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.

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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.

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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 www.icd-research.com and www.theidfactor.com

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.