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Poll proof binary voting inaccurate

Published 01/07/2016

Last Thursday's EU poll has shown that binary voting can be inadequate and inaccurate.

The methodology is also divisive, so, all but inevitably, campaigning was adversarial; secondly, in the vote itself, while many people voted positively, lots only said what they were against. So, maybe a multi-option ballot would have been required. Such "positive thinking" could well have been the catalyst for a more constructive debate.

And now accuracy. Well, the average "age of a people" cannot be determined by a majority vote. Indeed, with a binary question like "Are you young or old?", the answer is bound to be wrong.

With a 10-option choice, however - "Are you in your twenties, thirties, or whatever?" - with everyone voting positively, an accurate answer could indeed be ascertained "democratically".

A similar principle should apply when trying to determine the "will of the people". The ballot paper should have had a set of options.

When New Zealand debated its electoral system in 1992 an independent commission drew up a short list - FPTP, PR-STV and three in the middle - and the resulting referendum contained five options.

So, (almost) everyone was able to vote positively and the outcome was, indeed, a much more accurate reflection of the collective will.


Director, the de Borda Institute

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