Wednesday, April 20, 2011


As the main focus of the Welsh media is quite rightly on the National Assembly for Wales elections, it is easy to forget that there is another poll taking place on that day, namely the referendum on the Alternative Vote system.

To those who follow politics, there remains some debate over whether the AV vote will have any effect on differential turnout within this election.

For example, will more Liberal Democrat voters, rather than staying at home following the battering their party has received in the press and by the polls, actually come out and vote for AV and then, at the same time, give their vote to their party?

Equally, given that the latest AV poll shows that two thirds of Conservative voters are against any changes to the current first past the post system (by far the highest proportion of any UK political party), will the normally Assembly reticent traditional wing of the Conservative Party come out in droves on May 5th to oppose the AV vote and, at the same time, vote for their local Conservative candidate in the Welsh election?

Certainly, the UK's most popular political blog seems to think that there is certainly a correlation between areas holding other elections and the No vote. Yesterday's article by Mike Smithson suggests that recent polls are indicating that the No vote is stronger where other elections are taking place, as the graph below indicates from the ICM poll.

Of course, Mike points to the fact that those voting in areas with other elections are more likely to vote No. However, given that 66 per cent of Conservatives, higher than any other party, are intending to vote against the AV system, what does this mean for local and Assembly elections were turnout is normally lower than for the General election?

The AV vote has, to date, been largely ignored by BBC Wales, ITV Wales, the Western Mail and the Daily Post. Yet it is clear that the “English” media, which still dominates in Wales through the national press, will begin to focus heavily during the next fortnight on the debate between AV and the first-past the-post system, especially given its potential for creating rifts within the Coalition Government.

So, ironically, could turnout in the Assembly election, which still remains below half of those entitled to vote, actually be boosted by the other poll on the day and therefore skew the expected result completely? We will find out in just over a fortnight.