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Voters support electoral reform but dislike hung parliaments

Is this finding as contradictory as it seems?

By George Eaton

A new ComRes poll in this morning’s Independent has the Tories on 37 per cent (-1), Labour on 33 per cent (-1) and the Liberal Democrats on 21 per cent (-1). So not much change there.

But much more interesting, as ConservativeHome’s Jonathan Isaby points out, are the supplementary questions on electoral reform and hung parliaments.

An impressive 78 per cent of voters now support replacing first-past-the-post with a system that “reflects more accurately the proportion of votes cast for each party”. But, in what Isaby describes as a “contradictory” finding, 72 per cent of voters agree that the “political horse-trading” which followed the election showed that an outright win is much more desirable than a hung parliament.

So, is this an example of voters’ collective cognitive dissonance? Not necessarily. For a start, it’s worth noting the use of the highly pejorative term “horse-trading”. Had an alternative term such as negotiations been used, I’d wager that far fewer voters would have been opposed to hung parliaments.

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It’s also false to claim, as Isaby does, that electoral reform would “institutionalise hung parliaments”. Under certain conditions, the Alternative Vote system (the question was not on proportional representation) can produce more proportional outcomes than first-past-the-post, while still handing one party an overall majority. Others, of course, may not realise that PR would produce more hung parliaments.

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But either way, for now, it looks like first-past-the-past is destined for the dustbin of history.

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