What electoral reform proposals would Britons support?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 04, 2024, 1:49 PM GMT+0

Automatic voter registration is widely supported across the board

Millions of voters across the UK will be making their way to the polling stations today. The way in which elections are conducted has changed numerous times over the decades, and there are many proposals for ways in which they should change in future.

So what forms of electoral reform would Britons back?

Support is greatest for automatically registering people to vote once they become eligible, with a large majority (81%) giving their blessing.

There is also majority support (54%) for changing the voting system from first past the post to proportional representation. Only 16% are opposed.

Our website tracker finds a narrower gap on this question, at 45% preferring proportional representation to 26% for first past the post. This could be down to methodological differences – the website tracker question asks respondents to pick between the two systems, and also provides a brief summary of the impact each would have.

There is also more support than opposition for making voting day a bank holiday, as is the case in some other countries like Israel and South Korea. Half (51%) would support election day being a public holiday, compared to 32% who would be opposed.

Far less popular is the prospect of moving election day to the weekend – a practice which is common in other countries. Only 35% would support holding general elections on Saturdays or Sundays, with 38% opposed and 27% unsure.

Allowing people to vote online proves divisive, with 47% supportive but 44% opposed.

Introducing compulsory voting proves unpopular overall, with 41% in favour but 52% against, as is reducing the voting age to 16, which 35% would back but 57% would not.

How does support for electoral reform differ by party?

Some of these proposals for reform are greeted similar across parties, while others divide opinion.

Automatically registering people to vote is popular with the large majority of voters across the main five national parties (74-94%).

Proposals for compulsory voting are equally divisive to voters of all parties. Bringing election day to the weekend is also divisive across all parties, with the Conservatives slightly more likely to be opposed.

Opinion differs greatly when it comes to lowering the voting age, with Conservative and Reform UK voters strongly opposed (72-75%), while a majority of Labour and Green voters are supportive (56-59%).

Proportional representation likewise proves far less popular with Conservative voters (38%) than everyone else (59-72%). Tory voters are also much less likely to support making election day a public holiday (35%) than other parties, with the Greens being most likely at 72%.

Full tables coming shortly

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Photo: Getty