The Institute for Public Policy Research was formed in Great Britain in 1988, and now has a presence in 25 nations. On January 4, 2011, it issued a 24-page report, “Worst of Both Worlds: Why First Past the Post No Longer Works.” The study finds that British parliamentary elections, which use the same winner-take-all system that the United States uses for federal and state elections, are deeply flawed.
It says, “The strongest case in favor of First Past the Post is that it delivers single-party majority government; however, there is good reason to believe that this will be more difficult to achieve in the future because of long-term trends in voting patterns across the United Kingdom. The two principal forces undermining FPTP’s ability to produce single-party government are: (1) The declining share of the vote for Labour and the Conservative parties; and the rise in support for third parties; (2) The changing electoral geography of the UK.” The study can be read at this link.
Much of what the report says about Britain is true for the United States as well. The report emphasizes that only a small number of House of Commons districts are “swing districts”, and documents the extent to which campaigns by the major parties are focused much more on those districts, than on “safe” districts. That generalization certainly describes presidential elections in the United States, where voters in swing states get far more attention than voters in safe states. Thanks to Thomas Jones for the link.