Actually, Scots do think differently

There has been much seizing upon by the Better Together campaign of the Mail on Sunday’s poll results, published yesterday.

Not only do the survey findings suggest that support for independence is slipping, but also that opinion on the issue of the referendum question or questions is hardening.  Only 27% support independence, with 13% undecided and 60% now opposed.  At the same time, the poll suggests a slight majority now favours a single question referendum (53%) with 41% wanting a devo plus or max option on the ballot paper.

But a different poll conducted by Com Res for the Independent on Sunday, albeit with a much smaller sample size for Scotland*, shows a slightly different position.  That poll conducted over roughly the same time period shows 31% in favour of independence with 20% undecided and 49% against.  Whichever poll you prefer, they both do confirm the trend of support for independence slipping rather than growing.

This ComRes poll, however, is interesting because of what it suggests about the nations and regions of the UK.  Simply put, Scotland thinks differently, politically from England and Wales.

A number of attitudinal statements were put to participants on political issues.  First, they were asked to rank each of the UK party leaders.  Only 16% of Scottish respondents think David Cameron is turning out to be a good Prime Minister, compared to 28% of English and Welsh;  meanwhile, 28% of Scots think Ed Miliband a good Labour leader with 25% of English and Welsh respondents thinking likewise.  Reassuringly, Nick Clegg is held in equal disdain across the nations (19% to 20%).  These findings suggest that the Tories’ doldrums in Scotland continue but if Labour think this cause for celebration, more sobering is the finding – across the UK – that only 53% of its own voters (people who voted Labour at the last general election) think Miliband is a good leader.

The poll also asked if respondents might prefer a Labour/Lib Dem coalition in government.  A curious finding this, with 35% of English and Welsh respondents agreeing and less than a third of Scots doing so.  A slightly larger number of don’t knows might explain this one.  Or it might just be that the Lib Dem brand is so toxic now in Scotland that it would taint Labour as much as the Tories.  Which even I concede is an interesting interpretation.

When it is suggested that being in coalition with the Conservatives has shown the Liberal Democrats to be a credible party of government, only 12% of Scots agree with nearly one in five of English and Welsh respondents agreeing.  Perhaps the most eye-catching difference is recorded against the statement “David Cameron was right to abandon the attempt to make changes to the House of Lords”.  While 30% agree from England and Wales, only 19% from Scotland do so, implying, perhaps, that there is a bigger appetite for reform north of the border.

A number of other attitudinal statements were posited:  the general economic condition of the country (sic) will improve over the next 12 months – while 1 in 4 from England and Wales agrees, this slips to 1 in 5 from Scotland;  while over half from England and Wales think the Olympics will probably boost the economy, only 42% from Scotland do so;  and somewhat spiking the celebrations, a very low base from both samples think the Olympics will result in more of their family taking part in more sport – 16% and 14%.

But there is one other Olympics-related attitudinal statement which makes for fascinating reading, in the context of the constitutional debate.   It would appear that Better Together are launching a campaign blitz this weekend, getting out into communities to sign up supporters.  Much of the anti-independence camp’s messaging in recent weeks has aimed to capitalise on supposedly pro-British sentiment generated by the Olympics.  Indeed, the Mail on Sunday suggests that fewer people now support independence because of the success of Team GB.

This poll suggests otherwise.

When asked if the London 2012 Olympics have made you more proud of Britain, 72% – nearly three quarters – of respondents from England and Wales agreed.  But only 55% of Scottish respondents did likewise.  This is a significant difference of opinion, the most significant across the whole survey.

And yes, while a majority of Scots are more proud of Britain because of the Olympics, it points up a gap in British fervour.  The figures against are also harder, with over a third (35%) of Scots disagreeing with the notion, compared to only one in five of English and Welsh respondents.

This finding suggests that Scots do see things differently and that it will take more than some outstanding sporting achievements to make Scots feel more British.  It also suggests that there is little correlation between the Brit fest served up recently and voting intention in the referendum, as the SNP has claimed.  And it should give the Unionists pause for thought before setting out to appropriate the performance of TeamGB and its members as political filler for their referendum campaign.   Unlike them, it would appear that Scots can distinguish from sharing in success from making a big political decision:  whatever is going on with support for independence, the Olympics and British sporting success has had only marginal impact.

Given that there appears to have been little Olympic bounce among Scots immediately after the games, even that marginal impact of British related euphoria might wane.  The London Olympics might well be giving pro-Unionist campaigners a temporary, small-scale filip, but they would be unwise to build a long term campaign strategy around it.

