Today’s special referendum supplement in the Herald gives another run-out to the well-worn “women don’t like Alex Salmond” line much beloved of the Scottish press. It’s rare indeed that a month goes by without some mention somewhere of the fairer sex’s supposed dislike for the First Minister’s occasionally somewhat gallus nature, and today’s example is very much of its type.
“Yes campaign struggling to attract women voters” runs Magnus Gardham’s headline, and curiously notes of the paper’s poll findings that “the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont emerges as a potential asset in appealing to women”.
Why “curiously”? Well, let’s actually have a closer look at those stats.
The headline figures are slightly distorted by the fact that not all respondents had heard of all the candidates. Given her reluctance to appear on TV and radio we can well believe that 45% of Scottish women didn’t know who Johann Lamont was, but how 8% of the female population has managed to live in Scotland without hearing Alex Salmond’s name is quite the mystery.
But if you strip out everyone who lives in a cave or on a rock off the Outer Hebrides and rank which of the politicians in the sample are liked by the highest proportions of the women who HAVE heard of them, you get a pretty clear result:
1. Alex Salmond 23.9% (22/92)
2. Nicola Sturgeon 23.8% (13/80)
3. David Cameron 13.4% (13/97)
4. Alistair Darling 12.8% (10/78)
5. Johann Lamont 10.9% (6/55)
We pause to note again the remarkable achievement of a Scottish Labour MP and former Chancellor invariably described in the media as “respected” being less loved in Scotland than an English Tory Prime Minister. But what we see is that the two figures from the Yes movement are roughly twice as liked by women as the No advocates.
(Salmond isn’t the most disliked either, that honour going by a distance to Cameron.)
Even when you allow for the people who don’t know she is, the person least liked by female Scots, by a clear distance, is Johann Lamont. And it takes some work to translate that into the headline “Yes campaign struggling to attract women voters”. It might be, but it’s struggling a lot less than the No campaign is.
(Although if we were bending over backwards to be fair to Mr Gardham, we suppose that 10.9% figure does leave a lot of scope for Lamont to be a “potential” asset.)
But there’s a wider issue here too. When we were looking last week at a recent UK-wide poll, we thought we’d check if there was a gender gulf in approval of the Westminster party leaders. And sure enough, it’s not just Scottish politicians who have issues with the ladies.
When asked to attribute qualities to Ed Miliband, the sexes differed quite a bit:
“In touch with the concerns of ordinary people”:
MEN 28% WOMEN 21%
M 21% W 11%
“Sticks to what he believes in”:
M 19% W 14%
M 7% W 15%
Funnily enough, Mr Miliband is substantially less convincing to female voters too, yet we never hear that one blared all over the press – indeed, quite the opposite. David Cameron’s ratings showed a similar (but less pronounced) pattern, as did Nick Clegg.
The truth of the matter is, women trust pretty much ALL politicians less than men do, regardless of party or of the sex of the politician. The “gender gap” isn’t an issue for the Yes campaign, or the SNP, or Alex Salmond – it’s an issue for politics as a whole.
Are women uninterested in politics, ditherers, or just realists made bitter by harsh experience? Don’t ask us. But what they’re not is especially opposed to believing in independence. They’re just wary of believing in anything.