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11 February 2011

Will the royal wedding create a “Yes mood” for the pro-AV campaign?

The Yes to AV campaign reportedly plans to capitalise on the royal wedding – but this tactic is unli

By Samira Shackle

 

The Yes to AV campaign is planning to capitalise on the royal wedding, which will take place six days before the referendum on changing Britain’s voting system.

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The Guardian reports today that the Yes campaign will argue that it is “a time to be optimistic and say yes”. The paper quotes a source saying:

We will put all the arguments, but around the wedding it will be a coming-into-summer, more optimistic, more of a Yes mood. The no camp will throw everything at us – that is the nature of a No campaign, it will be “if in doubt vote No”.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding on 29 April – ahead of the referendum on 5 May – has widely been seen as a problem, as the media interest will make it difficult to capture public attention for electoral reform.

According to some estimates, turnout could be as low as 35 per cent. This is more problematic for the Yes campaign, which has to motivate people to go out and vote against the status quo.

Is there any merit in this idea? Psychological research indicates that negative attitudes motivate people to take action more than positive attitudes – meaning that the Yes campaign has a harder mission from the start. An American study looking at the effects of positive versus negative messages in personal mobilisation found that message tone made no difference to voter turnout or favourability.

Rather than dwelling on the royal wedding, the Yes campaign would perhaps be better advised to explore ways of explaining AV to the public. A YouGov poll for the Constitution Society in September found that only 33 per cent said they understood AV; 35 per cent had heard of it but were “not sure how it works”, while 32 per cent hadn’t heard of it.

And as my colleague George Eaton pointed out, the Yes campaign is struggling to drum up much enthusiastic support, even among its own ranks. Unless these problems are addressed first, a “positive atmosphere” will do little to help.

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