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Referendum Campaign Divides Public

Voters are increasingly anxious about the consequences of independence yet support for independence has increased

The latest annual Scottish Social Attitudes survey, published today by ScotCen Social Research and conducted between May and July 2014, uncovers increased concern among voters about the implications of independence; a greater gender divide; and a renewed sense of Britishness. Nevertheless the survey shows that over the last twelve months the proportion saying they will vote Yes (once Don’t Knows are excluded) has increased from 36% to 39%.

Anticipated consequences of independence

Since the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012, the proportion of voters who think that independence will be good for Scotland’s economy and its international influence has fallen:

  • International influence: 38% now think Scotland’s ‘voice in world’ would be weaker, up from a quarter (25%) in 2013 and 22% in 2012.
  • State of the economy: 44% think the economy would be worse under independence, up from 34% in both 2013 and 2012.
  • Inequality: The proportion who believe that the gap between the rich and poor would be greater under independence has risen from 25% in 2012 and 2013 to 30% in 2014.

Yes, No and still not sure

The proportion who choose independence rather than devolution or no parliament as their preferred constitutional arrangement has increased from 23% in 2012 and 29% last year to 33% now. This figure is towards the higher end of the range within which it has oscillated since 1999, but still does not exceed the 35% recorded in 2005.

When asked how they will vote in the referendum, 29% say they are still undecided. However, around half of these undecided voters are able to say what they think they will do in September. After taking these inclinations into account, in total 33% say they will vote Yes in September, 51% No. If those who are wholly undecided are then left aside this equates to a 39% vote for Yes, 61% for No. The proportion saying they will vote Yes is three points higher than in last year’s survey.

A more divided nation

Support for independence has increased, even though more people are now concerned about its possible consequences, because those who do feel that independence would be good for Scotland have become increasingly likely to vote Yes. No less than 83% of those who think independence would be good for Scotland’s economy now back independence, compared with 67% last year, and just 50% in 2012.

Those who back independence and those who oppose it have never differed more than they do now in their views of what the consequences of leaving the UK would be. 65% of Yes voters now think independence would be good for Scotland’s economy, a view shared by just 3% of No supporters.

Women still reluctant to back independence

Just 27% of women now support independence, compared with 39% of men. This 12 point gap is double that of 2013 (6%) and is the highest ever found in a Scottish Social Attitudes survey.

One key reason for the persistence of the gender gap is that women are less certain of the consequences of independence – and voters who feel uncertain are less likely to back the idea. Just 27% of women say they are sure what independence would bring, compared with 37% of men.

Bonding with Blighty again?

Scots’ sense of British identity has been rekindled somewhat over the last three years.

When forced to choose one single identity, the proportion who say they are British has increased from 15% in 2011 to 23% now. Those who say they are Scottish has fallen from 75% to 65% over the same period.

When presented with a range of options ranging from ‘Scottish, not British’ through to ‘British, not Scottish’, the proportion who say they are ‘Scottish, not British’ is now just 23%, the lowest it has been at any time since 1999.  As many as 32% now say they are ‘equally Scottish and British’, the highest this figure has been since 1999.

Other key figures from the survey show:

  • 58% of those who would prefer to vote for ‘devo-max’ (which accounts for 29% of voters) now intend to vote No, up from 44% last year.
  • The proportion who say they are ‘very likely’ to turn out has increased from 61% in 2013 to 74% now.
  • For the first time ever, graduates are at least as supportive of a more powerful Scottish Parliament (either via independence or more devolution) as Scots in general.

John Curtice, Co-Director of Scottish Social Attitudes survey at ScotCen Social Research commented:

“Although support for a Yes vote has increased during the last twelve months more voters have in fact become nervous about the consequences of leaving the UK. Support for independence has only increased because those who are convinced it would be beneficial for Scotland are more willing to put their cross in the Yes box. However, at present there are still insufficient voters who are of that view to deliver a majority for independence.”

Rachel Ormston, Research Director at ScotCen said:

“In the final weeks of the campaign, capturing women’s votes remains a key challenge, particularly for the Yes campaign. Put off by uncertainty and less likely to be persuaded by patriotic arguments around ‘pride’, women still need to be convinced that independence will deliver on the economy and other areas. However, the No campaign should not assume it will automatically benefit from women’s lower level of support for a Yes vote  – nearly a third of women remain undecided how they will vote in September.”

Read the full report

For more information about the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, please contact: 0131 221 2573 / 0784 180 1266

  1. NOTES ScotCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.
  2. The Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN) is a Research Centre that aims to develop a dynamic and pioneering set of projects to improve our understanding of current social issues in the UK and provide policy makers and practitioners with the robust independent research-based evidence to build a better future. - See more at:tp://
  3.  The Scottish Social Attitudes survey aims to produce high quality survey data to inform both public policy and academic study. It has a long time series (dating back to 1999) on public attitudes towards devolution and independence. Further details about ScotCen Social Research and the Scottish Social Attitudes survey are available at
  4.  The results this press release covers are being presented for the first time at a conference on ‘Scottish Social Attitudes 2014 - The Independence Referendum Campaign: Help or Hindrance?’ being held at The Royal Society of Edinburgh on 12 August 2014. Funding for this event was granted by AQMeN.
  5.  The 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey interviewed a probability sample of 1,339 adults face to face between 12 May and 17 July 2014. Data is weighted to reflect known patterns of non-response and the age and gender profile of the adult population in Scotland.
  6.  Funding for the 2014 results reported here was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its research initiative on ‘The Future of the UK and Scotland’. Further details about this initiative can be found at Responsibility for the analysis and views expressed here lies with the authors alone.
  7.  The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.