Thursday, May 14, 2009

Post-Referendum Analysis

The slightly longer version this time. I still posit that the principle difference between 2005 and 2009 in terms of the referendum results is the distance from the strange 1996 and 2001 elections. If we call that reason 1, some other reasons out there for the shift against STV.

The Question: When CalgaryGrit isn't sure why the question matters, I am loathe to hazard a guess. I will say that I thought in 2007 that a FPTP v. Reform question would favour reform more than a simple yes/no. Back then, I thought that the a FPTP v. Reform referendum would allow the reform side to frame it as a referendum on FPTP, thus hiding their own warts. However, my thinking has evolved after watching the last two referenda. Here's a thought experiment. Say somebody asks you a yes/no question that you don't know and you have to give them an answer. Are you more likely to say yes? There's got to be a psych study on this somewhere. I have to believe the answer is yes. Particularly when your being asked whether or not you agree with something called "the Citizens' Assembly." On the other hand when given two equally strange sounding acronyms (FPTP v. STV) there is no natural tendancy to choose one over the other. It's not that I think the people of British Columbia or Ontario did not have the opportunity to become informed (the internet is a wonderful resource), I just don't think most people don't particularly rank electoral reform as a must know issue. So, long story short, the question might have helped.

STV Has A Bad Aftertaste: There are some arguing that the more you know about STV, the less likely you are to like it. I tend to agree in principle. The warts of any system (our own included) are more visible the more you know about it. There's no such thing as a perfect electoral system. That's one of the reasons that Western democracies can't agree on one.

Can't See The Trees For the Election: I've never bought the "we shouldn't hold this concurrent to a provincial election" argument. Presumably you would like people to vote in a referendum if it is going to be legally binding. Canadians don't particularly like to vote. I can't imagine you'd get much turnout in a separate referendum on electoral reform. Separation it ain't. Then again, this might be the only way electoral reform would pass. As the blogosphere demonstrates there are a lot more passionate supporters of electoral reform then there are detractors. Oh yeah, what's the cost estimate?

Don't Ask the Same Question Twice: The idea is that Canadians aren't going to vote for something that's already been rejected. I don't know how you explain the 1995 Referendum results when compared to 1980 in that context.

Misinformation: I really can't believe the majority of voters knew enough about the question to be so misinformed as to reject it against there own philosophical tendancies.

The Silent Majority: Ah yes, non-voters are so overwhelmingly in favour of electoral reform, they stayed home and didn't vote for it. I get it now!

Also of interest are the arguments not being used this time around. They include such gems as:
  • Canadians are racists.
  • The threshold is an affront to democracy!
  • It did as well as the winning party, shouldn't that be good enough?
  • Just wait until next time!
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calgarygrit said...

I do think the question matters. But, my gut reaction would be that a forced choice would favour STV, since that's framed as a choice rather than a switch.

If I ask Coke drinkers if they prefer Coke or Pepsi, I'd get one set of answers. If I asked Coke drinkers if they wanted to switch to Pepsi, I'd get another. My inclination would be that the "switch" is the harder get, but then that runs counter to the results we saw here.

So, in the end, I tend to pass this one off as more a case of the oddball election being 4 years further in the past.

Andy said...

I think Canadians are just getting tired of elites running around trying to change everything.

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