Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ignorance or lies? Or both?

Take a look at the blog post here by "dbirkin". It's worth a look as I think that in all honesty it is probably the most confusing aspect of the AV vs FPTP debate. It comes down to things I've spoken about before, the lack of a Condorcet method, for ensuring the winner is always the most popular, on the table. It's easy to use it against AV, but to do so without realising that it's also an argument against FPTP is false.

The problem with DBirkin's argument is he's only looking at one half of the problem, that of AV's ability to hit a specific scenario whereby the "most supported" is actually the third place candidate overall. The whole picture needs to be told to be fair to those that are trying to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

This scenario mentioned above requires, statistically, for more people from the first and/or second placed parties to support the third party as their second preferences for a combined total, than the combined number of their rival's first preferences with the transfer of the third party's second preferences.

To try and visualise this, see the preference table below.

20 A voters, second preferences - 20 for C.
15 B voters, second preferences - 15 for B.
10 C voters, second preferences - 1 for A, 9 for B

In this scenario a potential vote score of 30 is available for C, and this can't be beaten by a combination of B's voters and C's 9 preferences moving to B.

However change it up a bit, to be a little bit more realistic.

20 A voters, second preferences - 10 for C, 10 don't transfer.
15 B voters, second preferences - 8 for B, 7 don't transfer.
10 C voters, second preferences - 4 for A, 4 for B, 2 don't transfer.

In this scenario the potential score for C is only 20, whereas A will have 24 by comparison, being a worthy winner.

The assertion by DBirkin here is that the scenario at the top means the whole system is worse than FPTP. So. How would it work under FPTP?

20 A voters, 15 B voters, and 10 C voters. Unfortunately, as DBirkin admits, FPTP is ignorant. We don't know specifically who people are voting for and why. But let's take one possible example, using the same figures as a FPTP scenario.

of the 20 voters for A 10 are true supporters, 2 are ex -B voters, 8 are C voters...but all vote (tactically or not) to give A support.
Of the 15 B voters, 14 want B and 1 would rather have C but don't like the rise of A support and want to try and stop it.
Of the 10 C voters all are primarily C voters.

This gives a "real" first preference count (for example, under AV) of...

12 A supporters
14 B supporters
19 C supporters.

Yet the system is such that enough people have to guess about how people are going to vote that they actually turn their first place support in to last place ranking.

The reality is that far from saying "FPTP is ignorant, but AV is a lie"...actually FPTP is ignorant, and it's ALSO a lie (we can never tell under FPTP when it's lying to us or not outside of safe seats, unlike AV!). AV can certainly be a lie...but at least it's a white lie.

What do I mean by this, white lie?

FPTP can result not only in the most preferred candidate losing, but in the LEAST preferred candidate winning (in terms of first preferences). This is the travesty of the broken system of FPTP, delivering results that are actually the opposite of what people initially want.

With AV we see more honest initial preferences, though this can still lead to DBirkin's "lie" scenario. However unlike FPTP there is no chance of the initially most hated party being voted in to power, they are eliminated in the first round. We may end up with an MP that is not the most popular, but that happens every election under FPTP currently. It's not ideal, but at least we know that the winner is one of the most popular to begin with!

So under AV, the lie can be no worse than what we have currently, and in certain situations could be more representative, or endorsed, than the lie we have to live with under FPTP. In even more situations AV will deliver the candidate who is, on balance, the most endorsed, and isn't a lie at all.

To use this argument of results being a "lie" against AV is to also use it against FPTP. It is not an argument against reform, but one of criticising the practice of using non-Condorcet methods...of which both AV and FPTP can be described. We don't have a Condorcet method on the table, we have only AV or FPTP; In that comparison it's clear which system provides the more fair results.

AV a lie? No more so than FPTP already is, and no where near as ignorant or potentially unrepresentative on a local level.


  1. Assumptions again. You can't presume with FPTP what preferences the voters have. They have one choice, if they decide to lie, that is up to them.

    It is dishonest and it manipulates the system, but the dishonest vote is considered to be 9% across the ENTIRE range of voters.

    If you apply this figure (widely agreed to be the higher end of the tactical voting figure, but by all means research yourself) it makes NO difference.

    20 is more than 9% bigger than 15. 15 is more than 9% bigger than 10.

    The same goes for the General election (add 9% to any parties vote number and it does NOTHING to change their rank).

