Electoral Commission poll on MMP

November 19th, 2007 at 11:59 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has published some interesting results from their latest poll on political understanding.  I’ll go through them in turn:

“Fifty percent strongly agree with the view that list MPs are not as accountable to voters as electorate MPs. This is better than 61% seven years ago, but is still a long way from the view that all MPs are equally accountable through the ballot box.

I actually disagree with the EC that all MPs are equally accountable.  Yes they are all elected, but it is a totally legitimate view that an electorate MP is more accountable because one can directly vote an electorate MP out, while one can only indirectly vote List MPs out.

This isn’t to say it is better to be a List MP.  Almost every MP I know would much rather have an electorate than be reliant on the List. But that is not the same thing as asserting equal accountabilities.  Theyare both accountable but in different ways.

Also, there’s real uncertainty about the workload of list MPs. Nearly half (46%) of us are neutral or uncertain of our reaction to the statement that list MPs generally do as much work as electorate MPs, with the rest of us evenly split between agreeing and disagreeing.

I am not surprised there is uncertainity because I don’t think one can generalise.  If you have an MP who is lazy and wants to do the minimum workload then they would work less hours as a List MP because an Electorate MP does effectively have to have a fully staffed electorate office and spend time on some electorate issues.

But on the other hand some List MPs have offices in their local area and do just as much constituency work.   The hardest working MPs do 80 hours a week and are both electorate and list MPs.

“Finally, we checked out just how widespread concern apparent after the election concerning electorate losers returning through list seats was. In fact, 53% of us think that a sitting electorate MP losing an electorate seat should not be able to return to parliament through the party list. This is despite 71% agreeing, including 48% who strongly agree, that they take different things into account when deciding who gets their party and electorate votes,”

I am not surprised 43% want such a thing banned, but if it was all that would happen is MPs in danger of losing their seat would migrate to list only candidates.

Dr Catt noted that while 72% claimed to be interested in politics, four of six current issues put to respondents had each been discussed by between 82 and 85%, “suggesting politics might be seen narrowly as being about politicians and not issues”.

Yes often people proclaim they have no interest in politics, but they really do.

Now turning to the full results:

  • 51% consider MMP easy to understand
  • 65% correctly say the party vote is generally more important in deciding the number of MPs a party will get
  • Only 27% can correctly name the representation threshold as being 5% party vote or an electorate seat
  • 89% of over 75s say they are interested in politics compared to 40% of 18 and 19 year olds
  • Only 38% say they have a good idea what MPs do.  It would be good to explore ways to increase understanding of this.
  • 71% claim to take different things into account when deciding their party and electorate vote. This is not surprising as NZ has a large amount of vote splitting.
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