Good news for reform. Well sort of.
Polling today is suggesting overwhelming support for a shift to PR. As many as 8 out of 10 people are agreed that a shift to a more proportional system would be a step in the right direction.
Welcome news. But some commentators are already picking up on the contradictions in this poll. And it’s worth taking a closer look.
So we have 78% in favour of electoral reform, the country split evenly on the benefits of coalition government, and yet 72% think an outright majority is much more desirable than a hung parliament.
The reason for this contradiction is simple: the last question uses pejorative, journalistic language (“horsetrading” as opposed to “negotiations”) to lead the respondent into delivering the desired response.
It is also worth noting that the second question contrasts a single option (the Lib-Con coalition) with two discrete outcomes: (a) Conservative government, and (b) Labour government.
Why is this misleading? Well, it combines support for a Labour government with support for a Conservative government to overstate opposition to the coalition. The fact that the coalition still managed to outscore this combined figure suggests that it is the most popular outcome by some margin.
The lesson. Sensible questions will produce sensible answers.