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Has the Referendum Campaign Made a Difference?

Author: John Curtice

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Scotland’s voters go to the polls on 18th September in order to choose whether to stay in the United Kingdom or to leave and become an independent country. In this briefing we assess what impact the referendum has had on public attitudes towards independence, using new evidence from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey conducted earlier this summer. We examine whether support for independence has increased or decreased, whether people’s views on some of the key arguments put forward in the campaign have changed, and whether or not there have been any changes in who supports independence and why.


This briefing examines what impact the independence referendum campaign appears to have had on the balance and character of public opinion towards how Scotland should be governed. It does so by comparing the initial results of the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey with those of previous surveys in this regular annual series that began with the advent of devolution in 1999. It thus adopts a long lens looking at how much difference has been made by the ‘long campaign’, a campaign that arguably began when agreement was reached in February 2013 on the wording of the question on the ballot paper. It is less concerned with the impact of particular short-term developments and events during the campaign itself.

Our 2014 data come from 1,339 interviews that were conducted face to face to a probability sample of adults aged 18 plus living in Scotland between 12 May and 17 July. The response rate for these interviews is 57%. Our results represent initial findings that have been released so that they can be published in advance of polling day on 18th September. They exclude a small number of further interviews that will be included in the final version of the data set. The data are weighted so that they reflect the known age and sex distribution of the Scottish population as well as the known pattern of non-response. In previous years the SSA survey was conducted in the summer and early autumn. Thus when we compare the results of the 2014 survey with those of its predecessor in 2013, we are comparing it with a survey conducted between June and October, some six months or so after the long campaign began, while the 2012 survey was conducted between July and November when the referendum debate was st