Research brief for the AQMeN & ScotCen event Through the public s eye: Researching attitudes on Scotland s constitutional future using the SSA

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1 Independence and affluence: explaining differences in levels of support for independence by socio-economic status using the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey Christopher McLean, Ipsos MORI Douglas Thomson, University of Dundee 1) Summary Polling evidence and other research suggests clear differences in support for independence between the most and least well off in Scottish society. The aim of this research is to explain differences in attitudes towards independence over time between the least and most well off in Scottish society using measures such as socio-economic status and relative income levels. Reasons why support for independence is higher among the least well-off in society are then explored. In order to address the research question, analysis was conducted on available data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey ( ). The analysis was separated into two sections. Firstly, the analysis sought to establish a relationship between support for independence and measures of social class and affluence. The analysis then explored potential explanations for differences in attitudes between the least and most well off. Bivariate analysis shows that those in the lower socio-economic groups and those in the lowest income groups have been consistently more likely to support independence than those in higher socioeconomic groups and higher income groups respectively. Logistic regression analysis identified strong links between both variables and attitudes towards independence. However, in recent years, the gap between the lowest and highest income quartiles has been increasing, while the gap between socioeconomic groups had been slightly decreasing. Further logistic regression suggests that income is the strongest indicator. The analysis then explored factors that may be driving greater support for independence, focusing on national identity, political attitudes and expectations of independence. The analysis found considerable differences in feelings of national identity between those in the lowest and highest income quartiles. Those in the lowest income quartile were more likely to have a stronger Scottish identity and weaker British identity than those in the highest income quartile. This suggests that higher levels of support for independence among those on lower incomes are, to some extent, driven by feelings of national identity. However, with regards to political attitudes, those in the lowest income quartile were no more likely than those in the highest income quartile to identify with the SNP or think the Scottish Government ought to have most influence over decisions made in Scotland. The analysis suggest that expectations of independence among those in the lowest income quartile may be driving attitudes to independence. Those who are less well-off were more likely to be positive about Scottish independence across a range of measures, including confidence, the economy and Scotland s voice in the world. However, they are less likely to be sure about what will happen if Scotland became independent, suggesting their optimism is based more on belief rather than certainty. 2) Introduction The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has interviewed a random sample of adults (18+) across Scotland on a range of topics since The scale, rigour, depth and timespan of the surveys provide a detailed picture of Scottish public opinion on a range of topics over the past 13 years. This exercise specifically seeks to explain why those who are less well off in Scottish society are more likely to support independence. This should help inform debate ahead of the 2014 referendum. Ormston and Curtice (2013) have already shared headline findings from data analyses. Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 1

2 Perceptions of post independence economic insecurity; whether Scotland or the rest of the UK gets the best current deal from the union; and strength of attachment to a British identity, were all found to be strong indicators of constitutional preference. Further, attitudes towards independence have been linked to gender, age, and class divides, but with weaker relationships (Curtice May 13). Polling evidence suggests clear differences in support for independence between the most and least well off in Scottish society. Regular polling (Ipsos Mori Scottish Public Opinion Monitor) has consistently found support for independence to be considerably higher among those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland, while further regular polling shows that support for independence is stronger among those in the lowest socio-economic groups (TNS-BMRB). The aim of this research is to explain differences in attitudes towards independence over time between the least and most well off in Scottish society using measures such as socio-economic status and relative income levels. Reasons why support for independence is higher among the least well-off in society are then explored. 3) Methodology The research hypothesis is: that support for independence increases with decreasing affluence and socio-economic status. Rational choice (Dowding, 2009) pressures can be expected. In order to address the research question, analysis was conducted on available data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey ( ). The analysis was separated into two sections. Firstly, the analysis sought to establish a relationship between support for independence and measures of social class and affluence. After establishing an appropriate measure, the analysis then explored potential explanations for differences in attitudes between the least and most well off, focusing particularly on issues of national identity, political attitudes and expectations of independence. In more detail, variable sets have been established across the 1999 to 2012 timespan. Bivariate analysis has been used to establish links between variables over time. Regression analysis has been used to quantify the strength of relationships. 4) Previous relevant analyses Eleven referendums have been held in the UK since 1975 (Laycock, 2013). Most of these have been regional and the two most relevant to the 2014 occasion are the devolution referendums of 1979 and Socio-economic determinism (the idea that status regulates behaviour) has been tested by analysing voting results in both events (Dardanelli 2005). In both cases a relationship has been found but the effect is weak compared to other factors. A significant class divide was found in the 1997 vote (Denver 2002), however, with three-quarters of self described working-class respondents voting for the devolution package, while only a minority of the self described middle class did so. The relationship between socio-economic indicator elements and general election choices has been investigated for the 1992 general election, in a Scottish context (Fielding, 1998), who finds that wealth is the prominent indicator, while voting allegiances in general elections and referendums have been compared (Laycock,2013). Bannon, 2003, looks at social determinism versus other allegiances in analysing reasons for non-voting behaviour. While socio-economic status can be correlated with political party allegiance, the relevance of this to referendum voting was found to depend on party unity and the strength of the party identification with the issue (Laycock, 2013). 5) Results As figures 1 and 2 below demonstrate, those in the lower socio-economic groups and those in the lowest income groups have been consistently more likely to support independence than those in higher socio-economic groups and higher income groups respectively. Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 2

