Keen students of politics can’t have failed to notice a fascinating situation coalescing in the last few months. On current polling, it looks very much like no two of the UK’s four constituent nations will vote for the same party at the forthcoming general election. The Tories are miles ahead in England, in Scotland the SNP lead by even more, Wales is still a Labour stronghold and Northern Ireland continues to do its own thing, split roughly half-and-half along, well, let’s call them “cultural” lines.
So when we decided to conduct another poll with our left-over fundraiser money (start saving now for 2015’s annual grand appeal next month, readers!), we thought it might be interesting to do something that we’re not sure has ever been done before.
We commissioned TWO full-sample polls, one of 1000 people in Scotland and one of 1000 people in the rest of the UK, and we asked them the same questions.
The results we got were fascinating – sometimes predictable, sometimes surprising, sometimes pleasing and sometimes dismaying. But we’re going to start off with one we really didn’t see coming at all.
Of the 31 propositions that we put to people – asking whether they broadly agreed or disagreed or didn’t know – there were only three where the Scottish and rUK majority views found themselves on opposite sides of the divide, and they weren’t necessarily the ones with the biggest differences of opinion.
The second-most divisive issue of all was one such case in point.
THE VOTING AGE SHOULD BE LOWERED TO 16
Net agreement: -6%
Net agreement: -41%
Scotland/rUK gap: 35 points
Neither the Scottish nor the rUK public want to give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote, but in Scotland it’s a photo finish while the rest of the UK is MASSIVELY against. Lowering the voting age is a policy supported by all the major parties in Scotland and everyone except the Tories at Westminster, by civic groups and most if not all of the media, yet it isn’t backed by the public.
Interestingly, women strongly opposed the measure. Scottish men backed it, albeit by a narrow margin of +6 points (50-44), while women were against by -18 points (37-55). The better-off ABC1 demographic were also opposed by -16, whereas working-class C2DE voters were in favour by +3.
Holyrood 2011 SNP voters were almost solely responsible for the close result, being in favour by a whopping +31, with all the Unionist parties against: Lib Dems on -10, Labour supporters on -21 and Tories on -54.
In the rUK, the figures were Tories -73, Lib Dems a surprising -39 and Labour -24, with heavy opposition from UKIP voters (-30) in place of the SNP support in Scotland providing the final blow.
The disconnect between public opinion and what the electorate can actually vote for will, we’re going to find over the course of this poll, become a recurring theme.
*Our poll sampled 1007 respondents in Scotland and 1031 across the rest of the UK. Fieldwork 9-14 Jan 2015. Full data tables will be available on the Panelbase website.