For our next grab-bag of data from our twin social-attitudes polls of Scotland and the rUK, let’s take a look at some things where Scottish people converge and diverge from their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts. It’ll be something to do.
BRITAIN SHOULD KEEP THE MONARCHY
Net agreement: 40
Net agreement: 60
Scotland/rUK gap: 20 points
Another endorsement for the Yes campaign’s “softly, softly” approach here. There’s actually a very substantial arithmetical difference between attitudes to the royal family in Scotland and the rest of the UK, but not a fundamental one – while significantly less so than everyone else, Scots remain very firmly in favour. An explicitly republican Yes movement would have been toxic.
Women were, as you might perhaps expect, far more monarchist than men – the margin of female support was +48 in Scotland and +67 in the rUK, compared to +30 and +54 respectively for men.
In both polls older people and Tories were most likely to back retention, with SNP voters most opposed, but there was very little difference between social classes.
(SNP voters were the only ones to record a net approval rating of under 20 points, but even they still supported retention by +19. rUK Tories were the biggest fans at +87, while Scottish Labour voters were +48.)
THE UK SHOULD CONTINUE TO HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Net agreement: 8
Net agreement: 24
Scotland/rUK gap: 16 points
THE UK SHOULD CUT SPENDING ON THE ARMED FORCES AND DIVERT THE MONEY TO THE WELFARE SYSTEM
Net agreement: -26
Net agreement: -31
Scotland/rUK gap: 5 points
These results will disappoint a lot of readers. Perhaps more than they should – we deliberately chose the phrasing “continue” rather than talking about buying a NEW Trident system, because we wanted to first establish whether people objected to nuclear weapons on moral rather than economic grounds.
We found a noticeably lower level of support in Scotland, and one that was a close-run thing rather than the almost 2:1 backing in the rest of the UK, but nevertheless more people still wanted to keep nukes than get rid of them. Only SNP voters opposed the proposition, and only by a narrow -8 margin (37-45).
And Scots were much closer to the rUK when it came to spending money on defence generally. A resounding majority would rather we spent money on protecting ourselves from largely-imaginary military threats than on looking after human beings in our own country. SNP voters were keenest on the proposition, but even they opposed it overall by 36-49 for a net -13.
The old were predictably far more hawkish than the young. Scots aged 18-34 were the only group to back the proposition (by a super-narrow +2, compared to -8 in the rUK), whereas Scots over 55 opposed it by -43 (rUK -54).
More surprisingly, Scottish women were less in favour of cutting defence in favour of welfare spending than men: -30 vs -22. (In the rUK the sexes tied at -31.)
The uncharitable but logical conclusion from the findings is that Scots are barely any less militaristic than people in the rest of the UK, but they don’t like having Trident in their own back yard.
UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE TO WORK FOR BENEFITS
Net agreement: 30
Net agreement: 45
Scotland/rUK gap: 15 points
CUTTING WORKING-AGE BENEFITS LIKE JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE AND WORKING TAX CREDITS HELPS THE ECONOMY
Net agreement: -22
Net agreement: -15
Scotland/rUK gap: 7 points
Here’s where things start to get weird. In both categories we again find substantial quantitative differences on the two sides of the border, but not philosophical ones. Our two polls agreed on the principles, but with differing levels of vehemence.
SNP voters are almost solely responsible for the difference, being much further to the left than other parties. They still backed workfare, but only by +16 compared to +30 for Labour voters and +69 for Tories. Interestingly, in the rUK Labour voters were much less in favour of dole-slavery than their Scottish comrades (+15).
The story was the same on cutting working-age benefits: SNP voters opposed it by -44, with Labour the next-closest at -26. (Again, south of the border Labour voters were more left-wing than Scottish ones, at -40.) Tories in both polls strongly backed the “make people poor” approach to growth, by +21 in Scotland and +24 in the rUK.
Alert readers will also have noticed the contradiction hidden in the two questions. People disagree that punishing the poor (whether unemployed or working) helps the economy, yet still want wages depressed by forcing the unemployed to work for effectively nothing, doing jobs which could otherwise go on the market for proper pay.
Once more we can only attribute this to a relentless right-wing media attack on “scroungers”, which the rhetoric of all three Westminster parties meekly complies with and feeds. Attitudes towards the working and non-working poor are one of the most depressing aspects of life in modern Britain, and while Scots aren’t as heartless as the rest of the UK, they’re by no means immune from the poison.
THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH TOO MUCH IMMIGRATION IN THIS COUNTRY
Net agreement: 45
Net agreement: 48
Scotland/rUK gap: 3 points
We can offer no better illustration of the phenomenon mentioned in the previous paragraph than these findings. Roughly speaking the immigrant population in Scotland is HALF of what it is in the rest of the UK (around 7% compared to 15%), yet public opinion was almost identical, driven by Scotland’s lack of a true native media.
SNP voters were as guilty as anyone else, agreeing by a margin of +43. Scottish Labour voters recorded +49 and Tories +63, with only Lib Dems – and in our poll the Scottish Lib Dem sample was a small one – offering a relative welcome at +17. Only another small sample size prevented UKIP (+91) from distorting the rUK figures more.
Women were more anti-immigration than men (+49 to +41 in Scotland, and a startling +57 to +40 in the rUK), and older people were much more likely to agree with the anti-immigrant proposition (+58 in Scotland, +67 rUK) than younger ones (+28 Scotland, +26 UK), but not a single demographic group came even close to rejecting it.
Yet when we also suggested that “Immigrants are treated as scapegoats for the country’s problems”, there was a considerable level of agreement. Overall both polls disagreed with the proposition, but only by -2 in Scotland and -6 in the UK.
It’s almost as if people want to blame immigrants, while suggesting that they personally are more sympathetic than other people who blame immigrants. Even in a country that’s becoming more and more openly xenophobic and racist, there’s still a residual stigma to that racism.
In these questions we found that Scots differ quite a lot from the rest of the UK on nuclear weapons, the monarchy and workfare, and less so on immigration, defence spending and benefits, but overall agree on all of them, varying only in degree.
We’ve also learned that constant Unionist attacks on the SNP for being “populist” are completely at odds with reality. The party’s positions on immigration and defence are anything but populist, and cost them more votes than they win.
So what the Nats’ continued leads in the polls would appear to show is that it IS in fact possible to win elections while standing up for your principles, including unpopular ones. Perhaps someone should tell Labour.
*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.