3 Figure 1: Support for independence by combined socio-economic groups Top 3 socio economic groups Bottom 2 socio economic groups 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Base: All. c1,000-1,500 adults aged 18+ each year Figure 2: Support for independence by income quartile 50% Lowest income quartile Highest income quartile 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Base: All. c1,000-1,500 adults aged 18+ each year Logistic regression analysis identified strong links between both variables and attitudes towards independence. However, there does appear to be a difference over time in the direction of travel for each variable. While the gap between the highest three and lowest two socio-economic status groups has narrowed slightly, the gap between the lowest and highest income quartiles has been increasing, particularly since Indeed, in the most recent year, 2012, logistic regression identified relative income as having the strongest relationship of the two in terms of attitudes towards independence. As such, the evidence supports the claim that those who are less well off in society are more likely to support independence, but also that low income, rather than lower socio-economic status, is the stronger indicator of support. Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 3

4 Having identified relative income as the strongest identifier, the analysis sought to understand factors that may be driving greater support for independence among the lowest income quartile, focusing on national identity, political attitudes and expectations of independence. National identity Previous research has identified strong links between feelings of national identity and attitudes towards independence (Curtice, 2013, McLean 2012). The more British one feels, the more likely they are to prefer Scotland remaining part of the UK. Those more likely to feel Scottish and not British are more likely to support independence. Using the Moreno scale, although there has been an overall decline since 2003 in the proportions of respondents identifying themselves as Scottish not British, those in the lowest income quartile have been consistently more likely to identify themselves as Scottish not British (Figure 3). Indeed, the gap between the lowest and highest income quartiles increased considerably in Among those in the lowest quartile, 29% described themselves as Scottish not British in 2011, which rose to 34% in Conversely, 22% of respondents in the highest income quartile described themselves as Scottish not British, which fell to 14% in Consequently, in 2012, those in the lowest income quartile were more than twice as likely as those in the highest quartile to describe themselves as Scottish not British. Figure3: Those identifying as Scottish not British by income quartile 50% Lowest income quartile Highest income quartile 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Base: All. c1,000-1,500 adults aged 18+ each year When we analyse the differences according to self-selecting national identity, we find a similar pattern. In 2012, those in the lowest income quartile were more likely than those in the highest quartile to mention Scottish as their national identity (85% compared to 77%) and less likely to mention British (49% compared to 71%). Further, when forced to choose the national identity that best defines them, those in the lowest income quartiles were more likely than those in the highest quartiles to describe themselves as Scottish. These differences are reflected across all aspects of the survey. This suggests that higher levels of support for independence among those on lower incomes are, to some extent, driven by feelings of national identity. Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 4

