Nearly half say they will vote to ditch MMP

By Patrick Gower

The poll contradicts John Key's view that New Zealanders are comfortable with MMP. Photo / Dean Purcell
The poll contradicts John Key's view that New Zealanders are comfortable with MMP. Photo / Dean Purcell

Almost half of all voters would like to see MMP scrapped, a new opinion poll suggests.

The Herald-DigiPoll survey shows 49 per cent of respondents said they would vote to get rid of the controversial electoral system when it goes to referendum in 2011.

Only 35.8 per cent of those polled would vote to keep it, and 15.2 per cent did not know how they would vote.

The referendum - to be held at the time of the 2011 general election - will ask voters if they want to keep MMP or have a new electoral system.

If their vote is anything like the results of today's poll, a second referendum will be held with the 2014 election pitting the MMP (mixed member proportional) system against the most popular alternative.

If voters in that referendum opt for a change, it will take place in time for the 2017 election.

Today's poll puts the mood for change at a much greater level than many have suspected. Politicians such as Prime Minister John Key have expressed the belief that New Zealanders are increasingly becoming comfortable with MMP.

The survey's result was welcomed by long-time anti-MMP campaigner Peter Shirtcliffe.

He said it was no surprise so many people would vote for change, but the discontent the poll had revealed showed they should get a chance to do so as soon as possible.

Mr Shirtcliffe said he was surprised by the lack of a public outcry about the two-stage referendum process, which meant change was eight years away.

"It is an outrage. We should be rearing up on our hind legs about the delay in getting rid of this."

Mr Shirtcliffe said the dissatisfaction with MMP was firmly embedded.

He was regularly stopped in the street and asked, "What are you doing to get rid of MMP".

But Greens co-leader and MMP supporter Metiria Turei said the poll result showed the need for the referendum's education campaign, as the public were not yet engaged in discussion about it.

Many people who responded negatively towards MMP might have a problem only with aspects of the system, which was still widely misunderstood, she said.

"There has been no opportunity for the public to be educated about it, and until that happens, a poll like this is not going to be a true indicator of people's views," Ms Turei said.

The Government has said an independent panel will be appointed to conduct a public education campaign in the lead-up to the 2011 referendum. It will have a budget of $6 million. The referendum itself will cost $11.5m.

Five Parliaments have been elected under MMP since the system was introduced in 1996.

During last year's election campaign, National promised a referendum on the voting system.

MMP resulted from a royal commission into the electoral system that was set up by the fourth Labour Government and reported in 1986. It recommended a referendum on the adoption of MMP.

National's then leader, Jim Bolger, promised to hold a referendum if his party was elected, which it was in 1990.

In a referendum in 1992, 84.7 per cent voted for change and 15.3 per cent wanted to retain first-past-the-post.

Of the four alternatives offered, MMP got 70.5 per cent support, STV (single transferable vote) 17.4 per cent, PV (preferential voting) 6.6 per cent and SM (supplementary member) 5.6 per cent.

A binding referendum pitching MMP against first-past-the-post was held at the same time as the 1993 general election.

The result was 53.85 per cent for MMP and 46.14 per cent for FPP.

- NZ Herald

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