So far in our twin social-attitudes polls of Scotland and the rUK we’ve found that while there can be very sizeable gaps between Scottish public opinion and that elsewhere, it mostly tends to be within the same side of the debate – for example, rUK citizens are much keener on retaining the monarchy and nuclear weapons than Scots are, but Scots do still favour both.
Our final round-up off the poll findings, though, focuses on the three questions we asked where the differences DID cross the divide.
THE BBC PROVIDES BALANCED AND UNBIASED POLITICAL COVERAGE
Net agreement: -3
Net agreement: 20
Scotland/rUK gap: 23 points
Well, knock us down with a feather, etc.
It’s not too much of a surprise to find a lack of faith in the BBC in Scotland after the events of the indyref. Opinion, though, while along predictable party-loyalty lines, wasn’t quite as polarised as one might perhaps expect. SNP voters disagreed with the proposition by -22 points (35-57), while Lib Dems were the most favourable at a modest +17, with Labour supporters on +15 and Tories on +7.
Yes voters recorded a net -30 to the proposition (29-59), with No voters on +19. Large minorities of all three Unionist parties (43% of Tory voters, 37% of Labour ones and 35% of Lib Dems) said the state broadcaster WAS biased, though in fairness the question didn’t allow them to say which way.
In the rUK, however, backing for the BBC was much higher. Conservative voters still only thought it was balanced by +7, but Labour (+36) and Lib Dem (+33) supporters looked much more favourably on it than their Scottish counterparts.
There were no significant differences between age, gender or class groups, all of which does tend to suggest that it was specifically the BBC’s referendum coverage which led to the serious fall in trust it commands in Scotland. We’d be surprised if that damage was healed any time in the forseeable future.
THE OTHER COUNTRIES OF THE UK ARE SUBSIDISED BY ENGLAND
Net agreement: -47
Net agreement: 33
Scotland/rUK gap: 80 points
Well, someone’s reading the sums wrong.
This is a fascinating finding. A massive cornerstone of the No campaign was built on hammering home the idea that Scotland benefits from the largesse of England, most commonly said to be manifested in the £1400-per-head “extra” spending allocated to Scotland under the Barnett Formula, and that therefore Scotland would lose out financially by going it alone.
Yet what our survey found was that almost nobody in Scotland believes that. 55% of people voted No, yet just a third that many actually believe that the Union delivers a financial benefit. SNP voters unsurprisingly disagreed by -68, with Labour ones on -53, Tories on -10 and Lib Dems on -6. Just 22% of No voters believed it, while 59% didn’t.
Frankly, readers, we don’t know what to make of all that. There certainly seem to be some internal communications issues – rUK voters in the same parties have radically different beliefs to their compatriots north of the border, with net ratings for the proposition +55 among Conservatives, +40 for Labour and +30 for Lib Dems.
In Scotland, women were quite a bit more likely to believe the subsidy-junkie myth than men, with a net rating of -41 versus the men’s -54, while differences by age and social class were much less pronounced (six points between ABC1 and C2DE, two points between old and young).
We do of course know the truth of the matter, and it’s to be expected that each side will want to believe that it’s the more generous/more wronged party. But it’s absolutely intriguing to see just how little traction one of the main supporting pillars of the entire No campaign actually managed to achieve.
THE UK SHOULD LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION
Net agreement: -5
Net agreement: 4
Scotland/rUK gap: 9 points
Nine points isn’t one of the bigger gaps that we found in our polling. Opinions diverged more widely on votes at 16, on “English votes for English laws” (+25 in Scotland, +49 rUK), on the monarchy, on Trident, on workfare, on nuclear power and others. But those nine points are the most important ones anywhere in the surveys.
Because what they suggest is that if there’s an EU referendum, Scotland will vote to stay in and the rest of the UK will vote to leave. And that’s kind of a big deal.
We’re not aware of anyone having previously done full-sample polls of both Scotland and the rUK on the same question and at the same moment, so this is the first time it’s been possible to do a like-for-like comparison, and it backs up what individual polls have been suggesting for years: while the gap isn’t huge in numerical terms, it’s the difference between in and out.
The party whose agenda that most obviously suits in Scotland is the SNP, which is ironic because their voters still, by a very narrow margin, favour an EU exit. (The numbers are SNP +4, Lab -15, Lib Dem -49, Conservatives +22.) While the “Better Together” line on Scotland being a subsidy junkie flopped badly, it seems the one on independence within the EU not being enough independence had some resonance.
(Perhaps the oddest finding, though, is the absolute dead heat between Yes voters and No voters, both of whom recorded net scores of -4 to the proposition, at 37-41 and 38-42 respectively.)
As well as knocking another nail into sour-grapes Unionist accusations of the SNP being “populist”, that’s going to make for a difficult crisis of conscience for a lot of people, as many Nats will be forced to decide whether to vote to leave, knowing that if Scotland goes the same way as the UK they’ll be destroying by far the best chance of getting a second Scottish independence referendum inside the next 20 years.
We don’t think it needs spelling out again. Things could be about to get interesting.
*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.