The importance of the economy to the Scottish Referendum

Laurence Janta-LipinskiAssociate Director
June 17, 2014, 11:35 AM UTC

With fewer than 100 days to go until the Scottish Referendum, both sides are ramping up their campaigns to convince the ever dwindling pool of undecided voters to join their cause. The latest efforts saw both sides publish a financial report showing, unsurprisingly, that Scots would be better off if they would only vote their way.

The UK Treasury plumped with £1,400 a year better off as part of The Union whilst The Scottish Government claimed Scots would be £1,000 better off if they voted to leave.

This kind of financial highjinks is unsurprising given how vital personal economic situation is to how Scots will vote in September. In February, YouGov asked Scots whether they felt, economically, Scotland would be better or worse off with independence. The table below highlights the referendum voting intention amongst those who say better or worse off:

 Ref. Vote | Economic  

  Better Off     Worse Off  
             YES        96%        1%
             NO        1%        95%
     WNV / Don't Know            3%          4%
YouGov / The Sun. 1,047 Scottish Adults 3rd-5th Febuary 2014

Given the near perfect link between the perceived performance of the Scottish economy and referendum voting, it is no surprise to see both sides trying to convince the electorate of this case. Perhaps just as important is how those that are unconvinced Scotland would be better or worse off will vote in September. Of the 28% who did not select better or worse off economically, over a third (37%) indicate they are unsure how they will vote in September. This leave c.10% of all Scots who are undecided on both measures and, with just 14% separating the two sides (yes 37%, no 51%), convincing this group will be crucial. So, what impact will these two reports have on referendum voting intention?

Well, if past experience is any indication, not much. We’ve had white papers, threats over keeping the pound, remaining in the EU and a whole host of other announcements over the past six months and each one has had very little impact on overall voting intention. In September, our YouGov figures were NO 52% and YES 32% and in April NO 51% with YES on 37%. Whilst there has been a small shift towards yes over this time, the speed of this change has been too small to overturn the deficit Yes finds itself with. At this stage of the debate, most people have made up their minds and tend to believe what they want to and reject the rest. In April, a YouGov survey for Channel 4 asked whether people believe four contentious outcomes of independence would happen in actuality. 

The table below breaks down whether people believe the four would happen based on their referendum voting intention with all four messages approved or rejected based on attitudes to the referendum:

Outcome                                  |                               Ref Voting     YES       NO   
Scotland would be able to use the pound as part of a currency union     81%     21%
Scotland would be able to remain a member of the European Union     80%    24%
Scotland would be able to afford to keep state pensions at the current level     84%    13%
Major businesses and employers would leave Scotland     9%    68%
YouGov for Channel 4, 1,208 Scottish Adults, 25th – 28th April 2014

With such a short amount of time to go, any announcements are met with a barrage of scrutiny and debate that seems to simply reaffirm positions. For Salmond, time is running out to convince a sceptical public and he’ll be praying for a game changer in the 100 days remaining.

@jantalipinski

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