Meet the switchers

Online discussions held by Ipsos MORI identified five principal reasons as to why No voters are switching to a Yes vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Meet the switchers

While for most the decision about how to vote in the referendum has been ‘a no brainer’ others have struggled to come to a conclusion and have even changed their minds completely. Recent research by Ipsos MORI highlights five reasons behind why voters are switching from No to Yes.

1.       The positive vision projected by the Yes campaign.

For some, the more research they did into the arguments presented by both sides, the more attractive the idea of independence became. They felt that the country would be wealthier, while the idea of voting for change as opposed to the status quo was appealing.

“To be honest, my vote has swung both ways. I’ve done my homework then I listened to both sides. Westminster is the same as it was when I was 18 so no change there. I think it’s them that will be worse off not us as they no longer have our wealth to squander – with a Yes vote we can make all the difference!”

2.       The grass roots nature of the Yes campaign is winning hearts and minds

Word-of-mouth was crucial for some in changing their mind and there was a strong sense among participants that the “grassroots” nature of the Yes campaign, and how active its supporters have been, had ensured a number of conversions to their cause. As one participant explained,

“I was talking to someone who was voting Yes and they asked me to look into the Yes campaign. They gave me literature about the McCrone report re. the oil, they also gave me information about our coastal waters being ‘stolen’ by England. Since when did the waters off the coast of Fife be English!”

This commitment to convincing others to vote for independence was confirmed by other Yes voters who relished the chance to ‘convert’ voters explaining that “we have had great debates convincing the undecided to vote yes!” The success of this method was its informality; participants perceived that, from voters like them, they would be given information they could trust.

These informal conversations and debates about how to vote was also thought to be building a sense of momentum behind the campaign with one participant stating that “it is energising to see more people expressing a Yes opinion”. Indeed, some participants referred to the recent opinion polls and suggested how this was encouraging more Yes voters to be vocal in their views, as a means of persuading others to change their minds about how to vote.

“The rise in the opinion polls and a sort of snowball effect. I think everyone was intimidated by the Unionists and were afraid to be the only ones saying Yes. As more and more people come out it is possible for them to express their views”.

3.       The negativity of the No campaign has turned away would-be supporters

All spoke about how badly run they considered the No campaign to have been and, in particular, how it has “been unable to put forward a positive vision for the UK” and that the information provided by it has been “scaremongering”. This has led to a general sense of distrust about what the No campaign is offering voters which, in turn, has encouraged some to switch sides. This was thought to be a particular issue for Labour voters in Scotland who said that “the behaviour of the No campaign with lie after lie has turned many away from the Labour stronghold”.

The perceived air of desperation emanating from the No camp was also considered off-putting and, for some, was having the effect of convincing them that switching how they were voting was the correct thing for them to be doing.

“Until a few months ago I was firmly in the No camp. After my research and weighing up the options and listening to the debate I changed to a Yes...the recent mass panic of the Unionist parties convinced me even more that this is the best route for Scotland”. 

4.       The weakening position of Labour in polls for the Westminster parliament are affecting views – and switching Labour voters to Yes

Participants spoke about the poor performance of the Labour party nationally suggesting that “many Labour voters have been disillusioned with their party’s performance”. They went onto criticise Ed Miliband’s interventions in the debate, stating that he has “made it worse with statements such as “Vote No and Yes for me in 2015”. These issues taken together have encouraged some Labour voters who would otherwise have voted to preserve the Union to instead consider the alternative.

5.       The chance to break from Westminster appeals – particularly given the increasing popularity of UKIP

There was real concern about what the outcome of the 2015 General Election might be. Participants spoke about the increasing popularity of UKIP in England and how this had given rise to the risk of there being a Conservative/UKIP coalition; the prospect of which was more unfavourable than the Government they currently had. Given this scenario, for some would-be No voters the risk of voting for independence was lower than the possibility of being governed by another unpopular coalition. More generally, there was dissatisfaction at the policies emanating from Westminster – cuts to the NHS and welfare, coupled with what was perceived to be wasteful spending on Trident made some switch to thinking that a total break would be the best option for Scotland financially.

“They believe they will be financially better off in most cases of people I know who have changed their minds”.  

They think more could yet to make the switch - the battle for the hearts and minds of voters is not yet over (even if it is for them)

All participants, even those who have switched, stated that their mind was now made up and they couldn’t imagine being exposed to any further arguments which would cause them to change how they planned to vote.

They didn’t discount, however, that others might yet change their minds between now and the 18th September. Indeed, there was a strong sense that the votes of would-be No voters and those who were still undecided were up for grabs by the Yes campaign, especially given the activity and visibility of the pro-independence campaign and, by way of contrast, how quiet the No voters have been, in part down to the perceived aggression of the campaign.

“The Yes are more active. There seems to be more posters etc but I think some of that is down to No voters being afraid of reprisals”.
Technical Note

On the evening of 9th September 2014 Ipsos MORI, the independent research agency, conducted online discussion groups with people in Scotland who are certain to vote in the forthcoming referendum. Participants represented a diverse range of voters including those supporting the Yes and No campaign, as well as those who had changed their minds. They were based right across Scotland, and covered a range of ages and working statuses.  


More insights about Public Sector