NO campaign edges ahead

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
April 13, 2011, 6:20 PM GMT+0

The latest YouGov poll on the AV referendum shows the NO campaign ahead for the first time when we have asked people just the bare referendum question.

Since last summer when the Coalition first agreed to hold a referendum on AV, we've been asking a regular fortnightly question explaining to people what the First Past the Post and Alternative Vote systems are, and asking how they might vote in the referendum. While this initially showed the Alternative Vote to be more popular, since last autumn it has shown a steady lead for First Past the Post.

However, until now whenever we have asked voting intention in the AV referendum without explaining to people what the two electoral systems were, we found the YES campaign ahead, suggesting that as people became more familiar with the electoral systems on offer, they were more likely to vote No. Another polling company, Populus, have done similar experiments with a split sample and found the same pattern.

The latest YouGov polls show the following:

With just the referendum question (weighted by likelihood to vote*):

YES 37%, NO 44%, Don't know 19%

With an explanation of the two electoral systems (not weighted by likelihood to vote):

YES 33%, NO 45%, Don't know 15%, Wouldn't vote 6%

(*Our referendum question is also weighted by likelihood to vote, but this only changes the "no" lead by 1 point)

A few weeks ago we were showing a 3 point lead for YES in the bare referendum question, but a 13 point lead for NO in the question explaining the systems. While the answer to the prompted question has barely changed at all, the answer we get when asking people just the referendum question has shifted signficantly towards NO. Telling people about the systems is now making much less difference to the answer - presumably because increased media coverage and a ramping up of the campaigns means that more and more people already have their own understanding of what the two electoral systems consist of.

With three weeks to go until the referendum, NO is starting to inch ahead, though as ever, this is just one poll, and there is plenty of time for things to change.

See our AV referendum tracker
See our referendum question without an explanation of the two voting systems
See our referendum question with an explanation of the two voting systems