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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Examining the effect of partisanship on the 2005 and 2009 BC-STV referenda Wong, Danica Michelle Waih-Mahn


In the past decade, British Columbians were twice given the option of replacing the province’s first-past-the-post method of electing Members of the Legislative Assembly with the single-transferable vote system designed by the Citizens’ Assembly. The central inquiry of this paper is: Did partisanship affect British Columbians’ intentions to vote for or against the 2005 and 2009 BC-STy referenda? Employing the 2005 and 2009 B.C. Referendum Studies, this paper investigates whether partisanship, combined knowledge about the Citizens’ Assembly and the BC STV proposal itself, and/or predisposition towards electoral system reform influenced individuals’ referendum vote intentions. This paper also seeks to identify the specific mechanisms via which party interests came to be, and subsequently operated, as a key factor in partisans’ decision-making processes. Regression analysis reveals that in both 2005 and 2009, individuals who planned to vote for different parties in the general election exhibited noticeably different probabilities of supporting BC-STy. On average, supporters of the Green Party of B.C. were the most likely to vote in favour of BC-STy, followed by supporters the New Democratic Party ofBC voters and then supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party. Partisanship, knowledge and predisposition all played a significant role in bringing about these different vote intentions. Partisanship affected voters increasingly over time via two processes. When party leader cues were given, partisans responded accordingly. Absent such cues, however, voters were nevertheless able to determine on their own, likely through mental calculation, how best to vote given their party preferences. Both the progression of the referendum campaigns and increased knowledge helped individuals become more accurate and more confident at matching their partisan interests to their vote intention. Predisposition affected voters steadily over time, though different levels of predisposition had a greater effect on BC-STy vote intentions in the two referendum years.

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