Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sun readers thick: official

From The Soaraway Sun*:

The 'No' vote last night soared to a seven-point lead in a Sun YouGov survey. Forty-one per cent said they want to stick to the current 'first past the post system', while 34 per cent want to change it to the complicated Alternative Vote.

So semi-literate Sun readers can manage to find their favoured candidate on a ballot paper and mark an "x", but finding their favoured candidate and marking it with "1" is beyond them? Maybe even the few borderline literate-numerate Sun readers might even manage to mark their favoured candidate with a "1" and then mark their second choice with "2"?

As Neil Harding explains:

If you ever said to someone going to the shops - "Get me a coke or if they haven't got that, I'll have a lemonade", then you understand the principle behind AV voting. It only sounds complicated if you explain it badly, which the No campaigners are doing on purpose (finding the most wordy academic text they can).

He duly extends the analogy**:

If you order a chicken curry at a restaurant, but are told that has sold out then decide to have a lasagne instead, you have only had one meal. The same is true for AV, only ONE of your preferences will count towards the end result. Don't be fooled by propaganda saying otherwise.

* Spotted by Denis Cooper, who's firmly in the AV camp.

** For the benefit of Sun readers, an "analogy" is a simple example used to explain something, and has nothing to do with the study of people's bottoms.
PS, if you have ever attended a count, you'll know that the extra work involved with AV would be fairly minimal. Under FPTP, tellers make a pile of ballot slips for each candidate (in bundles of twenty or something) and then the biggest pile wins (they count them again, under the eyes of the candidates, if it looks fairly close).

The same basic system would apply under AV, only if no candidate gets more than half the first choice votes (which will happen in most constituencies), they'll just grab the smallest pile and redistribute it; and then the next smallest pile and so on. Mathematically, it's unlikely that more than the thirty or forty per cent of the ballot papers would have to be picked up more than once or twice, and as there will only be a few dozen or a couple of hundred in the smallest piles, that's no big deal.

Apart from a few dedicted anarcho-democrats who rank all candidates in reverse order of how likely they are to be elected, I doubt sorely whether most people will use more than their first and second votes, which reduces the amount of re-allocating even further.
PPS, I can only assume that Rupert Murdoch (who owns The Sun newspaper) has established that he's happy 'doing business with' a Labour government or a Tory-led government, but doesn't have the time or inclination to have to 'do business with' (i.e. bully and bribe) a load of smaller parties as well.


Neil Harding said...

Mark, well said and thanks for the link.

Good explanation of the count.

Have you seen the latest NO2AV ads? They are flooding the internet and newspapers with them.

They claim that counting machines costing millions will have to be bought. In Australia where AV has been used for 90 years they still count the votes by hand without any problem.

Worse, they use a picture of a premature baby and imply that maternity units will lose out if AV is passed.

How disgraceful is that? Still it shows they are getting desperate. Just hope it backfires on them.

Lola said...

I am not sure that it's 'thickness' that people are refusniks for AV - I think it might just be idleness. Poosibly borne out of 70 odd years of lefty nannying?

Mark Wadsworth said...

NH, my pleasure and I hope so too.

L, it's not lefty nannying, it's Labour-Tory nannying. And I don't think it's idleness, it's people's startling lack of imagination. In countries with AV, like Australia, is anybody crying out for people to only get one vote? Maybe there are, and the answer to them is: "Well just use your first vote then!"

SimonF said...

they'll just grab the smallest pile and redistribute it; and then the next smallest pile and so on.

(pedantry)No, they always grab the smallest pile(/pedantry)

I agree with the point about how far down the list people will go. I can't see a Lab supporter, for example, ever selecting a Tory even it is the last box left.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SF, fair point on the pedantry, and I did wrestle with that. I worked backwards and assumed that if I'd written: "they'll just grab the smallest pile and redistribute it; and then the smallest pile; and then the smallest pile and so on" that it would have appeared 'a bit funny'.

john b said...

There is actually a small movement in Oz at the moment to move to FPTP, solely backed by cynical opportunists on the political right.

This is because the two main right-wing parties (the Liberals and the Nationals) are geographically based (Liberals = urban/suburban; Nationals = rural) and have an electoral pact not to stand against each other, so their supporters don't get to use AV - a right-winger living in the countryside has to vote National, and a right-winger living in the city has to vote Liberal.

However, the two main left-wing parties, Labor and the Greens, are both primarily urban and don't have an electoral pact. This means that Labor is about 10% behind the combined Liberal/National vote on first preferences, but neck-and-neck once Green voters' alternative votes have been counted.

So various people in the Liberal/National coalition have been promoting a move to FPTP, officially on the grounds of some spurious rhetoric, but in practice on the grounds that it would stuff Labor.

The other odd point about AV here is that although NSW state elections work exactly in line with the proposed UK model, in federal elections it's compulsory to preference *all* candidates, even though preferences below third will almost never have any impact. So you have to decide which of the BNP or Respect candidates you hate the most...

Mark Wadsworth said...

JB, ta for background, most interesting. What's the point of having a pact in an AV system?

Lola said...

MW For the avoidance of doubt Tory/Labour have been equally nannying - IMHO.

Scott Wright said...

Your first mistake was even bothering to tell us sun readers are thick, they buy it for tits not news.

john b said...

Mark: AIUI, the electoral pact was the National Party's price some years ago for forming an official alliance with the Liberal Party in parliament (which continues even though they're in opposition).

The Libs needed the Nats' votes for a majority and wanted to tie them into a proper alliance; the Nats agreed on the condition that the Libs wouldn't run candidates against them in rural areas (presumably they feared that - since voting Nat means that you get a Lib government - voters would just cut out the middleman...)

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, agreed.

SW, the Sun is incredibly sophisticated propaganda, try reading it.

JB, ta. So a bit like CSU in Bavaria and CDU in the rest of Germany.