Who cares about AV?

Will the referendum on changing our electoral system really be a damp squib? Our research suggests it might be.

Boris Johnson has warned that the referendum on the Alternative Vote in May threatens to be “damp squib”. Polling by Ipsos for Reuters suggests the Mayor of London may be right - the referendum has barely registered with the public. The one issue concerning more people than anything else is the economy – three in five Britons see it as an important issue facing the country – and a quarter (28%) are concerned about unemployment. With these issues dominating concerns it is hardly surprising that constitutional and political reform is only mentioned by 1% of the population. Although we are still two and a half months away from polling day, less than half of the public currently say they are certain to vote in the referendum and one in five don’t know which way they will eventually vote. Even among those who say they definitely will cast a vote, one in ten don’t know if they support the Yes or No campaign. As a supporter of the “No to AV” campaign, Mr Johnson will be not be best pleased to see that the “Yes” campaign is ahead in the Reuters/Ipsos Political Monitor. Among all those certain to vote, half (49%) support adopting the Alternative Vote system while 37% are against it. Half (49%) of those who are dissatisfied with the government are in favour of AV while only three in ten of those satisfied support the change. Given that around three in five people are unhappy with the Coalition government this something that the Yes campaign would do well to exploit. Although the campaigns will however, need to choose their spokespeople well. Nick Clegg is the least popular party leader while it appears that the public dislike Ed Miliband the more they get to know him. It almost goes without saying that support for AV is strongest among Liberal Democrats (60%) and Labour supporters (53%) while just 22% of Conservatives support the change of electoral system. If the Yes campaign is to succeed it will need to have a strong “get out the vote” operation. Young people are the most likely to say they would vote Yes, but they are notoriously bad at actually turning out to vote – at the General Election in May less than half of 18-24 year olds actually voted.

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