not as big as one would have voted, is not a case against the change. I too would prefer a PR system to AV, but plan to vote yes simply because I can’t see how a “No” vote will make that any more likely.

    @ Adrian B,

    voters in Wales do not use AV (or anything like it) in any elections. The Welsh Assembly is elected using a system sometimes known as the Additional Member system; which is nothing like AV.

  15. Con 5,039, Lab 1,598, LD 1,836, Grn 59, BNP 12 Ind 306, Others 554, Total 9,404.

    These are the seats in contention in council elections. Even if Tories lose a thousand councillors on May 5th, their voters still look to be forming a significant proportion of potential turnout for the referendum.

  16. I’m guessing that somewhere like Barking & Dagenham will have the lowest turnout for the AV referendum.

  17. An important part of democracy is using voting to establish consent to be governed.

    Under the current FPTP system we just got landed with a government that the majority of people did not vote for and who therefore do not have a clear mandate for the sweeping reforms they are undertaking.

    Perhaps the coalition policies are actually supported by a majority of voters. Perhaps not. The point is we don’t know. We do not know if the population has given consent to be governed by this government.

    One of the quiet added positives of AV is that the government (whoever they were) would have a better idea what sort of stomach the voters had for their policies had they know second and third preferences.

  18. COLIN

    Fllowing on from a previous thread concerned with the NHs, of couse you won’t find anything aboiut closure of Regional Cancer Centres yet. The issue is one of threat to such centres because of the ;sck of reference ti integration in the bill.

    I’m sure you are a man of some sensitivity and I’m sure you’ll understandthat even a to long term treatment is worrying (if not frightening) to millions of people not just myself Why don’t you do some volunteering at your local hospital and get some more personal experience of the NHS – as a member of a local Hospital Trust I am sure you’s will make you welcome.

  19. COLIN

    Fllowing on from a previous thread concerned with the NHs, of couse you won’t find anything aboiut closure of Regional Cancer Centres yet. The issue is one of threat to such centres because of the ;sck of reference ti integration in the bill.

    I’m sure you are a man of some sensitivity and I’m sure you’ll understandthat even a to long term treatment is worrying (if not frightening) to millions of people not just myself Why don’t you do some volunteering at your local hospital and get some more personal experience of the NHS – as a member of a local Hospital Trust I am sure you’s will make you welcome.

  20. I’m another who is still undecided about AV.

    My son is definitely “no”, despite many of the MPs he likes being in the “yes” camp.

    We could be in the silly situation where we both make the effort to vote in the referendum, he votes “no” & I vote “yes” thereby cancelling each other out. How daft is that? ;-)

  21. Amber

    You could both decide to go for a drink instead of voting. :-)

  22. @ Amber

    “How daft is that?”

    Thats democracy. Better than households where one person dictates how others should vote.

  23. OldNat

    The latest Sunday Times certainly shows the pattern you refer to:

    http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/yg-archives-pol-st-results-01-030411.pdf

    Though other regions are tied but close (a very ‘pro’ Wales may be counterbalanced by a larger (just) ‘anti’ Midlands.

    I must say that if I were running the ‘Yes’ campaign it would be under the slogan ‘It’ll have to do, till the real thing comes along’.

  24. Fingers crossed for a ‘NO’ Victory!

    I think that the cons of it definitely outweigh the pros personally.

  25. I started off firmly no, then drifted to yes and now pretty much no again. It’s just that the wasted votes in safe seats are still wasted. If only these votes could be used elsewhere. AV won’t help this problem.

    I don’t really get Milibands wide-eyed support for AV either. I recognise that he sees this as a means to alleviate the problem, such as during the 80’s, when the left vote got split and the right won easily.
    It’s just that it could happen the other way around, there’s nothing to say the centre right vote will never ever split and if so, he or his successor will have a field day, and in that case, no complaints would be heard from him or whoever else is in charge.

    The other thing is, if he is so concerned about the centre-left vote splitting, why not just elect better leaders who can draw it all together more effectively: Tony Blair didn’t need AV to win big in 1997 & 2001.
    It’s probably not that simple – but why rely on the electoral system to favour your particular party, just to cover up for mediocre leadership.

    btw I told the wife about AV – there’s a leaflet that came through the door – she’s not really into this sort of thing, but now agrees with me it’s not really PR at all, just a weird fiddle.

