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UK Insights

Limited appetite for second Scottish Independence referendum

Tom Costley

Deputy Managing Director, Specialist Services

GE 25.04.2017 / 15:46


A new Kantar poll suggests there is little appetite amongst Scottish people for a second independence referendum.

This new survey was undertaken after Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister called for a second independence referendum to be held in either Autumn 2018 or Spring 2019, once the details of the deal for Britain to exit the European Union had been agreed.  

Evidence from the latest Kantar Scottish Opinion Monitor, suggests that few in Scotland favour an early referendum – a quarter (26%) thought it should be held in either Autumn 2018 or Spring 2019 in contrast to just under half (46%) who felt that there should not be a referendum at all.  

Poll _3

As might be expected, the desire for another referendum was split across party lines – over half (52%) of those who voted SNP in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election (constituency vote) wanted a referendum by Spring 2019 while a clear majority of those who voted for the three main ‘unionist’ parties did not want a referendum at all.  Interestingly, 1 in 5 (20%) of SNP voters at the Holyrood election did not want a referendum to be held.

A similar story was evident from the pattern of voting in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum – just under half (47%) of those who voted ‘Yes’ wanted the second referendum to be held by Spring 2019 in contrast to  72% of those who voted ‘No’ indicating that they did not want such a referendum.

One group of particular interest is those who voted ‘Yes’ in the 2014 independence referendum and then voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum – 1 in 3 (30%) of this group do not want a referendum at all, possibly suggesting that leaving the EU was their primary goal and at the time Scottish independence seemed the best way to achieve this. It is a cautionary reminder that the positive feeling towards the EU expressed in the EU referendum doesn’t necessarily translate into full support for independence for Scotland.”

The future of Scotland remains an important issue for the Scottish people with 70% stating that they would be certain to vote in a second independence referendum.  Amongst those certain to vote, 37% claimed that they would vote ‘Yes’ for independence and 55% would vote ‘No’ with 8% ‘don’t know’.  Removing the small number of ‘don’t knows’ would produce a 60:40 split in favour of a ‘No’ vote – this represents a more challenging situation for the ‘Yes’ camp compared to the actual result in 2014 of 55:45 and 53:47 when Kantar last asked this question in late August 2016.

Poll _4
The major shift in the pattern of voting is that just over 1 in 5 (22%) of those who voted ‘Yes’ in 2014 would now vote ‘No’ compared to 8% of those who voted ‘No’ previously, switching to ‘Yes’.  There is clear evidence that those who voted ‘No’ in 2014 remain firmly of that opinion (85%) compared to those who voted ‘Yes’ (69%).

It is interesting to speculate on why there appears to be this weakening in the ‘Yes’ vote, despite Scotland voting clearly in favour of remaining within the EU, which is the stated position of the SNP-led Scottish Government. The forthcoming local authority elections in Scotland may well provide some pointers as to the extent to which the media criticism of the Scottish Government’s performance in areas such as health and education may be having an impact with voters.  The changing economic outlook in Scotland, particularly in relation to the oil industry, may also have led to voters reassessing independence. Moreover, with Theresa May calling a General Election for 8th May, there is the potential for election fatigue with the prospect of an extended referendum campaign too much for the Scottish electorate.

Source : Kantar Public

Editor's Notes

  • Download the infographic here
  • The full data tables are available here

1. A sample of 1060 adults aged 16+ was interviewed across Scotland over the period 29th March to 11th April 2017.  All interviews were conducted face-to-face, in-home using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) and quota sampling.

2. To ensure the sample was representative of the adult population of Scotland (aged 16+), it was weighted to match population profile estimates in the analysis. Data was also weighted to match turnout and share of vote from the 2016 Holyrood election (constituency vote), 2014 Independence referendum and 2016 EU referendum.

Unweighted and weighted bases are shown at the top of each data table.

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