As we were compiling our second poll, it struck us that it provided an opportunity to find out a lot of things about the Scottish public at once, that weren’t necessarily directly related to the referendum.
Politicians and newspapers routinely make all sorts of claims about what the public’s attitude to various issues are, but whenever we Google for polling data backing up those assertions it’s very thin on the ground, especially for Scotland specifically.
So as usual, we just went ahead and did it ourselves.
We didn’t go into any detail on anything – we simply wanted a very broad-brush picture of the Scottish electorate’s gut instinct on the hot societal topics of the day, so we just asked people whether they were in favour of, or opposed to, a wide range of propositions. Some of the answers were pretty much what we expected, and some of them came as quite a surprise.
THE UK HAVING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
In favour: 32
Don’t know: 21
A clear majority (just short of three to two) opposed, then, but perhaps a smaller margin than you’d have thought. There was a sizeable gender divide – men were against Trident by just 9 points (39-48) while women were twice as opposed (18 points, 27-45) – and a wholly predictable political one (Tories +54, Labour -18, Lib Dems -11, SNP -30), but the more striking stats came by socio-economic group.
The wealthiest Scots were also those most willing to spend billions of pounds on the submarine weapons system, almost tied at 43% in favour to 44% against. Down at the bottom of the financial scale, just 24% of DE respondents backed the nuclear “deterrent”, with more than twice as many – 49% – opposed for a net -25.
In favour: 50
Don’t know: 17
Some justification again here for the SNP’s “don’t scare the horses” approach to independence, with a solid half of Scots keen to remain under the rule of the House Of Windsor, and less than a third desiring a Scottish Republic. Women were more in favour (+24 compared to +11 for men), and old people much more keen on the Queen than the young (+49 for over-65s, compared to +5 for 18-34s.)
Political breakdown was +77 Conservative voters, +13 Labour, +38 Lib Dem, -2 SNP.
THE BEDROOM TAX
In favour: 16
Don’t know: 9
We were using this essentially as a cipher for welfare reform in general, because it encapsulates the broader ethos behind the new ideology around social security that’s shared by all three Westminster parties. And it was one of the few issues which, in terms of net rating, united Scots right across the board.
Even Conservative voters came down against what their party doggedly keeps insisting is the “ending of the spare room subsidy” by a clear margin. 36% of Tories backed the tax with 47% opposed, for a net score of -11 while Labour voters (despite Gordon Brown having introduced the concept in 2008) tallied a whopping -72, with Lib Dems on -31 and SNP supporters also at -72.
Surprisingly, women were less opposed to the tax than men, at -54 versus -65.
MEMBERSHIP OF THE EU
In favour: 41
Don’t know: 21
UKIP might never have held onto a deposit in a Scottish election, but as a nation we’re still less than completely enthusiastic about our relationship with the rest of the continent. More Scottish people still want to stay in than leave, whereas polls in the rest of the UK consistently show a majority wanting out, but it’s a tight call.
Women were the more Eurosceptic, dead-heated at 37-37, while men were pro-Europe by 46 to 38. Attitudes broadly hardened with age – the 25-34 age group were +22 and those aged 35 to 44 even more positive at +28, but there was a sharp drop-off after 45, with over-65s registering -18.
The parties looked predictable at Conservative -32, Labour +12 and Lib Dem +44, but we were startled by the SNP-voter result of -3 (39 to 42). We’re at something of a loss to explain that one, frankly.
VOTING RIGHTS FOR PRISONERS
In favour: 11
Don’t know: 9
We’ve been somewhat bemused at the rise of this as a liberal cause lately (we don’t have a strong view either way, and we suspect prisoners don’t rate it much of a priority either), so we thought it’d be worth gauging the public mood. And the public mood was pretty unequivocal, with the joint-lowest don’t-know rating of any subject.
There were no huge demographic differences on this one – the Lib Dems were the most forgiving, but still scored -57 (18 to 75). And women were harsher than men, at -73 versus -63. But basically, everyone’s on the same side here – as far as Scots are concerned, if you commit a crime and get banged up for it, that’s the end of your participation in the law-making process until you’re out again.
