YouGov finds 42%-28% support for House of Commons electoral reform

Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Tube Station - CC0 Public Domain

I’ve often commented that electoral reform is one several topics where the exact question wording can make a noticeable difference to the results of a poll (and which is a sign of how it’s a topic on which public opinion is liable to change in response to campaigning).

So following my coverage a few days ago of a Number Cruncher poll showing support for electoral reform by 52%-17%, here’s another recent one from YouGov on electoral reform for the House of Commons:

Some people support a change in the British voting system to proportional representation, where the number of MPs a party wins more closely reflects the share of the vote they receive. Other people support retaining our present voting system, First Past the Post, which is more likely to give one party an overall majority in the House of Commons and avoid a hung Parliament. Which voting system would you prefer?

28% First past the post, which is more likely to give one party an overall majority
42% Proportional representation, where the number of MPs parties win will more closely match their share of the vote

Different wording, different figures but same broad picture: support for first past the post is, ironically enough given the way it works, a minority sport in the UK.

8 responses to “YouGov finds 42%-28% support for House of Commons electoral reform”

  1. For people to understand PR it has to be explained in simple terms AND constantly pushed.Also we do have to counteract the arguements that will be pushed thru the media against PR. To sell PR would it not be a good idea to compare and contrast in simple language the differences in our publicity.

  2. agree with Nigel but would also promote the main difference from the voter’s point of view:
    under the present system you are backing a horse(and the rider, and the colour of his/her shirt). and at any race track the bookie always wins, and the sponsor does nicely too..
    under PR you the voter are choosing the person you think best to suit your area and putting the candidates in order of your preference. Which one sounds more like democracy.?

  3. It is clear that our support for PR should be a strong theme in LibDems’ next election campaign, Progressive Alliance or not. No longer a nerdish niche, but simply what the majority of people want.
    And we should make the point strongly that the last three elections produced majorities in parliament which were the opposite of the majority in the country – hence out-of-touch and deeply incompetent governments.
    The Cameron, May and Johnson governments produced by the 15, 17 and 19 elections have a strong claim to be the three worst governments in our history.

  4. I agree with all the three pervious comments. But when we advocate electoral reform please make it abundantly clear that we not only want a proportional electoral system, but the Lib-Dems reasonably proportional choice: STV. Pure PR, as used in e.g. Israel, has major disadvantages, such as no constituency representation, list systems generally manipulated by party managers without the electorate having any say in the choice of candidates, and the encouragement of tiny extreme parties that are given grossly excessive and disproportionate power. I am not at all sure I would prefer that to FPTP. For heaven’s sake, let’s not have a re-run of the AV referendum debacle.

  5. I am a very strong supporter of electoral reform but believe it is too easy for its proponents to get bogged down in arguing over the merits of the different voting systems. To the casual observer who is inclined to support PR but doesn’t feel very strongly about it, that’s a real turn-off. I don’t think the Jenkins Report did PR any favours, sadly; I felt that at the time.We may need to accept that the best form of PR might be something straightforward that isn’t completely proportional.

    In the US, the States of New York and Maine are moving over to what they call ranked-choice voting – in effect, instant runoff; both states are using it for national elections, and New York City is using it for the Mayoral elections this year. A number of other States are using it for local elections. It’s not truly proportional. But it still stops people waltzing into power with 37% of the votes cast and only 24% of those registered to vote, as Cameron did. Also, unless you can get 50% of the vote on first preferences, you’re going to need some second or third preferences; so you can’t win by manipulating a tiny swing vote and ignoring the issues that matter to everyone else. We saw this in the NY Mayoral primaries, where one Democratic candidate got the largest number of first preferences – but not 50%, so needed second preferences to clinch the nomination. And people understood the system and made it work (despite some well-publicized screw-ups by the New York Board of Elections; but that’s another story!).

    I hope we can go that way. It’s far from perfect (and I realize voters rejected something very similar in 2011). But if we start bombarding the electorate with the D’Hondt Method, party lists and multi-member constituencies, I think their eyes are going to glaze over.

    • Richard Burnett-Hall, beggars can’t be choosers! I’ve supported PR since I witnessed Mrs Thatcher’s absurd landslide ‘win’ in 1983 as a ten year old seeing his first election in this country and subsequent even more disproportional ‘wins’ such as Blairs in 1997 have confirmed me in my belief this archaic system has to go.

      However, the fact is the British electorate do seem to find single member constituencies an attractive
      feature of the present system and we did vote against the idea of ranked ordering of candidates in the AV referendum of 2011.

      STV needs to use both ranked ordering of candidates AND multi-member constituencies in order to work. This is a huge change from the system as it is today and might well prove to be too much of a change for people to accept. For multiple elected positions as parliament is composed of as compared with single positions such as PCCs and mayors it seems as if there is an inherent suspicion on the part of many for ranked ordering of candidates/preference voting.

      An easier system to sell to the British would probably be Germany’s Mixed Member PR with its FPTP single member seats (a familiar element retained) and PR regional top-up lists though I would approve of and expect a British version of it would incorporate ‘open’ regional lists as opposed to Germany’s closed ones and a small threshold of 3-5% to deter people from voting for tiny micro parties with the risk they get elected in too large numbers and bung-up the parliament thereby making stable and effective governments hard to form.

  6. STV does have some merits especially when compared to FPTP but as very much a candidate centred system of PR its most appropriate place to me and I suspect others would be to elect a House of Lords/Senate.

    Because of its candidate centred rather than party centred nature like other PR systems it would hopefully encourage the election of independents to an elected upper chamber rather than party political figures.

    I think the Liberal Democrats should push for PR more than they do presently though I do understand there is some reluctance to do this as it can make a party look like ‘bad losers’ etc but I think you should change the party’s policy towards supporting the underlying principle of fair votes more rather than being so much in favour of only STV for the House of Commons.

    You can still say you prefer that particular system but the policy should be you are in favour of PR generally-speaking and that if you were the government you would allow the British people to have a choice of PR systems in a referendum. I believe that policy would widen the support for what many would say is the best policy stance of the party.

  7. Indeed, Tim Johnson. As you say, a very strong case can be made for the fact that Britain using this atrociously unfair and archaic electoral system with its inbuilt design fault of ‘wasting’ millions upon millions of votes (as many as 45% or so of votes were cast for unelected candidates) in 2019 is responsible for bad and incompetent governments finding it easy to ‘win’ elections and preside over national calamities eg our response to Covid-19.

    Put simply, this FPTP electoral system ‘wastes’ so many votes by systematically dumping them into the nearest waste paper basket that it doesn’t provide real incentives for parties that will show even the most basic form of competence to be elected as administrations.

    Tories quite rightly say competition can drive up standards in the world of business and make companies more responsive to consumers so so why do they have a profound problem with fairer electoral systems doing that in the political sphere?

    Answers on a postcard to Tory Central Office! Forgive my cynicism here!

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