Wednesday, 20 April 2011

AV referendum: why the "antis" are winning

Today, the new YouGov poll on the AV referendum shows that the “no” camp has opened up a 16% lead amongst those most likely to vote.

Yesterday, the latest Guardian – ICM poll also gave the “antis” a 16% lead. In February, the supporters of change were narrowly (2%) ahead.

When you look at the detailed figures, the reasons aren’t difficult to discern. First, opposition to change from Conservative and Labour voters has hardened. Let’s start with ICM*. In February, Tory supporters wanted to keep first past the post by a 44% margin. That margin has now swelled, to 54%. Conservatives don’t love coalitions and want to reduce the risk of such a thing ever happening again.

Back in February, Labour voters said “yes”, by a 4% margin. But now they are saying “no”, by a 6% margin. It looks as if their temptation to give Nick Clegg a kicking is proving too great, even if Labour will have a steeper hill to climb when future first past the post elections are held under new electoral boundaries.

Lib Dem voters still overwhelmingly back change (71%-29%). But even amongst this group, net support for AV has dropped by 10%.

Second, the older voters become, the less likely they are to want a new voting system. ICM* says that 52% of 18-24 year olds support AV, compared to 45% of 35-64 year olds and 25% of those aged 65 or over. This trend has become more pronounced since February. Voters in the older age groups are twice as likely to vote as those in the 18-24 year old group – another tendency that has firmed up over the last two months.

YouGov asked different questions in February and April, and they have only just started weighting for turnout, which makes direct comparisons difficult. In February**, they showed Tory voters wanting to keep first past the post, by a 42% margin. In April, that figure had grown, to 62%. But unlike ICM, YouGov says that Labour supporters are now evenly divided whereas back in February, they preferred the status quo, by a 9% margin.

For months, YouGov have also found that older voters are more likely to prefer first past the post, and to vote in the referendum.

Perhaps it’s time for the “Yes” campaign to revive “Ralph’s story”, still the most compelling piece of storytelling they have come up with.

YouGov** have come up with another interesting finding: whereas men would vote no by an 8% margin, women would do so by a 19% margin. But 27% of women are undecided, compared to only 14% of men.

ICM’s figures*** also show a gender gap. They find that men would vote no, by a 13% margin but for women the margin is 18%. But women (28%) are more likely to be undecided than men (17%).

In February, ICM*** found that men would vote no, by a 3% margin, but that women would vote yes by a 3% margin. Women swung against AV as the number who are undecided fell by 6%.

As for YouGov, their figures** suggest that women were inclined to vote “no” than in February and that they are more likely to do so now.

To summarise: the “no” campaign is doing the best job of getting its messages across. They have been especially successful at consolidating their base amongst Conservative supporters and older voters. And they are doing a good job of deterring women voters from supporting AV.

*These ICM figures are based on all voters expressing a preference, turnout weighted.

**These YouGov figures are for all respondents, not adjusted for likelihood to vote.

***These ICM figures are for all respondents, not turnout weighted.


Edis said...

Interesting. To note however that this is the Yougov-Sun poll. On Yougovs own site its own 20 April published poll shows support for AV surging and the figures neck and neck. I think the pollsters really dont know how to weigh their samples on this one and we will see projections all over the place.

Neil Stockley said...


Thanks. The latest YouGov poll on AV that I can find on their website is the You Gov-Sun poll, for which the fieldwork was done on 18-19 April.

burkesworks said...

You're not thinking of the TNS/BMRB poll that Anthony mentioned on ukpollingreport, are you? The fieldwork was done at the same time and the numbers look more encouraging, though there's still plenty of work to do;

Details here (.pdf file)