Our latest figures on voting intention in the referendum on the Alternative Vote show a significant narrowing of the No campaign's lead, with the Yes and No campaigns now virtually neck and neck. In this week's poll 39% said they would vote in keep First Past the Post, 38% would vote to switch to the Alternative Vote.
YouGov has been asking voting intention in the AV referendum regularly since June 2010. Initially, we found a strong lead for the Yes campaign, but this declined throughout last year, largely due to Labour supporters, who, while initially pro-AV, were moving against it. By September last year, our tracker was showing a consistent lead for the NO campaign and our polls in January continuing to show a healthy nine point lead for the No campaign. This week's polling therefore represents not just a much lower lead for the No campaign, but a reversal of the previous trend.
To rule out the chance that this is just an unusual sample or a rogue poll we re-ran the question last night and found the same result - a lead of just 1 point for the No campaign, with FPTP on 38% and AV on 37%. It looks as though there has been a genuine tightening of the race.
Unlike many other polls asking about voting intention in the referendum YouGov's tracker on the Alternative Vote referendum starts with text briefly summarising what First Past the Post and Alternative Vote actually are. This tends to produce figures that show the No campaign doing better than polls that just ask the referendum question without an explanation of what the options are, perhaps suggesting that people are less positive towards AV when they are told what it is. Our expectation is that this will have less of an effect as we get closer to referendum itself and people become more aware of the issue they are voting on.
Looking at the breakdown of support in this most recent poll, Liberal Democrat supporters, usually always strongly in favour of AV, have become even more pro-AV, with 84% saying they would vote in favour of AV. Conservative supporters, while still opposed to AV, were also slightly less hostile, with the proportion of Tory voters saying they would back AV rising to 28%. It may be that the coverage of Labour opposition to the legislation setting up the referendum in the House of Lords has convinced some partisan Conservative and Lib Dem voters that AV itself can't be bad, or it may just be a sign that the Yes campaign is starting to have an effect upon public opinion.