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April 27, 2011


AV referendum: predicting ‘No’, betting ‘Yes’.

We’re now just eight days away from the AV referendum. Frankly, it’s been an awful fight so far, with both sides scraping the bottom of the campaign barrel in search of a way – any way – to persuade people to support them. I’m still firmly in the ‘No’ camp, because I truly believe that AV is an utter mess of an electoral system, but the campaign has hardly facilitated a mature discussion of the relative virtues of AV and first-past-the-post.

Anyway, as we get closer to polling day, I’m naturally encouraged to try to predict, and bet on, the outcome. A few months ago, there was a competition over on, which asked readers to predict what the ‘Yes’ percentage will be. I went with 47% – in other words, I predicted ‘No’ to win 53-47. Although much has happened since then, and some of the recent opinion polls seem to forecast a far bigger ‘No’ victory (yesterday’s YouGov poll has ‘No’ 18% ahead), I’m going to stick with my initial prediction. I suspect the result will be much closer than many people are expecting.

Which leads me to the betting. The contest is, in my mind, almost impossible to call with any certainty. Whilst the polls seem to favour the ‘No’ camp, there are so many variables – known and unknown – that I don’t think the deal is anywhere close to being sealed. For starters, the ‘Yes’ campaign’s latest tactic – to encourage people to vote ‘Yes’ to give Cameron and Osborne bloody noses – is a clever political move which could really resonate with Labour voters. Secondly, I’m not convinced that pollsters have taken geographical variations into sufficient account – for example, turnout will be highest in Scotland and Wales where they have parliamentary elections on the same day, and where (in Scotland’s case, particularly) the electorate won’t want to do anything that is deemed to benefit the Tories.

Unless I’m completely misreading the campaign, I think we’re actually looking at what is essentially a 50:50 contest – neither result would surprise me. When you then look at the odds and see that ‘Yes’ is 10/3, and ‘No’ is 1/5 (with William Hill), it’s obvious where you should be putting your money. So, despite predicting ‘No’ to win, I’ve whacked a reasonable amount of cash on ‘Yes’. The winnings would at least fund the drowning of sorrows…

  1. David Bird
    Apr 28 2011

    It would be short-sighted indeed for Labour voters to vote ‘Yes to AV’, merely for the temporary satisfaction of annoying David Cameron. Would they not prefer to see Labour in a clear majority after the next election, rather than saddled with the coalition problems that we now see? Why should Labour voters want to hand the 3rd most popular party (correctly on around 9-10%) an extra 30 or 40 seats? Carry on that way and we could end with the Liberals in government permanently, hitched on to one or other of the main parties.

    • Kenny
      Apr 29 2011

      “Why should Labour voters want to hand the 3rd most popular party (correctly on around 9-10%) an extra 30 or 40 seats?”

      It seems to be a common misconception that AV is a system that delivers Proportional Representation – it does not. Lib Dems would only be guaranteed more seats under a PR sytem such as Single Transferable Vote, AV+, or Additional Member System. We use the latter here in Scotland to decide the outcome of the Scottish Parliament – now we are used to it, it has gained popular support. I do think AV is a cop-out but will be voting “Yes” as it is a step in the right direction.

      Also AV does not necessarily deliver coalition government any more than FPTP.

  2. Russell Downe
    Apr 28 2011

    I agree that the Polls have not taken into account the higher turnout in Wales and Scotland ,and use first past the post system for general elections in the UK, but use versions of proportional representation for local elections and European elections. so are already used to using different voting systems. its a 50%-50% contest..

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