Independence favoured by those with most to gain

Which is a lot like stating the bleedin’ obvious but bear with me.

The methodology might be a little one-sized and loaded towards particular age groups and demographics, but IPSOS Mori’s Scottish Public Opinion Monitor has been around long enough now to be credible and authoritative.  And while SNP and independence supporters might be a little disappointed that the saturation coverage of the launch of the referendum hasn’t produced a poll boost, 37% saying they will vote yes isn’t a bad launch pad.  What’s better is that this is a pretty consistent finding across different polls, including those with derisory sample sizes.

Yes there is a pretty solid and stolid no camp coming in at 50% but we are still two and a half years out from referendum day.  It’s all to play for.

It’s the findings underneath the top line that are most interesting.  To be expected older generations, particularly those who are retired but also higher earners and least deprived groups who are more likely to be nay-sayers.  I guess if the union is delivering for you, you are more likely to want to keep the status quo.

But when you look at the other demographics, it begins to become clear why aspiration and positivity play such a big role in the SNP’s electoral strategy these days.  Folk who might be attracted by the promise of more/different/better are most likely to be up for a big change.

Young voters are clearly a key group:  46% of 18 to 34 year olds are already saying yes, compared to less than one third of over 55s.  More people employed in the public sector support independence than those in the private sector (46 to 36%),  and more people who rent their home from the council or a housing association are “up for it” than either private renters or owner occupiers.  Indeed, an astonishing 61% of this category are already in the yes camp.

Those who are not working or who work part time are more likely to be independence supporters.  And when defined by the deprivation status of the area they live in, the contrast among potential voters is stark.  Nearly two thirds (63%) of those living in the most deprived areas say they will vote yes compared to only one quarter (26%) of those in the least deprived areas.  The issue here, though, is likelihood to turn out and vote:  experience suggests people in more affluent areas will come out and vote.  Turn outs in more deprived areas tend to be much lower which will be an issue for the SNP and other pro-independence parties to overcome.

More people with children in the household than without are likely to vote yes – 42% versus 36% – which is in line with the intended voting pattern across the age groups.  But more worryingly for the SNP is the return of a gender divide.  While 46% of men intend to vote yes, only 30% of women do, suggesting that the oft-quoted innate conservatism of women is a factor.  If the SNP want to persuade more women to vote for the potential upheaval of change, the party will need to move off the debate off the big ticket territory it currently occupies.  Yes, the economic issues matter but they need to be expressed and articulated in a way that women in particular can relate to.

Also an issue is the relatively low support in rural areas for independence currently, despite the SNP’s huge electoral strength in many of Scotland’s rural heartlands.  Indeed, the level of rural support for the SNP before the May election was quite extraordinary and was borne out by the election result.  The SNP will need to find a way of turning that trust and confidence in parliamentary elections into a pro-independence vote in the referendum.  One issue is the perceived – however inaccurate – dominance of the central belt and central belt issues in the constitutional debate.  If the SNP is to win the referendum, it will need to ensure that the discourse envelopes all airts and pairts.

Obviously it is early days and a lot more movement in the polls is likely.  An early poll like this offers succour that the key messages first rolled out before the election and which continue to dominate the SNP’s narrative, are still finding favour among key voter groups.  But the poll also shows the scale of the challenge.  The SNP and other parties who want to achieve a yes vote will need to persuade those who are relatively happy with the status quo – or who are minded to keep the devil they know – to shift their view.

As we have seen, no party gathers momentum like the SNP in campaigning terms.  I certainly wouldn’t bet against it managing to shift opinion, or at least enough opinion within key voter groups, once its bandwagon gets going.  And it will be interesting too to see what the pro-Union camp does in terms of trying to arrest the yes vote among younger and poorer voters, in particular.  Poll-watching in the next two years is going to be fascinating.

Or at least, this political anorak will be fascinated…

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13 thoughts on “Independence favoured by those with most to gain

  1. Ach but yer the Qwertyqueen of wherever yer frae or are. More political dressing down than anorak I’d suggest, if asked.

  2. Whatever makes you think that older Scots have done well from the Union? That’s a strange position for someone who favours independence. Where has the movement for independence come from if not from older Scots who have lived their lives within the Union and who know from experience how unfair the Union has been to this country and to them as a consequence?

    The stereotype of older, better-off people not being interested in the general well-being is insulting. Not everyone’s morality and political understanding is based on selfishness. It is dangerous to compartmentalise people in this way. There are plenty of wealthy and even old Scots who are more than intellectually capable of thinking in terms of what is best for the collective good. It is a dangerous ploy to write off groups of voters because polls indicate some are more pro-independence than others. Polls are indicative of voting behaviour but they hide a great deal behind statistics. There is no difference between the ‘yes’ voters in the 35-54 group and the over –‘55s. Care has to be taken in explaining voting patterns otherwise the impression given is very negative and likely to backfire if the intention is to take the majority into the ‘yes’camp.

    This drive for independence has picked up momentum but it has been built on a campaign which was driven by older Scots. The excitement over the percentage of support from the young should be tempered by the smallness of the sample.

    The interesting aspect about support for independence is the percentage of the better-off who support it. Not for them the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. If, as you suggest, they’ve done alright within the Union then the inference is they may have something to lose. Yet there are currently around one-third who are positive about independence and do not see it as a risk, indeed they regard it as vital to maintain their living standards in Scotland.

