As the referendum campaign in Britain heads towards the final stages, support for keeping the existing first past the post system has increased dramatically, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The referendum, which is scheduled for 5 May 2011, will ask voters whether the United Kingdom should continue to rely on the first past the post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons, or move to the alternative vote system instead.

In the online survey of a representative sample of 2,010 British adults, 41 per cent of respondents say they would vote No in the referendum, in order to keep the current system. This represents a 13-point increase since the last Angus Reid Public Opinion survey conducted in mid-April. Conversely, 30 per cent of respondents (-2) would cast a Yes ballot. The proportion of undecided respondents has fallen markedly, from 32 per cent earlier this month to 22 per cent now.

The No side is clearly ahead in the South of England, Midlands and Wales and the North, while respondents are almost evenly split in London and Scotland.

The big jump in support for the No side is coming from people who voted for the Conservative Party in the May 2010 General Election. In January, 30 per cent of these voters were in the No column. The proportion rose to 43 per cent earlier this month, and has now reached 65 per cent.

Among decided voters, support for keeping the current system stands at 58 per cent, with 42 per cent of decided voters expressing a wish to adopt the alternative vote system.

The proportion of respondents who are “very informed” or “moderately informed” about the alternative vote system continues to rise as referendum date draws near, and now stands at 67 per cent, up 10 points since mid-April.


Earlier this month, we observed that the motivation of the established national parties to advance the result that best fits their interests would become a factor in the referendum. The drastic shift observed in this survey can be traced back to Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on 18 April, where he described the alternative vote system as “obscure, unfair and expensive.”

Tory supporters appear to have heeded the message of their leader, while Lib-Dem backers are choosing the Yes side by a 2-to-1 margin, and Labour voters remain evenly split.

It is important to also note that there is a marked increase in the proportion of respondents who are paying attention to the referendum. For the first time, two thirds of Britons are informed about the proposed new system.

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Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
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Methodology: From April 20 to April 21, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,010 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Great Britain. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.