By Jonathan Isaby
During the course of the AV referendum campaign over the last couple of months, numerous supporters of the Yes campaign have variously claimed that polls which give a cursory explanation of the system before asking the voter whether they support AV – which have generally shown larger numbers opposing the change – are a "complete misrepresentation", "loaded" or "flawed".
So what's this?
The IPPR think tank – which as recently as eleven months ago still believed that "AV is not the answer" – has commissioned a YouGov poll of its own, claiming there is a 12-point lead for the Yes campaign just a day after the regular YouGov poll found a 7-point lead for the No campaign.
And is the IPPR-commissioned survey a straightforward poll asking a straightforward question?
It's anything but. In the IPPR's own words, it gave participants "the chance to take part in a mock AV ballot, using their alternative preferences" and then "asked people a number of detailed questions about their understanding of electoral systems and their concerns about the strengths and weaknesses of these systems".
Mark Gettleson of PoliticsHome has lifted the lid on what was involved.
"Today's poll asks 15 questions on AV, 14 of which discuss different voting systems and possible consequences – at the end of this volley, the poll asks AV voting intention question, as it appears on the ballot."
Among these 14 questions, are the following…
Which of these would you prefer?
A voting system in which extremist parties have a good chance of winning seats in a general or local election if they have the support of around one-third of local voters
A voting system which makes it very hard for extremist parties to win seats in a general or local election unless they have majority local support
Which of these would you prefer?
A voting system which encourages parties to have clear and distinct policies, and not to compromise
A voting system which encourages parties to reach out to voters as widely as possible, and to compromise when necessary
In the past have you ever engaged in 'tactical voting' in a general election – that is, voted for a party not because you liked it, or its candidate, best, but because you felt that your favourite party could not win in your area?
Yes, I have voted for my second choice party/candidate at least once
No, I have always voted for my favourite party/candidate
Do you agree or disagree with these statements:
“There would be less ‘tactical voting’ under AV, because people could give the party/candidate they like best their first preference, knowing that their second preference will count if their favourite candidate has only a little support.”
“I would be more likely to vote in an election held under AV because I would be able to express my preference for more than one party/candidate.”
The poll does not seem to be weighted by likelihood to vote (I am happy to be corrected on this), in an election which, as we discussed last week, will be determined by turnout.
Matthew Elliott, Campaign Director of NO to AV, has accused the IPPR of indulging in "push polling" to get the answers they want and provide a bogus result:
“Although the IPPR have not released the full details of their push poll, it is now clear that these results are completely bogus and should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. It is a sign of desperation from the Yes to AV campaign and their supporters that they need to stoop to such unseemly tactics.”
In response, Nick Pearce, the IPPR's Director, said:
"The No campaign are shooting the messenger. The full results will be released by YouGov in due course in the normal way. As our press release makes clear, we are explicit that this is the first national poll that asks the referendum question after asking participants a number of detailed questions about their understanding of the way AV works and after asking them to take part in a 'mock AV ballot'. It shows that the more people learn about AV, the more they support change. Campaigners on both sides have everything to play for between now and May 5th."