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STV supporters testing messages in poll

Supporters of a 'yes' vote in the referendum on changing B.C.'s voting system have polled to see which messages and logos resonate with voters.

"Are you satisfied with the current electoral system?" asked the first question in the Angus Reid internet poll, according to one participant. The poll then asked the participant to rank the importance of various qualities of electoral systems, including:

* "elects a higher proportion of female candidates";

* “every vote counts”;

* "politicians are less like trained seals";

* "no vote gets wasted"; and

* "less antagonistic politics."

The poll asked if the participant was familiar with STV, then asked the referendum question that will be on the ballot May 12. After voting 'no' the participant was asked to explain the choice. The poll then asked the participant to say whether various statements made him think better or worse of STV, including:

* BC-STV was proposed by a non-partisan citizens' assembly;

* under BC-STV almost every voter would get at least one of their selections;

* no vote is wasted with BC-STV; and

* BC-STV would ensure better representation of minorities.

The poll then put up the whole list and asked the participant to choose up to three that were the most convincing, he said.

“I find it interesting they complained we were doing argument testing,” said Bill Tieleman, a spokesperson for the No BC-STV campaign, “then we find out the 'yes' side is also doing argument testing.”

Some of the statements, said Tieleman, such as suggesting politicians will be less like trained seals if they're elected under STV, are at best debatable and should not be presented as fact. Still, he said, both sides should be free to test their messages.

“We're both polling and testing arguments. There's nothing wrong with that,” he said. “Don't go out and complain when the 'yes' side is doing exactly the same thing and act like you're a choir boy.”

There is, however, a difference in how the two sides polled, said British Columbians for B.C.-STV spokesperson Bruce Hallsor. “We didn't ask a bunch of loaded questions and we're not testing negative messages.”

Public Eye reported last week that NO STV used the polling firm Ipsos-Reid to ask questions about whether people would support STV more or less if they knew “only two small countries in the world used it”, women would be less likely to get elected, MLAs would be less accountable, small towns would be less represented, politicians would have less power and the results would be less proportional.

The 'yes' side questioned whether that was an appropriate use of the $500,000 public education grant each side got, the Tyee reported.

“They were, in our view, polling for results on statements that provide disinformation rather than information,” said Hallsor. “We don't think we've done that.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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