I've been thinking about the AV referendum, and one of the things that I've been pondering is why people might be against AV.andrewducker posted a link to the arguments people are using against AV
, and I think it's fairly clear Paperback Rioter is right, and they are mostly rubbish arguments.
So what might actually change under AV, and why might people think that was bad? I think there are [ETA]
three major things:
1) Some people under the current system cast their vote for a party they are fairly certain can't win in their constituency. It's hard to estimate how many votes this is (well, it's easy but lengthy, as there's lots of constituencies in the UK) but 6% of people voted for a party that didn't get a single seat, and I'm sure some of the lib dem voters are in areas where the battle is tory/labour, so guessing it's about 1 in 10 voters seems approximately right.
Moving to AV effectively gives these people a vote that counts. Now, putting my cards on the table here, this is the major reason I'm in favour of AV. Every election I am faced with stressing about whether or not to vote for the party I actually want to support, or whether to be pragmatic and pick the best of two evils. So far I've tended towards idealism, on the grounds that maybe everyone is just like me and if we all wake up and vote idealistically the Good Guys will get in. But it would clearly make me more comfortable to have a voting system where I can say 'this is who I want to vote for, but pragmatically A are better than B'
I'm not sure what we can say about these non-pragmatic voters as a group. But I am sure that lots of right wingers probably see them as a group of greens / socialists / lib dems / communists / respect / unions / 'people who will want pretty much anyone, especially labour, before the tory party, except possibly the BNP'. From that point of view, enfranchising these people with a meaningful vote is something that will make your party less likely to win. Now, there's an idealistic question about whether it's better to make democracy more democratic even if it means you're less likely to get the government you want running the country. And I think it is quite common, and even defensible, if not very politically correct or palatable, to actually not want some people to have the vote. I'm not a big fan of democracy myself - I think there are lots of things that if we put them to a straight referendum the Bad Guys would win them (gay marriage, the death penalty, europe) - so I'm glad that we have an elected body of clever people to keep us from our own excesses. Which means I do think that there is a defendable position saying 'look, if a grown adult genuinely wants to cast their vote for the Lincolnshire Independance party I want them as far away from influencing the outcome of this election as possible', (which is more subtle and idealistic than 'this system makes us less likely to win so it's bad', although the two things probably get muddled up)
And if you want to keep these people disenfranchised while on paper giving them the vote, FPTP is much better than AV.
2) Secondarily, there are some people who do vote pragmatically, ie they vote for one of the two parties they think have a chance of winning even though they would prefer to vote for a less popular party. I think these are the great unknown - we can see how many people vote non-pragmatically, because they turn up counted next to the Pirate Party, but as far as I know there isn't very good data on how many people were voting pragmatically and would vote differently under AV. [That surprises me, as it seems an incredably interesting and incredably topical question, and you'd think someone would have done a poll to try and quantify it.]
Anyway, with no numbers, that just creates a lot of fear, uncertancy and doubt that under AV everyone will leap out of bed on polling day, and think 'oh, I've always wanted to vote for the monster raving loony party, now I can do it without wasting my vote' and we will see a huge swing towards fringe parties who aren't actually very good at running the country.
I can see how if you were one of the current major parties a voting system that might encourage a giant swing away from you probably doesn't look like a good thing. But that gets back into 'I don't want to give the people what they want, I want to give the people what's best for them, which is me'. A valid position, but one worth being honest about.
I think I don't actually think this will happen. I think a lot of people honestly think the middle of the road parties are best, and don't secretly want to be ruled by Peace or the Communists. Also, even for those pragmatic voters that are about to jump to their True Love under AV, I think they will jump in too many random directions to actually rock the boat. And also I think if it did happen it might be a good thing. A parliamentary term isn't very long. Give the people what they want, teach them that their vote can make a huge difference (not necessarily a good one) and maybe people will become more engaged with politics.
3) Finally, first past the post is a system that's better for ideologies / political positions that don't tend to split, and AV is better for those that do. If you have the Blue party versus the Crimson party, the Scarlett party, the Maroon party, and the Pink party, then first past the post is going to work better for the Blues, whereas AV is more likely to get a red party in power.
Now, you could argue that political positions with a tendancy to schism into lots of parties should be gently skewed against by our voting system. You could say that if they can't even play nicely together and agree when they're just working with people who broadly agree with them, they're not going to be very good at running a country without falling out and disagreeing and and generally bickering a lot.
(although I haven't thought very hard) that political positions that involve the government Doing Stuff  are by their very nature more likely to schism than ones that want the government to Butt Out and let the free market do its thing. Because if your policy is 'Give all the forests to the free market' there is fundamentally less room for dissent than 'Manage all the forests ourselves', as that will inevitably lead to the question 'how'.
So moving from FPTP to AV probably means we're more likely to get parties in power whose supporters have historically been split under FPTP. And these might be more left wing.
So there we go, the main three reasons I can think of of why people might actually be against AV. These don't seem to be the debates people are having though.
 I can be sure
because I'm one of them ;-)
 If any of my intelligent readers wants to actually work this out, then I'd be very interested and very grateful.
 This is not the place for a diversion on the relative Goodness of the Good Guys.
 Lots of these non-pragmatic voters are actually BNP, UKIP, the Christian Party, so it's very unclear whether they're actually more left wing or more right wing. Again, I'd love to see someone do the maths. But my gut instinct is that the right is right and there are more lefties in the non-pragmatic pool.
 I wrote 'left wing' positions originally, but then you get into the whole liberal v's socialist thing again.