Politicians, voters and democracy : the 2011 UK referendum on the alternative vote

Curtice, John (2013) Politicians, voters and democracy : the 2011 UK referendum on the alternative vote. Electoral Studies. ISSN 0261-3794

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Abstract

At the 2010 UK election, Labour proposed a referendum on changing the House of Commons electoral system from single member plurality to the Alternative Vote. Subsequently, a coalition was formed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, yet it was Labour's policy on electoral reform that was implemented. The paper explains why this proved to be politically convenient for Labour's opponents. At the same time, however, holding the referendum reflected an emergent de facto convention that significant constitutional change should only be introduced after it has secured popular endorsement. The paper assesses whether the dynamics of public opinion during the AV referendum suggests that voters' eventual decisions about constitutional questions reflect their views about the merits of the relevant arguments.