Strong public support for electoral reform, weekend voting and fixed term Parliaments in new poll

The public overwhelmingly backs major  changes to the way our electoral system is run according to a new poll commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

Just under two-thirds of people (65%) agree that, “This country should adopt a new voting system that would give parties seats in Parliament in proportion to their share of votes” and 59% support holding a referendum on changing the voting system used for Parliament. That later number is particularly strong given Gordon Brown’s strong support for the idea; usually having an unpopular high profile figure back a policy makes it less popular.

But the strongest support (69%) comes for introducing the idea of ‘recall’ – allowing constituents to sack their MP and force a new election if enough people sign a petition. Fixed-term Parliaments also get strong support from the public with 64% agreeing with the idea and just 13% disagreeing.

Over half the public (54% – 21%) also support moving voting to weekends, a policy recently pushed by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard and one the Electoral Commission is keen to see considered. (Weekend voting was also the cause of surely one of the most reassuring lines ever to appear in a government consultation document.)

Elections to the upper chamber also win public support, although the most popular option is a mix of elected and non-elected members:

  • A mixture of elected and appointed members, with more than half of them elected: 34%
  • A wholly elected second chamber: 27%
  • A mixture with a third of the members elected and two thirds appointed: 14%
  • Don’t know: 25%

Lowering the voting age to 16 is heavily opposed (70% – 17%).

The results are from the State of the Nation Survey 2010, a new poll of 2,288  people aged 18+ conducted by ICM for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust 20 January – 7 February.

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This entry was posted in Election law, News and Polls.


  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Feb '10 - 12:24pm

    Just under two-thirds of people (65%) agree that, “This country should adopt a new voting system that would give parties seats in Parliament in proportion to their share of votes”

    Most people are not aware that the current system does not do that. The mechanism of the system is simple, but the mechanism by which the overall outcome is arrived at is not. Try explaining to your ordinary bloke or blokess why it is possible for the party which comes second in overall share of votes to get a majority in Parliament. Watch his/her eyes glaze over. Then try and argue to me that “FPTP is simple”. That is my argument that it is not.

    The problem with issues like this where people will express a view if they are forced, but it’s not the uppermost issue in their mind, is that the view they will express depends so strongly on how the question is put that the poll is almost pointless.

    Consider had the question been:

    “This country should adopt a new voting system that would mean no one party would ever have been able to form a government if the party share had been what it was in elections in our lifetime, and so there would always have had to be negotiations between parties on who would become Prime Minister”.

    I very much doubt 65% would agree with that one.

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