11 February 2011

No2AV are Quoting Irrelavent Australian Polling

The No2AV campaign are circulating the findings from an Australian opinion poll commissioned by the right-wing Insitute of Public Affairs. On the face of it, the findings are devastating for the Yes campaign:

More than half of Australians would support FPTP, according to a Newspoll. Only 37% favoured the current preferential system. #no2av
Bad news? Not exactly.

If you've been following the AV referendum polling done in the UK, you'll be aware that the wording used in the question can significantly alter the outcome.

This is the question [pdf] as asked by Newspoll. The emphasis in bold is theirs, not mine*:

Currently, elections for the Federal House of Representatives, or lower house, use a preferential voting system. This is where voters indicate an order of preferences for all candidates, and these preferences are taken into account when deciding which candidate wins. (PAUSE). An alternative system would be "first past the post", where voters only vote for one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. Would you personally prefer…?

1. A preferential system,
2. A first past the post system
The form of AV preferential system used in Australia forces voters to indicate a preference for every single voter. The form of AV that will could be used here in the UK won't have this feature. You will be able to indicate a preference for as many or as few candidates as you like.

Given that we won't "indicate an order of preferences for all candidates" if AV is adopted, it is wrong to suggest a poll that asks about an system where voters "indicate an order of preferences for all candidates" is relevant to our decision.

* I have quoted the question's text exactly as written and formatted in the poll's report. The poll was conducted over the telephone, so was read out by "fully trained and personally briefed interviewers". It is clear that the words emphasised in bold are intended to be emphasised when read out by the interviewer.

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