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14 April 2011

Voters like AV, but only once they’ve tried it

A new poll gives the Yes camp a 12-point lead.

By Richard Darlington

With three weeks to go before the referendum, a poll out today shows the biggest lead for Yes2AV this year. The YouGov poll, commissioned by IPPR, shows a 12-point lead with 45 per cent saying they will vote Yes. But the result came after voters had the chance to take part in a mock election conducting under the Alternative Vote. It seems that voters like AV more once they’ve tried it.

Most polls on AV have shown that about a third of voters “don’t know”. But the poll conducted after getting people to give it a try had just 17 per cent undecided. Yet maybe the “don’t know” camp in the forthcoming election would be better referred to as the “don’t care” camp. This latest YouGov poll shows 59 per cent of people say that AV is either “fairly” or “very easy” to understand.

The findings from the mock AV ballot showed that the Liberal Democrats are likely to pick up most second preferences (23 per cent). More than a third of Conservatives (34 per cent) would pick the Liberal Democrats as their second preference, with a similar percentage of Liberal Democrats (37 per cent) reciprocating. Other parties, such as the Greens (17 per cent) and Ukip (13 per cent), would attract significant second-preference support as well.

Unlike Ukip and the Greens – whose second preferences will change the outcome in some seats – the BNP picks up only 3 per cent of second preferences. IPPR analysis reported by Channel 4’s FactCheck shows that BNP voters cannot single-handedly change the result in any seat under AV. Indeed, the BNP’s deputy chairman tells Channel 4: “We are never going to get our feet under the table under the AV system.”

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On Monday, IPPR will publish a report assessing the Alternative Vote system, authored by Guy Lodge and Glenn Gottfried, completing their analysis of what’s on offer in the referendum. It follows their damning assessment of first-past-the-post, published at the turn of the year, showing that the last election was decided in just 111 constituencies by fewer than 460,000 voters, just or 1.6 per cent of the electorate.

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Richard Darlington is head of news at IPPR.