Survey of young Scots

AQMeN and the University of Edinburgh were awarded a grant by the ESRC to investigate attitudes about national identity, political interests and attitudes towards independence among young people (age 16-17) living in Scotland.

Using a survey in both 2013 and 2014, the researchers asked a representative sample of 14-17-year-olds about:

their views on Scottish independence and devolution
their feelings of Scottish, British and European identities
their political interest and engagement
their socio-demographic characteristics.

Results from the survey allowed a detailed and objective understanding to be developed of what influences young people’s attitudes towards Scottish independence.

This project was part of the ESRC-funded Centre on Constitutional Change.

Watch a short a podcast about the research


Findings from this research have been published in an article in the Journal of Youth Studies as:
Mobilisation through early activation and school engagement – the story from Scotland

Author: Dr Jan Eichhorn
Date: 15th March 2018

Findings were published as short briefings and as blog posts.
Download 2013 briefing and survey
Download 2014 briefing and survey
Read posts on the Centre for Constitutional Change blog
Read posts on The Conversation

Media coverage:

There was extensive media coverage of this research. A few examples are listed below:
02/06/2013 BBC Sunday Politics Scotland (film and studio discussion)
03/06/2013 BBC Good Morning Scotland (live studio discussion)
03/06/2013 Newspaper coverage about research results including
Scotsman, Herald, Telegraph, Guardian (among many others)
18/09/2013 ZDF Heute in Europa Interview
22/09/2013 Interview in Aftenposten
19/02/2014 Interview for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
04/03/2014 BBC Good Morning Scotland live studio interview on research results
04/03/2014 BBC Newsnight Scotland live studio interview on research results
18/03/2014 BBC News live interview on young people’s voting and the Generation 2014 debate
05/06/2014 BBC Scotland 2014 live studio discussion on research results
06/06/2014 Newspaper coverage including (among others) Guardian, Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald
05/08/2014 BBC Newsnight interview for a piece on young voters
25/08/2014 Feature on ZDF flagship news programme Heute Journal on referendum vote

Training in quantitative analysis

Workshop: ‘Doing survey research with young people’

This one-day interactive workshop enabled participants to engage with the methodological aspects of designing, conducting and analysing surveys with young people.

Outputs from this workshop include:

Presentation from Surveying Young People event
ScotCen briefing : comparison between young voters and adults
Scottish Social Attitudes reading list
Scottish Independence Referendum teaching materials

Results and Impacts Achieved/Potential for Impact:

The main impacts of this work included:
• The teaching materials – these materials, put together with input from the other two AQMeN funded Scottish Independence Referendum projects, were a major way of reaching out to schools. Over three hundred schools have downloaded the materials as well as a range of universities, including several institutions in Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, Austria and China The actual number of schools with access is higher, as we know that many teachers have passed on the materials to colleagues in other institutions e.g. through the Modern Studies Teachers Association. A very wide range of students therefore have engaged with our materials and have had a chance to develop greater levels of confidence in engaging with facts and figures presented to them in political campaigning generally.
• As part of this work we advised an initiative of the Scottish government to bring together several survey projects to develop a new set of teaching materials based on those surveys
• We provided briefings and input to researchers in both the UK and Scottish Government to support the improvement of the quality of political debate with factual evidence
• We took part in a great range of public events and have reached a large number of people beyond the media outputs Our work has been cited by political figures in public settings (e.g. Gordon Brown)
• We provided evidence to consultations relating to political engagement of young people and the discussion about lowering the voting age, which included:
– A consultation by the Scottish Government in April 2014 (“Scotland’s electoral future”).  The evidence provided to this consultation was subsequently cited in the 4th Report, 2015 (Session 4): Stage 1 Report on the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill in sections 27, 28, 32 and 33.
– A British Youth Council Select Committee on “Lowering the Voting Age to 16”.
More details available here.
• There was also an Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament in 2015 welcoming this research. More details on-line.

A further impact from this project was the award of further funding in 2015/16 for the project titled ‘The view from the continent: what people in other member states think about the UK’s EU referendum’ – a project which focused on public attitudes across different EU member states regarding the 2016 referendum in the UK about its membership of the European Union.

Policy relevance:
The substantive findings of the project were of great interest not only to researchers, but also to policy makers and the Scottish public more generally. For the first time, objective, in-depth analysis of the attitudes of young people to Scottish independence, as well as of their political engagement more generally, was made available and disseminated through professional and media channels.

Lindsay Paterson
Jan Eichhorn