In favour: 61
Don’t know: 22
The compassionate side of the Scottish people came out on the issue of the right to die, however. By almost four-to-one they backed the principle enshrined in Margo McDonald’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to decriminalise those who help the terminally ill to depart this mortal coil at a time and in a manner of their own choosing.
There were only three points between the sexes (men +42, women +45) and not a vast amount of difference across political views (Tories lowest at +34, Labour +37, Lib Dem +59, SNP +50), but there was a noticeable fall in support in the oldest group, either understandably or surprisingly depending on your perspective. For those aged 55-64 backing was +43, but for those who’d actually made it to 65 and beyond the figure dropped to a still-supportive +31.
NATIONALISING THE RAILWAYS
In favour: 47
Don’t know: 25
We’ve touched on UK-wide feelings about bringing rail transport back into public hands recently, and Scots are clear on the subject too, although with considerably more doubt. Again, women voters were noticeably more small-c conservative, backing renationalisation by just +12 compared to +26 for men.
There was very little difference across class, which surprised us a little (the AB and DE ends of the socio-economic scale recording an identical +16), but a bigger political divide, breaking down at Conservative voters -10, Labour +20, Lib Dem 0, SNP +31.
‘PAGE 3’ IMAGES IN NEWSPAPERS
In favour: 24
Don’t know: 23
(We’re not making any “24-53-23” jokes here. We’re better than that.)
The antagonistic, arrogant and, to our mind, counter-productive ‘Lose The Lad Mags’ campaign has brought the issue of naked nipples on news-stands back into the public eye, with newspapers already in a prickly and defensive state over the post-Leveson introduction of a Royal Charter for regulation reacting badly to anyone else trying to dictate what they can and can’t put in their publications, and retailers reluctant to restrict the sales of popular and profitable lines.
That’s a shame, because our poll shows widespread public support for removing pictures of semi-nude women from the nation’s breakfast tables and workplaces. There was, it should be said, still a narrow plurality (+4) in favour of the images from men, but female opposition was overwhelming at -59.
Perhaps strangely, Lib Dem supporters were in this case the least liberal and most censorious, by a long way. They opposed newsboobs by a net -56, with Labour voters at -30, the SNP -28 and the mucky old Tories just -20.
OBTAINING NATURAL GAS BY ‘FRACKING’
In favour: 26
Don’t know: 40
Our poll was “in the field”, as they say, during the Grangemouth crisis, so the issue of energy supply would have been very much on people’s minds. Nevertheless, this subject recorded the highest level of don’t-know responses of the 20 issues in our snapshot. (We’ll be bringing you Scotland’s views on nuclear power in Part 2.)
Women were far warier of the controversial technique than men, and in one of our poll’s few cases of the sexes actually being on opposite sides of the centre point, registered a -16 against the male +2. There was also a sharp divide along wealth lines, with the AB group being +6 versus the DE group’s -18.
As you’d expect, Tories were enthusiastically in favour (+26), with supporters of the other three parties against, SNP voters being narrowly the most strongly opposed by -16. (Alert readers may have noticed the exclusion of the Greens throughout this analysis, which is because the sample size was too small to be reliable.)
DECRIMINALISING RECREATIONAL DRUGS
In favour: 25
Don’t know: 16
In the poll we explicitly identified “recreational” as meaning “cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine etc”, which was intended to create a distinction between genuinely leisure-focused substance-partaking and the more hardcore pursuits like heroin addiction. We stacked the deck a little further by using “decriminalising” rather than the more extreme “legalising”, but the Scottish public still wasn’t having any of it.
Opposition was across-the-board again, with only the Tories standing out from the crowd at -53, with the other three all at least 15 points closer to the centre. (The Lib Dems were unsurprisingly the most liberal at just -16.) Men were against by -24, with women much more against decriminalisation at -44.
And that’s it for the first half of our mammoth investigation into what the Scottish public thinks about things that are nothing to do with the referendum. Tune in soon for the concluding section, after which we’ll get down to the fun stuff where we laugh at Alistair Darling and such.