I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve written a book. And it’s going to be published soon, apparently, by the lovely Luath press as part of Gerry Hassan‘s Open Scotland series. Or maybe they’ll pulp it, which would probably do us all a favour.
Titter all ye like; it won’t match my own embarrassed guffawing about it.
In the book wot I wrote about Scotland’s 20-somethings, I wanted to use the lyrics from Gorillaz’ seminal* noughties track, Clint Eastwood, as chapter headings but this is a big no-no – copyright fees for such borrowing are eye-watering. So sue me now for doing it here, Messrs Albarn, Hewlett and Jones: I have nothing you’d want anyway.
I should probably explain why this song’s lyrics struck a chord while collating data and information for *The Book*. In fact, it didn’t take long for it to play on a loop in my head during the project, which was a tad annoying, given that I’d spent much of the preceding ten years removing it as an earworm.
The Big Yin was ten when Clint Eastwood was released, but it stayed in his most-played tracks throughout adolescence. Its use in films, in sampling and covers throughout the decade ensured its longevity, as did each year of pre-pubescent and pubescent children awakening afresh to its potency. It’s taken me until now to get it. It’s not the technology nor the concept that has given it legs, but the lyrics, and especially the chorus.
And what has this pleasing meander got to do with anything?
On Friday, in what is now Gordon Brewer’s Big Debate on Radio Scotland, I was rounded upon for suggesting that younger generations were probably going to vote yes. On cue, up popped two possibly-planted No-voting 19 year olds to dispel my theory, which Harry Donaldson of the GMB seized upon. Never mind the polls – for once, apparently – here’s the evidence in front of us. All two of them.
And for all there’s been much chatter about how this referendum campaign has enervated Scotland’s youth, much of it has focused on 16 and 17 year olds who will vote for the first time ever in September. No one has had much to say about those aged 18 to 29 and their voting intentions. Partly that’s the pollsters’ fault, because they have been all over the place in mapping this demographic’s voting intentions. They have used different age definitions at various points and the weighting of poll samples of 18 to 24s and 25 to 34s can create such margins of error as to make findings meaningless. Nor is there much evidence of a trend, of a forward march relentlessly towards one outcome or the other, so there have been few talking points. Indeed, such is the volatility of their voting intentions, that far from being the Independence Generation, they are more like the Mebbes Aye Mebbes Naw one.
But that has changed a little in the last three months. These tables take poll data from ICM, TNS-BMRB and Survation, the only companies to have surveyed in each of May, June and July:
There’s no easy way of presenting disaggregated data – or at least, I’m not useful enough technically to do so. But these three polls all suggest that to varying degrees, there is a softening of the no vote, a shift to yes and a rise in the number of don’t knows. Indeed, among 25 to 34s who are much more likely to vote than 18 to 24s, ICM and TNS-BMRB even have Yes as winning in most months.
I’ve included the 35 to 44s to show that here too, there is movement, though all pollsters suggest more of a roller coaster ride in voting intentions.
Effectively, the polls suggest that these voters are the key age demographic for the Yes campaign: the closer we get to Referendum Day, the more the gap is closing between No and Yes and might even be opening up in some ages between Yes and No. Moreover, there are still plenty of their votes to be won, with consistently more than a quarter saying they have yet to make up their minds.
These age groups are clearly the furrow to plough for Yes in the remaining forty days of the campaign. Yes needs to nail the myth and the fear that free university tuition would be threatened by independence. It needs to get childcare back on the agenda, ignore those spouting millions and billions to talk it down and win the argument that free childcare is good for children, good for families and good for the economy (and isn’t on offer within the UK). It needs to emphasise how these young adults are the hardest hit by Westminster, especially if they are in work, and how key changes in tax and earnings policy in independent Scotland will benefit them in particular. And it needs to do the vision thing, offering up independence as their one chance, their one opportunity at a better future.
This recent polling data suggests that younger adult voters in Scotland actually get this last, fundamental argument in the independence case. The new poster campaign with its focus on “one opportunity” suggests Yes gets it too (though mixing the messaging dilutes its impact, as does the stark, male styling).
And this analysis suggests three things: such a high level of undecideds among three key age groups means there is all to play for and that this referendum is not over yet; given their lower propensity to actually vote, getting them out to vote on Referendum day is a challenge requiring precision planning; Yes needs to win over as many of the undecideds as it can in all three age groups, to counter the much higher number of No voters in the over 55s in particular, who are also much more likely to vote.
While it might all come down to differential turnout on the day, there’s a message to be taken to the nation’s Grannies in particular. Vote no because you think things are fine as they are, because at your time of life, you can’t be bothered with the change and you’d rather have the “devil you know” and you could well be consigning your grandchildren to a future they neither want nor have voted for.
That’s a stark and hard message for Yes to get across but it must find a way to hit home that those with the least to gain from independence could thwart the aspirations of those who will benefit the most. 20 and 30 somethings could help by initiating the inter-generational conversation: a wee blast of Clint Eastwood and especially, the chorus would be a good place to start:I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad I got sunshine in a bag I’m useless but not for long The future is coming on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoQYw49saqc
*seminal means making the Rolling Stone’s top 100 of the decade – it’s in there at 38. My blog, my rules.