No to AV campaign heading for victory, new poll shows

A New Statesman/ICD poll on the Alternative Vote referendum puts the No campaign 14 points ahead.

The public are set to reject the Alternative Vote (AV) in next week's referendum as support for the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system remains robust, according to a New Statesman/ICD poll.

With just a week to go until the vote, the survey gives the No camp a 14-point lead, suggesting that the Yes campaign is running out of time to convince the public to back reform. Among those who say they are certain to vote in the referendum, the poll shows 53 per cent saying No and 39 saying Yes, with 8.7 per cent still undecided. Among all respondents, the No campaign leads by 46 per cent to 34 per cent, with 17 per cent saying they don't know.


The poll shows that while Liberal Democrat voters are overwhelmingly in favour of reform (66 per cent to 26 per cent) and Conservative voters are overwhelmingly opposed (76 per cent to 19 per cent), Labour voters remain divided, with 47 per cent backing FPTP No and 41 per cent backing AV.

The findings suggest that the latter could yet swing the result in the Yes campaign's favour. Earlier this week the Labour Yes campaign released a new poster urging the party's voters to "wipe the smile" off David Cameron and George Osborne's faces by supporting AV.



Supporters of the Green Party, which is calling for a Yes vote, back AV by 63 per cent to 20 per cent but supporters of the UK Independence Party, which also favours a Yes vote, oppose AV by 64 per cent to 35 per cent. The British National Party, which both sides have claimed would suffer under their system of choice, is calling for a No vote but its supporters back AV by 72 to 18 per cent.

The survey also shows that large numbers of young voters remain undecided. Among those aged 18-24, who say they are certain to vote, 12 per cent say they don't know which way they will vote. Young voters currently back AV by 59 per cent to 29 per cent, suggesting that the Yes campaign has the potential to increase its support among this demographic.

However, hopes that Scottish and Welsh voters, who currently use the proportional Additional Member System for devolved elections, will vote Yes in large numbers appear to be unfounded. Among those who are certain to vote, Scottish voters currently oppose AV by 50 per cent to 30 per cent and Welsh voters currently oppose AV by 56 per cent to 26 per cent.

In London, where there are no local elections this year, the two sides are neck and neck, with 46 per cent of people planning to vote Yes and 46 per cent planning to vote No.

Datasets: all respondents and certain to vote.

Study carried out by ICD Research, powered by the IDFactor, from April 22nd to April 25th, across an un-weighted sample of 3,467 responses. Final data was weighted to be reflective of UK population aged 18+ by age, gender and region.

ICD Research is a full service market research agency, which in partnership with its sister company the IDFactor owns, manages and builds consumer and B2B panels. To find out more about ICD Research and the IDFactor, visit their websites at and

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Can Trident be hacked?

A former defence secretary has warned that Trident is vulnerable to cyber attacks. Is it?

What if, in the event of a destructive nuclear war, the prime minister goes to press the red button and it just doesn't work? 

This was the question raised by Des Browne, a former defence secretary, in an interview witht the Guardian this week. His argument, based on a report from the defence science board of the US Department of Defense, is that the UK's Trident nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to cyberattacks, and therefore rendered useless if hacked. 

Browne called for an "end-to-end" assessment of the system's cybersecurity: 

 The government ... have an obligation to assure parliament that all of the systems of the nuclear deterrent have been assessed end-to-end against cyber attacks to understand possible weak spots and that those weak spots are protected against a high-tier cyber threat. If they are unable to do that then there is no guarantee that we will have a reliable deterrent or the prime minister will be able to use this system when he needs to reach for it.

Is he right? Should we really be worried about Trident's potential cyber weaknesses?

Tangled webs 

The first, crucial thing to note is that Trident is not connected to the "internet" we use every day. Sure, it's connected to the main Ministry of Defence network, but this operates totally independently of the network that you visit Facebook through. In cyber-security terms, this means the network is "air-gapped" - it's isolated from other systems that could be less secure. 

In our minds, Trident is old and needs replacing (the submarines began patrolling in the 1990s), but any strike would be ordered and co-ordinated from Northwood, a military bunker 100m underground which would use the same modern networks as the rest of the MoD. Trident is basically as secure as the rest of the MoD. 

What the MoD said

I asked the Ministry of Defence for a statement on Trident's security, and while it obviously can't offer much information about how it all actually works, a spokesperson confirmed that the system is air-gapped and added: 

We wouldn't comment on the detail of our security arrangements for the nuclear deterrent but we can and do safeguard it from all threats including cyber.

What security experts said

Security experts agree that an air-gapped system tends to be more secure than one connected to the internet. Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-secure, told Infosecurity magazine that while some hackers have been able to "jump" air-gaps using code, this would cause "interference" at most and a major attack of this kind is still "a long way off". 

Franklin Miller, a former White House defence policy offer, told the Guardian that the original report cited by Browne was actually formulated in response to suggestions that some US defence networks should be connected to the internet. In that case, it actually represents an argument in favour of the type of air-gapped system used by the MoD. 

So... can it be hacked?

The answer is really that any system could be hacked, but a specialised, independent defence network is very, very unlikely to be. If a successful hack did happen, it would likely affect all aspects of defence, not just Trident. That doesn't mean that every effort shouldn't be made to make sure the MoD is using the most secure system possible, but it also means that scaremongering in the context of other, unrelated cybersecurity scares is a little unjustified. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.