  26. Off topic, but Der Speigel is reporting that the IMF is privately advising the Greek government to restructure its debts – basically default.

    We’re finally approaching the denoument for the Eurozone, with Portugal about to face a bailout and Spain looking more dicey by the day. US quantitative easing ends shortly as well, and the next few weeks is going to be very tough.

  27. Actually a rather unsporting thing to report on – there’s a reason why such advice would be “private”. It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy now..

  28. A Brown

    I’d like to think that the Yes support among Scots was based on “Let’s have a 5th voting system here. The parties won’t be able to cope and we can shaft the lot of them!”

  29. My understanding is that none of the 3 main parties use FPTP and they use varying forms of AV (someone correct me if ‘m wrong). Why then should members of these parties vote against AV.

    I agree that AV is not the best system but it is certainly better than FPTP which is only valid in a two party system. IMO voting for AV will help the introduction of a more PR system at some point in the future.

  30. Peter Bell

    “IMO voting for AV will help the introduction of a more PR system at some point in the future.”

    You are talking about Westminster! Your concern for the voting system to be used by your great great great grand children is commendable.

  31. OldNat,

    sorry, as an Englishman it is only the Westminster election which is important to me.

    I am a firm believer in achieving true democracy throughout the world which is why I was posting anti-Gaddafi comments in earlier threads. Perhaps I am an idealist and it will never happen, but if you accept it won’t be achieved then it has no chance of coming to fruition.

  32. @ Amber
    I’m similar to your son, I will be voting against it for a myriad of reasons, and yet seeing all the likeable lefties support it makes me wonder if there’s something I don’t know. I support PR but there’s no more guarantee we’ll get it from this than there is if we remain with FPTP.

    @ Neil A; Peter Bell
    I was talking to a friend/soon to be Labour councillor for my ward who said while canvassing he’s came across a depressing amount of women who made it clear they voted what their husband did.

  33. …although that would account for why females when polled seem to opt for “don’t know” far more than males.

  34. It’s my first chance to vote in May (a year too late for the real thing unfortunately!) and I’m definitely leaning towards yes, because I think needing to get over 50% of some sort of vote is better than the system we have in place at the moment. You could make the argument that 49% of people might vote for one candidate as their first choice and him not win, but surely that shows the other 51% are strongly against such a candidate?

    If you can’t win over 50% of the population to some extent do you deserve to win? Plus it can let people actually vote for who they want first safe in the knowledge their wont be consigned to letting the party they hate in. How many Labour supporters exist in Lib Dem/Tory marginals? How many Lib Dem supporters exist in a Labour/Tory marginal? We just don’t really know at the moment, it could lead to us seeing the country in a totally different light.

    Of course, STV, PR etc. would probably be even better for this (although I wouldn’t want a French 2002 situation developing myself) but that’s not the question being asked on polling day is it? They’re basically asking do you want AV instead of FPTP, Yes or No? For those who don’t think AV wouldn’t lead to greater reform, wouldn’t lets say… 15% of first votes going to UKIP, or 10% to Greens or whatever, not INCREASE the chance of people going: “hang on, 25% population don’t want the big 3 parties, their should be better representation of these voters feelings, we need a better system”?

    Just how I feel.

  35. Peter Bell

    Oh, I wasn’t expecting you to be concerned with other Parliaments.

    My point was simply that Westminster is an archaic monstrosity which, in some respects, has hardly moved beyond the 17th century. If they do grudgingly change the voting system that’ll mean no more change for the next couple of hundred years. :-)

  36. Craig

    Or it could just be an easy way of getting rid of that annoying canvasser.

  37. You’d hope so, but he said many of them went and got their husband, which seems like an odd way to get rid of him.

  38. Craig

    Maybe they just wanted their husbands to suffer? :-)

    (It’s some years since I did canvassing, but I don’t ever remember coming across what your friend describes).

  39. AV doesn’t do anything for me. If it was genuine proportional representation I would vote yes, but AV isn’t even a half way house .On that baisis I will vote No.

  40. @Adrian B

    “Can someone please explain to me for AV why can not everyone’s second choice votes be counted (not just the eliminated candidates) and then simply take the winner of 1st & 2nd prefs combined (if there is no 50% winner) – am I missing something important in the maths?”

