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ICM referendum poll has “Yes” winning by a big margin

December 8th, 2010
If the AV referendum was held tomorrow how would you vote? (ICM) ALL polled CON identifiers LAB identifiers LD identifiers
Would vote YES for voting system to change to AV 35 26 38 68
Would vote NO to keep existing system 22 39 21 6
Don’t know/wouldn’t vote 44 35 40 25

Who has got this right – ICM or YouGov?

There’s a new ICM poll, commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society, on next May’s AV referendum which gives a very different picture from the latest survey on the issue by the online pollster, YouGov.

That was taken at the end of November and had 35% saying YES to 41% saying NO which is dramatically different from the ICM findings above.

YouGov, of course, is an online pollster and restricts its samples to members of its polling panel on whom it has a lot of stored data. ICM, of course, is a phone pollster but that hardly explains the huge gap between the two surveys.

The questions, of course were different. ICM’s, which is read out to the interviewee over the phone, was “A referendum is due to be held in May 2011 on adopting a new voting system for British parliamentary elections. The proposed new system is called the Alternative Vote (AV), If the referendum on AV were held tomorrow how would you vote?”

The YouGov question appears on the online screen and had “The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government are committed to holding a referendum on changing the electoral system from first-past-thepost (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV) At the moment, under first-past-the-post (FPTP), voters select ONE candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. It has been suggested that this system should be replaced by the Alternative Vote (AV). Voters would RANK a number of candidates from a list. If a candidates wins more than half of the ‘1st’ votes, a winner is declared. If not, the least popular candidates are eliminated from the contest, and their supporters’ subsequent preferences counted and shared accordingly between the remaining candidates. This process continues until an outright winner is declared. If a referendum were held tomorrow on whether to stick with first-past-the-post or switch to the Alternative Vote for electing MPs, how would you vote?”

Looking at the two I wonder whether the YouGov responses have been influenced by the preamble that “Conservative-Liberal Democrat government are committed to holding a referendum…” and might be the reason why Labour identifiers split by 34 to 49 against change. That compared with the ICM Labour split of 38 to 21 in favour of yes.

Whatever the ICM survey will provide some good news for those wanting change particularly the LDs.

Mike Smithson