The Demographics of Independence

γνῶθι σεαυτόν – “Know Thyself” – Inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

My latest paper for Common Weal was published today. It can be downloaded here or by clicking the image below.

demographics-of-indyThe Demographics of Independence is an in depth study of the opinion polls taken between the 2014 independence referendum and the present, with particular note taken of those polls taken since the EU referendum. Whilst the “headline” figures of support for independence has scarcely changed since 2014, this has masked significant movement within certain demographics and whilst there has been some movement towards Yes recently amongst some groups (such as under 35 year olds as well as Labour and Lib Dem voters) other groups (such as over 55 females, and SNP voters) have seen a significant decline in support for independence since 2014 and particularly since Brexit.

This paper was presented to the Scottish Independence Convention on the 14th January 2016, a recording of which is below. Press coverage can also be read on CommonSpace and in The National here and here.


Key points:-

  • Age remains a very strong correlator of voting intention. Voters aged 16-41 are more likely than not to vote Yes whereas voters above 41 are more likely to vote No.
  • A significant rural/urban split has been identified. Council areas with a higher population density were significantly more likely to vote Yes than council areas with lower population density.
  • Since 2014 there has been a steady decline in support for independence amongst SNP voters, particularly since “Brexit”. This decline has been largely counterbalanced by an increase in support amongst Labour, Liberal Democrat and (marginally) Conservative voters.
  • Since 2014 there has been a steady decline in support for independence among voters within the C2DE social grades. The ABC1 social bracket has been largely static.
  • Gender and age will prove important. Voters of both genders who are aged 16 to 25 years old display a consistent increasingly pro-independence trend. Males aged 25-55 are trending slightly downwards whereas the trend in males aged 55+ is static. Since the Brexit vote, support for independence amongst females aged 55+ has fallen precipitously from 37% to 22%. All other female age groups show a rising trend in support for independence.
  • The biggest increases in support for independence are likely to be found in lower income groups. If independence support from those earning £45k+ was raised from the 2014 result of 34% to the average of 45%, the vote gap would reduce by less than 120,000. For the £25-45k income group, raising support from 36% to 45% would reduce the vote gap by over 180,000. For those from £0-25k, an increase of support for independence by 5% would close the vote gap by 400,000, more than the 380,000 vote gap in the 2014 referendum.
  • Given the disparate nature of the various segments of the Scottish voting population an independence campaign based on targeting any one group or based on the political ideology of any one party would be highly unlikely to succeed. Conversely, housing for the elderly, well-located within communities, and occupancies and second homes, would help.



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