5 Political attitudes Although those in the lowest income quartiles are more likely to have a stronger sense of Scottish national identity, this doesn t fully explain greater support for independence. In terms of political motivations, the analysis explored interest in politics, identification with the SNP and perceptions of where Scottish political decisions ought to be made. Firstly, those in the lowest income quartile have consistently had much lower levels of interest in politics than those in the highest quartile. Immediately, this suggests that attitudes towards independence are unlikely to have been shaped by following the development of nationalist politics in Scotland. Further, those in the lowest income quartile are no more likely than those in the highest quartile to either identify with the SNP or think that the Scottish Government ough to have the biggest influence on decision-making in Scotland. Expectations of independence Expectations of what independence can deliver do appear to offer some explanation for higher levels of support. Firstly, those in the lowest income quartile are more likely than those in the highest quartile to: feel confident about Scotland s future if it became independent; think the economy will be better; think that the standard of living will be higher; and think that Scotland s voice in the world will be stronger. They are also less likely to think that taxes will be higher. Overall, this suggests that those who are less well off are more likely to believe that independence will deliver benefits to Scotland. Figure 4: Expectations of independence by income quartile (2012) Lowest income quartile Highest income quartile Feel confident about Scotland s future if it became independent Think the economy will be better Think that the standard of living will be higher Think that Scotland s voice in the world will be stronger Think that taxes will be higher Base: All (1,129) % % This poses an interesting question about causality: do those who are less well off in society support independence because they think an independent Scotland will be better off or do they think an independent Scotland will be better off because they support independence. The former suggests that those who are less well off support independence because of the benefits it will bring, while the latter suggests that their support for independence is driven more by emotion and belief. Interestingly, those in the lowest income quartile are less likely than those in the highest quartile to think that the gap between rich and poor will get smaller in an independent Scotland (21% compared to 29%), suggesting that they haven t bought into the SNP s vision of Scotland becoming a more equal society if it becomes independent. Further, those in the lowest income quartile are less likely than those in the highest quartile to be sure about what would happen to Scotland if it became independent (30% compared to 41%). This suggests that the belief among those on lower incomes that Scotland will be better off with independence is not based on certainty that independence will deliver those benefits. Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 5

6 6) Bibliography Bannon, D.P., Voting, non-voting and consumer buying behaviour: Non-voter segmentation (NVS) and the underlying causes of electoral inactivity. Journal of Public Affairs Vol. 3 No. 2, 2003, pp Clements, B., Understanding Utilitarian Support for European Integration in Scotland and Wales: the Role of Economic Interests, National Identity and Party Support, Regional & Federal Studies, 21:1, Curtice,J. 2013, Who supports and opposes independence and why? ScotCen Social Research, Dardanelli, P., Democratic Deficit or the Europeanisation of Secession? Explaining the Devolution referendums in Scotland. Political Studies: 2005 Vol 53, Denver, D., Voting in the 1997 Scottish and Welsh devolution referendums: Information, interests and opinions. European Journal of Political Research 41: , Denver, D., Mitchell, J., Pattie, C., Bochel, H., Scotland Decides: the Devolution Issue and the Scottish Political Referendum. Frank Cass, London. Devine, F., 2009, Class Inequalities The Oxford Handbook of British Politics. Ch Oxford University Press. Dowding, K., 2009, Rational Choice. The Oxford Handbook of British Politics. Ch. 5. Oxford University Press. Eichhorn,J.,Paterson,L.,MacInnes,J.,Rosie,M., 2013, Results from a survey on year old persons living in Scotland on the Scottish independence referendum. Aqmen, May Fielding, D. 1998, The Social and Economic Determinants of Voter Behaviour: Evidence from the 1992 General Election In Scotland. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 45: doi: / Keating, M. 2009, The Independence of Scotland. Self-government & the shifting politics of union. Oxford University Press. Ipsos MORI s Scottish Public Opinion Monitor Ipsos-MORI social and political trends, Laycock, S., Is referendum voting distinctive? Evidence from three UK cases. Electoral Studies 32 (2013) LeDuc, L., Pammett, J., Referendum voting: attitudes and behaviour in the 1992 constitutional referendum. Canadian Journal of Political Science 28 (1), McLean, I., What s Wrong with the British Constitution? Oxford University press. McLean, C What impact will national identity have on the referendum Ormston, R., 2013, Scottish Social Attitudes Survey; Exploring attitudes to Scottish independence using cross sectional surveys. ScotCen Social Research for Aqmen knowledge exchange event, Ormston, R., Curtice,J. 2013, More devolution: an alternative road. ScotCen Social Research for the Electoral Reform Society, presented Pattie, C., Denver, D., Mitchell, J., Bochel, H., Partisanship, national identity and constitutional preferences: an exploration of voting in the Scottish devolution referendum of Electoral Studies 18 (3), Rolfe, M., Conditional Choice. The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology. Ch.18. Oxford University Press. TNS-BMRB s Scottish Opinion Survey Christopher McLean and Douglas Thomson 6

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