Opponents of Scottish independence shouldn’t be complacent about winning
Recent polls aren’t encouraging for those hoping for Scottish independence. Only around a third say they would vote to break away, while over half say they would vote against.
But older polls suggest opponents of independence shouldn’t be complacent. There has been a great deal of volatility in opinion, which could spell trouble if the campaign goes against them.
Three polls since October last year put current support for independence in Scotland in the region of 29%-34%, with up to 54% opposed. From these, there’s little to suggest any recent trend in either direction:
But while these numbers look very reassuring for those opposing divorce, older polls suggest a much less settled view.
UK Polling Report have gathered the results from 34 polls, conducted between 1999 and 2009, with questions on Scotland’s independence. Inevitably the question wording varies widely, so it’s difficult to use the full set to show how opinion has changed.
But five of these polls with simple questions on support for independence show clearly that there is potential for much higher support than more recent polls have found:
If a referendum is held in autumn 2014, that leaves a long time for this potential support to be accessed.
History suggests the potential for such large swings in referenda, even on topics that are already well familiar to voters (unlike for example the AV vote). Six months in advance of the 1975 referendum, opinion was strongly in favour of withdrawing from the EEC; at the election, the status quo won by a factor of 2:1.
So while supporters of the UK’s continued existence may be reassured that opinion is on their side right now, a strong ‘Yes’ campaign could leave them in a much less comfortable position.