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Thursday, 30 April 2015

74% of voters want proportional representation

One week from the general election, a new poll has found that 74% of the British public back a more proportional voting system. The results come before an election which could see Labour and the Conservatives win two-thirds of votes but over 80% of the seats in Parliament, while the Greens and UKIP could get a fifth of the vote and less than 1% of seats. In Scotland, recent polling suggests the SNP – who support a fairer voting system - could win up to 100% of the seats on just over 50% of the vote.

The ERS poll by BMG Research showed 74% agreeing or strongly agreeing that ‘the number of seats a party gets should broadly reflect its proportion of the total votes cast’, compared to just 6% who disagree. Support for proportional votes is strong among supporters of all parties, with 79% of Conservative voters, 81% of Labour voters, 83% of Liberal Democrats, and 70% of UKIP supporters believing votes should accurately translate into seats.

Perhaps surprisingly, support for proportionality is strongest among older voters, at 79% for over 55s, compared to 70% for 35-54 year olds and 73% for those who are 18-34. Londoners – who already use a proportional system for the London Assembly - were most likely to support the principle of proportional votes, with 80% doing so, with those in the Midlands just behind at 79%. Support was also strong across all social backgrounds, with 79% AB voters and 68% of DE voters in favour.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "This poll shows the public want their votes to be fairly reflected in Parliament. Voters from every party, every background and every region of the UK want to see an electoral system where votes are accurately translated into seats. But under our current outdated system, that’s simply not the case. Under our current First Past the Post voting system, a party can win the most votes but get fewer seats than their nearest rival. At the same time, the two biggest parties will get far more seats than their overall proportion of the vote. For many, that doesn’t sound like democracy."

Ms Ghose continued: "Politics has fundamentally changed over the past few years. We are now a truly multi-party country, as the leaders’ debates have shown. But how we vote hasn’t caught up. We’re trying to squeeze seven or more parties into an old-fashioned two-party system, and unsurprisingly, it’s not working. Under a proportional voting system, the public could support a range of parties and vote for who they believe in, knowing their vote would genuinely count."

"With 74% of the public backing proportional elections, it’s time for politicians to put real reform back on the agenda after May 7th. That could help restore faith in politics and ensure the public have the democracy they deserve." Katie Ghose added.