B.C. residents evenly split 3 ways over electoral reform: Angus Reid poll

This fall, B.C. will choose whether to keep its current first-past-the-post electoral system or change to a system of proportional representation.

With less than a month to go, a full 33 per cent of British Columbians are undecided

Younger voters, who historically have lower turnout, are also more likely to support proportional representation. (iStock)

This fall, B.C. will choose whether to keep its current first-past-the-post electoral system or change to a system of proportional representation.

Proportional representation is an electoral system in which in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them  

If a majority of people are in favour of proportional representation, then one of three systems — which voters will rank in order of preference in a second question on the ballot — will be adopted for any future provincial election. 

For more details on what this all means, watch the video below:

This fall, B.C. will choose whether to keep its current first-past-the-post electoral system or change to a proportional representation model. Here's what you need to know. 2:51

But according to a new public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute, B.C. residents remain split three ways over whether to change the voting system, less than a month before the ballots will be mailed to voters.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted the online survey from Sept 10 – 14, 2018 among a representative randomized sample of 800 adult B.C. residents who are members of Angus Reid Forum.

The poll shows that 31 per cent support the current first-past-the-post voting system, while 33 per cent support a proportional representation voting system.

Another 33 per cent of British Columbians polled remain undecided, and two per cent said they'd ignore the voting package altogether.

Minority report

In B.C.'s current first-past-the-post system, the number of seats a party gets in the legislature equals the number of districts its candidates win.

This system tends to elect candidates from large parties and results in single-party majority governments.

According to the poll, 61 per cent of British Columbians believe that a system that more closely reflects parties' actual popular vote would increase voter turnout — meaning B.C. would be more likely to have minority governments in the future.

However, 48 per cent said they didn't support the prospect of more minority governments.

Which type of proportional representation?

On the second question in the referendum, a mixed-member proportional system (MMP) was the clear favourite with 49 per cent in support.

Support for a rural-urban proportional system is at 26 per cent, and 24 per cent favoured a dual member proportional system.

For more details on how these systems work, click here.

Who supports what?

Shachi Kurl with the Angus Reid Institute said the data shows a significant number of people remain persuadable, but both sides have some solid groups in support.

"Those who are more on the side of first-past-the-post, they tend to be outside of urban centres in B.C., in the Interior and other parts, they tend to be older," Kurl said.

"On the other hand, people who are more supportive of a proportional representation system — regardless of which system we may end up with — tend to be higher educated voters, so more likely to have a university degree."

Younger voters — who historically have lower voter turnout — are also more likely to support proportional representation.

Fast facts

The vast majority of respondents — 80 per cent — said they think it's important for a referendum to take place before a change to the electoral system is made.

But 50 per cent said the issue is a "low priority" for them, compared to other issues the province is facing.

This vote represents the third time that British Columbians have voted to change the electoral system since 2005. But it's the first time that a simple majority of votes is needed for the system to be changed. Previously, over 60 per cent of the vote was needed for a new system to become reality.

Elections BC must receive your ballot by 4:30 p.m. PT on Nov. 30.

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