MMP is Palmerston North's preferred voting system for the nation.
A Manawatu Standard/Versus Research poll of 400 voters showed 53 per cent of voters wanted to keep MMP, 25 per cent preferred First Past the Post, while 21 per cent did not know.
Keep MMP Manawatu campaigner John Shennan said the result showed there was no mandate to change MMP.
"There's no demand for it," he said. "No demand to change the system."
He said the referendum was only being held because in 2008 the National Party held on to a policy its leader in 2005, Don Brash, had announced "on a whim". The referendum on election day, November 26, will ask voters if they want to keep MMP or if they want to change to one of four alternative voting systems.
If more than half vote to keep MMP there will be a review of the system. If the preference is for change, in 2014 there will be a referendum pitting MMP against the most popular alternative.
Mr Shennan said those who wanted to keep MMP only had to answer the first question, they could leave the second option blank.
Mr Shennan estimated only 10 per cent of people he met while promoting MMP voiced a strong dislike about the system. Some people had issues with MMP, but he said these could be examined as part of the review.
Mr Shennan said deficiencies in MMP were "minimal" compared with the problems with the four alternatives in the referendum: First Past the Post, Supplementary Member, Preferential Voting and Single Transferable Vote. Anti-MMP movement Vote for Change has named Supplementary Member as its preferred alternative to MMP. "It's the smart move," spokesman Jordan Williams said. "Under SM, the electorate results, as well as a party vote, matter in determining how many seats a party receives in Parliament. SM means both votes count."
SM would reduce the number of list MPs from 50 to 30 and increase the number of electorates from 70 to 90. Only the list seats would be allocated proportionally.
Mr Shennan said MMP's opponents had chosen SM as First Past the Post would not be able to defeat MMP if there was a second referendum in 2014.
In the Versus poll, commissioned by the Manawatu Standard, MMP was more popular among young people. Sixty per cent of 18 to 39-year-olds preferred MMP compared with 47 per cent of those aged 40 and over. MMP was almost equally popular with both males and females, though 32 per cent of males preferred FPP to 21 per cent of females. Only 19 per cent of 18 to 39-year-olds preferred FPP compared with 29 per cent of 40 to 49-year-olds and 34 per cent of those 60 and over. The poll's margin of error was 4.9 per cent. Editorial, page 11
- © Fairfax NZ News
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