As well as asking the respondents in our latest Panelbase poll what they were thinking right now, we also invited them to have a shot at peering into the future – to be more specific, the future of the UK.
It’s fair to say that their predictions weren’t exactly overflowing with optimism.
Q: The current UK government has pursued a policy of “austerity”, cutting spending and public services to reduce the national debt. There is scheduled to be a UK general election in May 2015.
REGARDLESS of how you personally might vote in that election, which of the following statements do you THINK are likely to be correct with regard to the years from 2015 to 2020? (Tick as many as apply.)
– David Cameron will be Prime Minister of a coalition government: 19%
– Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister of a coalition government: 16%
– David Cameron will be Prime Minister of a majority government: 15%
– Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister of a majority government: 14%
(Total Cameron PM: 34%, total Miliband PM: 29%)
– austerity will continue much as it does now: 26%
– austerity will get worse, with more cuts to spending and services: 25%
– austerity will lessen, with fewer cuts and more spending: 17%
– there will be a referendum on the UK leaving the EU: 17%
Exactly three times as many Scots (51% to 17%) think austerity will stay the same or get worse between now and 2020 as think it will ease off, despite an almost dead heat over whether they think David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be in charge.
(Party divisions see SNP voters dead-heated, with 31% each predicting Cameron and Miliband, although the biggest single group – 22% – expects a Tory-led coalition. Labour voters naturally see Miliband winning in 2015, by 48% vs 26%. Tories also back their own man to win – this time by a whopping 73% to 11% – while 39% of Lib Dems think Cameron will get a second term, against 22% who think Miliband will take the keys to 10 Downing Street.)
Tories, perhaps slightly strangely (given that their party is the one which essentially regards austerity as a good thing which should be made permanent), were by far the most optimistic – 34% saw a reduction in austerity ahead (against 21% of Lib Dems, 17% of Labour supporters and 12% of SNP voters), compared to 30% who thought it would stay the same and just 8% saying it would get worse.
Supporters of the other three parties were all much of a muchness, with only a few points between their positions – for example 27% of Labour voters thought things would get worse, as did 23% of Lib Dems and 31% of SNP voters. 29% of both Labour and SNP respondents predicted no change, along with 34% of Lib Dems.
In terms of referendum intentions, 17% of Nos (and 37% of Yeses) said they expected austerity to worsen during the next Parliament, with 24% saying it would ease (as did just 9% of Yes voters) and 32% of Nos (22% of Yeses) thinking it would stay the same.
We were rather surprised by the low numbers on the EU referendum question. Only 22% of Tory voters appeared to believe their leader’s pledge of a 2017 vote on taking the UK out of Europe, barely any different to the figures for supporters of the SNP (19%), Labour (16%) and the Lib Dems (14%). Perhaps voters have been promised too much and seen too little in this regard.
(There were no very significant differences across either genders or age groups with regard to any of the above issues.)
Finally we asked a directly Scotland-specific question:
Q: We’d like you to think about how the Westminster government treats Scotland generally, in terms of public spending and prioritising Scotland’s interests relative to the rest of the UK.
In the event of a No vote, do you think Scotland will be:
– treated more favourably by the UK government than it is now: 13%
– treated the same by the UK government as it is now: 37%
– treated less favourably by the UK government than it is now: 38%
It’s not the most resounding vote of confidence in the three Unionist parties’ solemn promises of a stronger, better devolved Scotland within the UK, is it? Barely over one in 10 voters think we can expect a better deal from the UK in exchange for a No vote, with almost exactly three times as many believing that we should anticipate punishment for our temerity in even daring to raise the question of independence.
Again there were no notable differences spanning age or gender, leaving party affiliation as the main determinant of opinion. 21% of Tories thought Scotland would be rewarded for sticking with the UK, as did 19% of Labour voters, with just 9% of Lib Dems and 8% of SNP supporters agreeing.
Interestingly, the ratios weren’t mirrored among those who thought we’d suffer for a No vote – this time the Lib Dems aligned with Labour (34% and 35% respectively) rather than the SNP (57%), with a mere 4% of Tories prepared to countenance Westminster exacting revenge on the Scots with the deterrent of independence removed.
Most enlightening of all, though, were the figures for Yes and No voters.
Almost a fifth (18%) of those intending to vote No are doing so in the belief that it will result in Scotland being treated worse by Westminster than it is now. Only fractionally more – 19% – of them expect Scotland to do better out of the UK in return for a show of faith, with 53% seeing a No vote as a vote for the status quo.
Advocates of independence are sometimes accused of regarding the No camp as “anti-Scottish”. But with nearly 20% of them apparently intending to knowingly and consciously vote for worse treatment for Scotland, it seems to be a charge of which a significant proportion of Unionists are – by their own admission – clearly guilty.