Friday, April 24, 2009

Will STV make some voters angry?

In the last referendum on the question of switching to STV in BC, 58% of voters indicated that they would prefer to vote in a STV system rather than a FPTP system. However, this statistic is very difficult to line up with poll numbers from the coalition drama at the beginning of this year.

Back then, 65% of Western Canadians were found in a Nanos poll to prefer an election were the Tories to be defeated, instead of a coalition. Now, you may ask, what is the link between STV and coalitions?

Under a proportional system such as STV, there are hardly ever clear cut majorities in the legislatures because hardly ever does one receive 50% of the vote. This consequently leads to 2 scenarios:

1. Minority government
2. Coalition government

Many Canadians view both these forms of government as unstable and thereby undesirable. The claims often take the form "with a majority, the government can pass what it wants, hence making government more stable".

These concerns were shown to be important to BC voters in the polls surrounding the possibility of a coalition at the national level, but it seems that at the provincial level, many citizens have not made the connection between STV and coalitions.

This is not to say that I do not think that coalitions are a viable form of government. They are in many cases very successful governments (take Borden's Union party).

But, what we don't want to see is voters that do not realize this aspect of STV, and are then outraged at all the coalitions being formed and the instability of government. Minority governments and coalitions are one reality that has to be grasped if proportional representation is to be achieved.
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  1. This all has less to do with the average voters "grasp" of politics, than it does with people irrationally believing whatever the current media narrative is. Sad fact, that, for the most part, in today's politics you can influence mood with money over fact.

  2. Personally, I don't care what people do/don't realize and don't see why anyone ought to care about the knowledge people have when they make their decisions at a ballot box. If, in a poll, the majority of the electorate perfers minority/coalitions to "stable majority government elected by 37% of voters" than that's what they prefer. I'm sure you've heard, "politics is the art of the possible" - in other words, the art of "give 'em what they want".

    It is a folly of youth to hope for an electorate that has even close to perfect knowledge about the influence of their political decision-making. For example, ask a random sample of Conservative Party of Canada voters why they vote Conservative and the number one reply will be "because we've always voted conservative" -- namely, this sample of Canadian voters don't even realize that the party they are voting for has changed. People like Joe Clark realize it, but your average voter makes political decisions not from reason/logic but from, well, let's just call it, "some other place".

    We'll probably see this play out, as Liberals, in the next election as Iggy goes up against the Harper machinery of mock, spin to the point of lie and spread disinformation. Heck, my mother, after attending a town hall with Iggy said, "He's so much better in person." -- these are the little things that influence voters and they can be reasoned or argued away... that said, I support any modification to the FPTP voting system in Canada. FPTP has got to be one of the worst fits for a 21st century democracy such as Canada. Sure, STV might have flaws, but it is far, far, better than FPTP.

  3. I don't think anyone has perfect knowledge about the influence of their decision making. However, when you see such a difference in two relevant statistics, you wonder how much thought they've put into that decision.

    STV is definitely worth a go.


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