    Tactical voting I.E. claiming someone represents your views when they don't is wrong. Agreed. However under fptp where this happens once for 9% of people, under AV your 'this person represents me best' vote transfers for around 40% of people, some times 2 or 3 times.

    PS the person who tells the lie is the liar, not the person that hears it.

  2. Some fantastic juggling of numbers that mean nothing by yourself there. You can of course call what I'm saying an assumption. It is, though it's more accurately a hypothetical example actually. Can you disprove that it happens? No, of course not, because we don't know why or how people vote...we have no information about the realities of people's preferences. We do know, however, from the way vote preference has changed in the polls as well as anecdotal evidence on the social web that plenty of Labour voters turned to vote Lib Dem to keep out the Tories in certain constituencies, and have since returned to Labour.

    "Tactical voting I.E. claiming someone represents your views when they don't is wrong."

    No it's not, it's exactly the same as putting down a second preference under AV.

    "PS the person who tells the lie is the liar, not the person that hears it."

    Well then in that case AV isn't a system that lies is it? The system takes a systematic round by round approach at weeding out the weakest candidate. Each round people are asked who would they most support out of the remaining candidates, and the weakest is removed. That's not a "lie", it's a result which systematically ensures that popular preferences are left in the competition...something that FPTP cannot guarantee.

  3. "
    "Tactical voting I.E. , claiming someone represents your views when they don't is wrong."

    No it's not

    it's exactly the same as putting down a second preference under AV."

    ...yes it is,..was actually my point.

    Believe it or not, and i can't believe I am even writing this as it is SO obvious. Lies about your feelings lead to inaccurate measurements of your feelings.

    And to show you support this i can think of no better way but to quote you

    "claiming someone represents your views when they don't is wrong."

    No it's not"

  4. You've misunderstood, I was saying "no it's not" to your claim that "Tactical voting" is wrong, and to your assertion that tactical voting is claiming someone else represents your views when they don't.

    Tactical voting is voting for someone who does represent your views, but may not represent them as much as someone else. You've got your definitions completely wrong.

  5. OK, it is claiming that is has the most support when it doesn't, slight difference I grant you (can't believe I didn't put that :os ) but still the same thing. Dishonesty

  6. But it's the SYSTEM that measures the candidate having most support when it doesn't necessarily in the first instance. The system is so flat that it can't distinguish individual preferences like AV, and can lead to a false result.

    It's not the people, the people have chosen to play it "safe" and vote against a candidate they dislike rather than for the one they most like. They have done this because they care MORE about not getting (for example) Lib Dems than they care about getting Labour. This is a perfectly legitimate democratic choice, but the system doesn't allow them to vote both for Labour, and then against the Lib Dems. AV does.

    FPTP is the only dishonesty here...or perhaps more accurately, obfuscation of reality.

  7. I have a different view, 'voting against' a candidate is voting for someone else you don't want, in order to cancel out the vote of someone who voted for who they actually thought would be best.

    How is that democratic? That is a manipulation. If enough people wanted your candidate, they would win if people didn't resort to this type of underhanded deed

  8. It's not voting for someone else you don't want, it's voting for someone else you're happy to see represent you, because you feel your first choice won't also achieve the result of helping keep out the candidate you hate.

    I can totally see your issue here, you've got an absolutely two dimensional perspective on why people vote and why people should vote, and rather than accept people have legitimate various opinions and a need to express them in their own way, you'd rather limit their voice because it doesn't conform to your own.

    I get what you're saying. Just don't pretend it's democratic.

  9. Your first sentence says it all, you believe in anti votes. I don't care who gets in as long as " x " doesn't. Firstly, to block someone else's true preference out of egotistical arrogance is pretty appalling. Secondly to elect someone you didn't want doesn't help anyone and is a lie.

    I am completely in favour of anyone voting for who they WANT. What I do not find acceptable is donkey voting.
    The result is not what I care about as long as vote is equal and fair. AV is neither.

  10. DBirkin: We've already ascertained you have a very shallow and basic view of what constitutes democracy, your comment here further show your lack of understanding about the depth of people's opinions and their right to be against someone's policies, and to vote with that in mind.

  11. The fact that you're basically railing against FPTP (tactical voting, voting for someone you don't like as much as someone else to stop someone you don't like more) while talking about the benefits of an AV system (not having to vote for someone you don't like, but voting for exactly who you like), while supporting the former and hating on the latter is pretty amusing though.

    BTW, learn what donkey voting means before bringing it randomly in to a discussion.


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