10 thoughts on “Actually, Scots do think differently

  1. I don’t believe sporting events will change anyones mind in the long run…it’s just a breif buzz from having done well. It’d be a different story had we done rather poorly. The Vote is still a good way away from were we are. A week is a long time in politics, 2 years will feel like eternity. Partly one of the reasons the Unionist camp want the vote now, not later. They want to use that good feeling buzz to shore up the status quo and of course to hold the vote before it’s really been properly debated. I regard this period as a phoney war, with a lot of posturing on both sides, but no great opening barrage from the SNP camp as yet. The Unionists are going at it hammer and tongs, but the overall tone is still largely negative and sometimes bordering on the surreal. I think by the time the real campaign gets into gear, the Unionists will have exhausted most of their arguments. We will have also had to endure 2 years of Westminster incompetence, 2 years of brainfarts from various characters in the unionist camp. I suspect you will find opinion starting to shift about this time in the other direction. I would be wary of any opinion poll offered up by certain papers, as they are a poll of their own readership. I tend to think papers do not form opinion, more follow a trend exhibited by their readership. Polls from newspapers would very biased. The only poll that counts on the day is the one were we cast our votes.

  2. I don’t disregard polls although there are certainly questions over the YouGov/Progressive Opinion methodology and results.

    But what I think is fascinating is the way that polls show continuing strong support for the SNP while declining support for independence. It is as though Mr & Mrs J Public is saying we want the SNP in government because we think they are best at standing up for Scotland and pushing for more powers but we are not yet ready to break the Union.

    In a way you can understand that position. It avoids the disruption that would come with independence but keeps the demand for Scotland to be able to be autonomous within the UK at the forefront.

    My issue would be – is that actually sustainable? Is it realistic for people to believe that they can vote No but continue to have the SNP in government and continue to have an incremental increase in powers, which is what polls show the majority want?

    I am not sure it is. Not suggesting that the SNP would walk away after a No vote but equally it wouldn’t be business as usual. And it is highly unlikely that any further powers would be conceded on the back of a No vote.

    But how to get people to think about that? It’s an interesting conundrum which will maybe be solved when the referendum bill is published. If and when the Devo Max option is removed that may concentrate minds.

  3. I would be inclined to disregrad all opinion polls from now on in, especially those from YouGov which are a totally discredited polling body. They had SNP/Labour neck and neck before the last Scottish election and a have record of getting Scottish polls seriously wrong every time.
    Fiddled opinion polls will be the least of what we are facing from now on in and anybody who understands the enormity of what was achieved at the Glenrothes by election will understand we ain’t seen nothing yet.

  4. TBH wish I could understand what all these initials mean,I might even agree with some more people!
    Anyway the bounce from the Olympics,maybe in the area South of Watford,and to think a paper based in England with English dominance, in an editorial sense, who would they pick do do a survey? somebody that they know who will give them the kind of answer that they want,I do notice that a lot of polls seem to go along with the general opinion of the people who commission them!
    There has always been a big difference between the Scots,and those who wish to be Scottish for as the years go by I am coming to the conclusion that to be Scottish is a state of mind,and political ambition. Lost the place there ,and a variance with those who are not Scottish or wish to be Scottish.Mr Salmond is not doing this by himself,there are a lot of us who wish to make sure that there will still be a Scotland in 60 years time,and only independence can make it so.
    I also seen a poll recently saying that those seeking independence were now at 39% and opposed at 38%

    • ‘To Be Honest’ I would guess.

    • No Scotland in 60 years without independence, how does that work?

      On opinion polls, I’ve noticed that when they agree with folks views, they prove their point and strangely, when they don’t agree they are nonsense. Odd that.

  5. I simply don’t believe 60% of Scotland is opposed to independence. But then I read to the bottom of the Daily Mail article, and the last line says it all for me:

    “YouGov carried out a survey of 1,177 adults between Tuesday and Thursday last week on behalf of Progressive Scottish Opinion.”

    YouGov. Hand me the salt, I need to take a handful rather than a pinch.

    Even if we are to believe that sporting events really do change people’s minds on this issue, it’s a dangerous game for unionists to be playing, considering the smorgasbord of events going on in Scotland in 2014…

  6. TBH the second poll particularly, involved such a small number of voters in Scotland it’s pretty meaningless.
    But it does seem Mr Salmond is going to have to work awfy hard to win this one.

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