    Some other preferential systems do take into account all voters’ later preferences, not just those who preference candidates eliminated in early rounds of AV voting. However, the problem with such an approach is that it can conceivably lead to situations where casting a second preference can cause your first-choice candidate to lose, if that second-choice candidate would otherwise have been running a close second. Under AV, your own later preferences can never be the cause of the defeat of a candidate you prefer more.

    @KeithP

    It’s true that AV doesn’t eliminate “wasted votes”: no single-winner system can, and the choice we’re being offered is between two different single-winner systems, with all that entails.

    But as you already touched on, AV eliminates the spoiler effect (and the consequences of the fear of it). So a split “left” vote wouldn’t normally enable a “right-wing” candidate to win under AV, nor vice versa. It would also free people to cast a genuine #1 preference where they might otherwise feel pressured into voting tactically under FPTP – and this could enable more minor party candidates to retain their deposits and consequently allow their parties to contest more seats, which has the potential to increase voter choice.

    Also, AV has the potential to make those ‘safe seats’ you mention somewhat less safe – the reason being that (for instance) in a ‘safe’ Labour seat, an independent or unofficial Labour candidate can stand against the official candidate, and electors can vote for such candidates, without fear of enabling an opposing candidate to win in the process.

    So in that sense, I’d contest that whilst AV can’t eliminate “wasted votes”, it can go some ways to ensuring that there are fewer of them.

  41. I don’t understand those of you here who support PR and so will vote no on AV. Surely as AV is a bit closer to PR or STV this is a step in the right direction.

    Isn’t it more likely that STV or PR will be on the table in the future if we move to AV? Otherwise opponents will just say “Oh, well, when we offered the country reform they said no”. It’s taken hundreds of years to get an opportunity to change the voting system, why would you not change it if you support reform?

    Think of it this way. AV will lead to a more pluralistic system. The parties that get elected will be more in favour of reform in the long run as smaller parties get a fairer deal under reforms that go beyond AV. Therefore your wishes come closer to reality if AV comes in.

  42. @ Old Nat

    “You could both decide to go for a drink instead of voting.”

    I thought you were against drinking. :)

  43. MOTH

    In any coalition you get a situation where no-one has expressed an opinion of the Government, unless coalition candidates have stood in the election. This is why I’ve moved into the no camp. I just don’t believe the models that say AV won’t increase the likelihood of unelected coalitions in government. There are lots of technical reasons why they’re bs.

    AV wouldn’t assist the governing parties understand what was really popular either: firstly there is no indication on the ballot paper as to why you’ve voted, secondly only votes of eliminated candidates get redistributed. That’s always going to leave the votes of the second place candidate untouched.

    I would vote for a fully proportional reviewing chamber at the drop of a hat, but I want to be governed by something where my vote counts, not where only the votes of MPs count….

  44. AV is not about proportionality – it’s about acceptability.

    Everyone will have the candidate that causes the least offence to that constituency, and is the most acceptable. It is necessary as at present some constituencies may elect a right wing candidate on 40% of the vote whereas 60% of the electors are on the centre/centre/left.

    It also encourages small parties to stand as voters with , say, green sympathies could vote Green 1 then the party that is “greener” of the rest as 2 and so forth. It is a really effectiive system for ensuring that MP’s genuinely have the support of their constituents. It will mean far fewer safe seats – more potential for independents. It will remove the fear factor in voting. It will end the travesty of tactical voting which I had done in all elections until 2010 to “keep the tory out”.

    It will ensure that the first preference votes are a genuine reflection of the relative national suppport of each of the parties – at present the constituency make-ups often distort them.

    You can’t seriously vote “NO” fptp is a mockery of a system.

    Ideally if one wishes to ensure proportionality (I personally am not that convinced of the need for proportionality) AV could also include a list system alongside to rectify the imbalances of the system. (AV+)

    STV is awful. It is hideously complex and penalises the largest party falling short of a majority as deals between smaller parties to exclude the largest party gives them greater powers thereby disenfranchising those who support the bigger parties. ( To win under STV you need to lose – see Scottish councils for the travesties that that system creates). If you must have STV then you need a directly elected leader of the organisation ( elected under AV obviously) who then appoints the administration to guarantee legitimacy.

