Understanding of MMP

Since 1995 the Electoral Commission has surveyed voters on their understanding of basic aspects of MMP. This summary provides the overall results for three basic questions asked over a period of 13 years, ending with the 2008 General Election.

Most important vote

The key component to understanding MMP is that it is the party vote that is the most important in determining how many MPs each party has in Parliament.

The question asked is:

‘From what you know and have heard, which of the two votes that you have in MMP is more important in deciding the number of MPs each party will have in Parliament?

  • The party vote,
  • The electorate vote’

Previous surveys used a slightly different question, the 2003 version is ‘Just judging from what you know and have heard, which of those votes is more important in deciding the number of MPs each party will have in Parliament?’ There have been some ‘tweaks’ over the preceding years. Some of the changes may be due to the change in the question which means people no longer have to remember the name of the vote.

The percentage giving the correct answer varies cyclically depending on the proximity of an election.

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The percentage thinking the electorate vote is most important, as was the case in First Past the Post, has declined markedly since 1995 and is particularly low after the last two elections. However there has been an increase in the percentage thinking both votes are equally important post-election in 2005 and 2008, probably reflecting threshold focus for a number of parties’ in these elections.

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Those who do not know or will not answer has also declined substantially suggesting that people are now comfortable with the question and possible answers.

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The Threshold

The question asked is:

‘Party votes for a party are used to allocate seats in Parliament for all parties which cross the threshold. Can you recall which of these a party has to do in order to cross that threshold?

  • Win 5 percent of all party votes,
  • Win one electorate,
  • either of these’

Previous surveys used a different question. The 2003 version is ‘From what you have heard, what must a party do to qualify for list MPs?’ (although there were ‘tweaks’ over the preceding years). Some of the changes in response levels may be due to the change in the question which means people no longer have to remember the name of the votes.

Due to the way in which the question wording has changed the easiest answer to track over time is those who say they do not know. Again there is a steady decline in the percentage who say that they do not know.

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How easy is MMP?

The question asked is:

‘Thinking about the system we use for voting in elections – MMP. How easy do you think it is for people like you to understand MMP?

  • (5 point scale)’

This question was not asked before 2005. Consistently more people think that MMP is easy to understand than think that it is difficult.

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Last updated: 20 October 2014