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Real change to the electoral system means proportional representation

A significant poll of nearly 3,000 people has been released today, revealing very encouraging findings on the public’s views about several forms of electoral reform. The survey by Abacus Data, commissioned by the Broadbent Institute, also assesses what the results of the 2015 federal election would have looked like if voting had taken place using ranked/preferential ballots or proportional representation (PR).

The new Liberal government is considering options for replacing First Past the Post elections – also known as Single Member Plurality (SMP) – with a new voting system.

Abacus Data notes in its assessment of the results:

Among those who want the Liberal government to follow through on its promise to change the system, the Mixed Member Proportional system was ranked first by a plurality of respondents. Combined with pure PR, a healthy majority of those who want change (61%) rank some form of proportional representation as their first choice in a voting system. One in five of those who want change preferred ranked/preferential ballots (20%) or the current system of SMP (19%).

There is a relationship between vote choice in the 2015 Canadian General Election and preferred voting system. Conservative voters were most likely to favour the SMP system (status quo) while Green, NDP, and BQ supporters were most likely to favour a proportional system (either MMP or Pure PR). Liberal supporters were more split. Forty-three per cent favoured SMP while 42% favoured one of the proportional systems. Only 15% of Liberal supporters said that the Preferential Ballot was their most preferred choice. This lack of support for ranked/preferential ballots crosses all party lines as the least popular option.

Among those who did not rank the current system (SMP) as the one they like the most, there are important cross-party similarities in preference for a proportional system over ranked/preferential ballots. For example, even among Conservative Party supporters, those who did not prefer SMP were more likely to rank MMP or PR than ranked/preferential ballot as their system of choice.

If the 2015 federal election had been run using preferential ballots, the results would have been even more distorted than they were under the current system. According to Abacus Data’s findings, the Liberal Party would have won a super majority of 217 seats with the same percent of the popular vote (33 seats more than the 184 the party one under the First Past the Post system).

This groundbreaking survey shows that people want real change in how we vote. Proportional representation will ensure the results of future elections reflect rather than distort voters’ intentions, putting an end to false majorities in Parliament and making our elections more fair. Most people clearly recognize that preferential ballots would extend an unfair federal voting system, while proportional representation would end it. The Council of Canadians is hopeful the Canadian government will recognize this too.

After 10 years of our democracy being under siege by the previous government, we need to ensure the new system is more democratic than First Past the Post. The Council of Canadians is calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to implement proportional representation.

Abacus Data notes that the survey informing this study was conducted online with 2,986 Canadians aged 18 and older from November 3 to 6, 2015.