    In all of Scotland Glasgow has the most deprived area and the poorest people yet Glasgow is still the most Labour of places. So something doesn’t ring true about this statistic. You might say there is grass-roots support for independence and the lack of support for pro-independence Parties in elections comes down to turnout which has long been a factor in elections but that doesn’t take the ‘yes’ movement very far forward as this behaviour is unlikely to change. I’d like to know where the deprived areas polled were. There are pockets of poverty throughout Scotland, much of it is in rural areas. Is this where people were polled?

    What do you mean by Scotland’s rural heartlands? A quick check of support for SNP at the last election shows that it came through right around Scotland which presumably includes a few rural heartlands but not in the urban heartlands where it is suggested the greatest support for independence lies and yet as we know these are the pro-Union areas of the Central Belt.

  3. The poll reveals the growing belief amongst poor sections of Scottish society that the union and in particular Labour has failed them. This Age of Austerity will shake people’s faith further in the current constitutional arrangement especially with a Tory-led government at the helm. It is clear that people are now open and responsive to a positive and alternative message, otherwise there would not have been such shift in this poll over such a short period. The SNP have an opportunity to build a positive, progressive and pragmatic campaign that deals directly with peoples’ hopes and aspirations for a fair and equitable society, because that is what we lack now.

  4. I’ve never heard of the ‘innate conservatism of women’ of women before! (I’m sceptical about its being innate, but that may be because I’ve always leaned left.)
    Sounds like the SNP have to target these demographics. My hope for the whole debate is that will come up with transparent, coherent arguments across the board.

  5. is it a confidence issue with scots.when you have been led for so long its difficult to take the opportunity to lead ones self.this is not helped by our own media preaching doom and gloom about independence.unionists do what they do and its going to be difficult to change that.older and comfortably off,the older you are the more reluctant to change you are.the comfortably off well you assume that some of them are or have been in charge of various operations to get where they are but again is it a confidence thing to be really in charge that being independent.we seem to do well working for someone else.

  6. As we have moved forward on the constitutional development of Scotland, the Scots have progressively “learned” how to vote. Following the 1979 40% trickery, we went for overwhelming YES votes in 1997. In the third Scottish general election, we went for an overwhelming vote to the SNP to overcome the “trick” that was meant to prevent an overall majority.

    I’m in the class of “semi-retired higher earner”, but the two reasons I give for voting for independence are:

    Democratic deficit: In spite of how Scotland votes, we are povided by Westminster with alternating Tory/Labour governments. Scotland deserves a government of its own choosing.

    Economic: I run a business. My corporation tax, VAT, income tax, NI, fuel tax, and all other taxes flow to the Westminster treasury, to have expenses deducted, decisions made, debts incurred, holes created (£35bn hole in defence spending), and a small portion of my tax finds its way back to Scotland. This is a crazy way of managing Scotland’s finances.

    As to Defence, Foreign Affairs, currency and other “reserved matters”, of course Scotland can manage these. I look forward to all parties spelling out their transitional arrangements and the proposals they have for all of these matters in an independent Scotland.

  7. If the average ABC1 believes they’ll be worse-off in an independent Scotland that undermines my faith in the idea that success is earned by hard work and good decisions. (Not that it’s a strong belief: my experience is that luck plays a large part in it and that choosing the right parents is very important too.)

    Do lawyers and accountants in Edinburgh and Aberdeen really believe that they’ll have less work and worse prospects in an independent Scotland? The same question could be asked of academics in Glasgow and Dundee and of many other groups. Surely not. Some part of the vast gravy train currently pulled along by Westminster and the City would move north for the haves of an independent Scotland to leap aboard. It’ll make the current opportunities offered by Holyrood or the councils look small indeed.

    • Indeed, making the aspirational arguments play to this group is going to be key. And showing the opportunity that independence represents for them, their work, their business and their family also important.

  8. As I pointed out on another blog these polls are phone polls and are intrinsically unsound because of that.
    A phone poll contacts an unrepresentative subset of people mostly middle to old aged and in a modest socio-economic group which is not our strongest group.
    People under 35 will make up a proptionately much smaller group on a phone poll.
    I suspect the real figure is neck and neck – and I think the Labour Party in Scotland is rupturing at the moment

    • Don’t disagree on the latter, the party is in a curious state just now but not sure it is quite so neck and neck. The numbers for each age group are largely similar and I do make the point about the monitor having an old-fashioned methodology. But if phone canvassing so unrepresentative, why does the SNP lay so much store on it as a campaigning method/tool? It does work, the Monitor is fairly robust and I don’t think these findings are unfavourable to the yes camp at all. Simply points up where the work is to be done, which is good.

  9. This poll was only for those certain to vote. Your analysis would suggest that the people who don’t normally vote would be more likely to be independence supporters. Changing their minds (on voting) will also be key.

    • Hi Alasdair

      It wasn’t just for those certain to vote – it included all voters and then pulled out only those certain to vote. The differentials were marginal with one or two percentage points moving from yes to uncertains. The no vote held up in both analyses. But I agree that there are about a quarter out there saying they are unlikely to vote – that is less than those who usually don’t vote at elections but still a significant number that need to be persuaded to come out and vote.

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