Having looked at the options carefully, I think the AV electoral system is preferable to the current FPTP system. Nearly everyone I respect politically also thinks AV is preferable to FPTP. The anti-AV arguments I've seen are nearly all spurious, weak or ad hominem.
But my gut feeling is that the 5 May referendum is heading for a No2AV result.
Firstly, many people I've come across simply don't care. Maybe that will change nearer the date, but I suspect not.
Secondly, even if they've heard some of the headline arguments, it sounds a minor, nerdy proposal that seems unlikely to solve the disillusion many feel about politics right now. Many won't turn up.
Thirdly, the No2AV campaign has deployed so much chaff about AV - a lot of it neatly collated in David Cameron's speech last month - that voting No will seem to many like the safe, default option when the arguments appear to be balanced. FPTP has a simple, familiar metaphor - the running race - for people to cling to. AV doesn't seem to have crystallised one. The interview panel? The X Factor eliminations? The pub that runs out of Carlsberg? It doesn't matter that FPTP is nothing like a race, or that the arguments against AV are actually pretty weak. There's sufficient chaff to obscure the clear advantages of AV and create worry.
Finally, many of the most tribal Conservatives and Labour supporters are in the No camp, for obvious reasons if you consider that FPTP favours tribalism. Such tribalists will use their dominant share of the newspaper market to affirm disaster scenarios if AV wins:
- "BNP VOTERS TO GET THEIR VOTES COUNTED MORE!!"
- "Do you want Nick Clegg in power FOREVER?!"
- "SLEAZE: PRO-AV OPERATION BANKROLLED BY COUNTING MACHINE FIRM"
- "87% of polling officers confused on AV rules, exclusive survey reveals"
- "Greens, SNP & Plaid to be wiped out, experts say"
- "UK TO BECOME LAUGHING STOCK IF PAPUA NEW GUINEA SYSTEM IMPOSED HERE"
- "Do you want a Parliament of second choices? WE DON'T."
- "AV WOULD GIVE BRITAIN NAZI-STYLE DICTATORSHIPS!!!!!"
As with all my predictions, the above is to be taken with a pinch of salt. I'm usually wrong in my predictions. So here's hoping my gut is wrong again!