  45. For me AV does nothing towards achieving improved democracy in the UK.

    In my constituency, it’s a two-horse race between Lab and Con. The rest are no-shows. If AV were in place I would only vote Lab.

    Why should voters in my constituency and elsewhere have two or more votes to decide the outcome of an election?

    I don’t rule out other electoral change e.g. to PR.

    EM is in favour of AV. I have no prob with that. And indeed even if the No votes win, EM supporting AV surely sends a positive message to the LDs – the Cons want to retain FPTP but Lab (EM) is willing to embrace electoral reform.

  46. @ Peter Bell

    “sorry, as an Englishman it is only the Westminster election which is important to me.

    I am a firm believer in achieving true democracy throughout the world which is why I was posting anti-Gaddafi comments in earlier threads. Perhaps I am an idealist and it will never happen, but if you accept it won’t be achieved then it has no chance of coming to fruition.”

    I share your attitude. If you adhere to negativity, negativity will result. I’m an idealist to some degree myself. But only to a degree. Because I envision that the day when every country is a full fledged democracy, we have peace on earth, and everyone sings “kumbaya”, that’s when the aliens are going to show up in flying saucers or battle spaceships and start attacking us. But hopefully that will be long after my lifetime.

    @ Old Nat

    “(It’s some years since I did canvassing, but I don’t ever remember coming across what your friend describes).”

    Canvassing is the worst. And if you’ve ever done it in the south, it can be scary because you always have to worry about coming across the wrong house and being shot at. I think non-political people of both genders tend to vote how their spouses or kids want. For example, there have been a number of elections (usually inconsequential) where I have filled out my mom’s ballot for her. It was her choice. A number of elections, she’s asked me for advice on who to vote for. I also think if women simply voted the way their husbands wanted them too, it wouldn’t explain the gender gaps we see that pop up all over the world.

    Of course filling out the ballots of others doesn’t always work. I remember one year where I managed to get my entire family to vote for a candidate who none of them were going to vote for who was a total underdog in the race. And she lost narrowly statewide but lost my county 2-1 (accounting for her defeat overall) notwithstanding my work at filling out ballots for family members. Lol.

  47. @ Mike N

    “For me AV does nothing towards achieving improved democracy in the UK.

    In my constituency, it’s a two-horse race between Lab and Con. The rest are no-shows. If AV were in place I would only vote Lab.

    Why should voters in my constituency and elsewhere have two or more votes to decide the outcome of an election?

    I don’t rule out other electoral change e.g. to PR.

    EM is in favour of AV. I have no prob with that. And indeed even if the No votes win, EM supporting AV surely sends a positive message to the LDs – the Cons want to retain FPTP but Lab (EM) is willing to embrace electoral reform.”

    This brings up why I don’t like AV (and I am very uncomfortable with some experimentation currently going on in Hawaii and Alameda County with AV). Why should Labour voters and Tory voters be expected to cast votes for second parties they don’t like or care for? In your constituency, a voter for any other party (whether it’s the Lib Dems or Monster Raving Loonies or whoever) gets to basically cast more than one vote. They vote for who they want but then get to vote for who they might also like. It kind of values those voters and their interests over the interests of others. My feeling is, if you pick a candidate, you should stick with that candidate.

  48. SocalLiberal,
    In the system being proposed in the UK, voters will not be forced to rank all the candidates – if you dont want to vote for anyone else, you dont have to.

    The flip side of that is that potentially someone could win with less than 50% of the vote, as there may be some votes that cant be transferred.

  49. KeithP

    “It’s just that the wasted votes in safe seats are still wasted. If only these votes could be used elsewhere. AV won’t help this problem.”

    AV reduces the number of safe seats – particularly those where the same party wins each time but on 30% – 40% of the vote. AV helps with the problem even though it doesn’t completely solve it.

  50. @Adrian B

    “Can someone please explain to me for AV why can not everyone’s second choice votes be counted (not just the eliminated candidates)”

    AV lets you have 1 vote only. That vote goes to your highest placed preference who is still in with a chance of winning. Only if your preference is knocked out does your 1 vote move to your next preference. If your 1st preference wins, your 1 vote is counted for this candidate in every round. Be happy, your guy won! If your first choice wins, why do you care about your 2nd choice?

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