Despite preliminary polls showing the Scottish independence vote as too close to call, last week saw a decisive victory for keeping the nation part of the United Kingdom with a 10.6 percentage point lead. Now that the media has swung from predicting to explaining, The Guardian considers why the early polling was so far off the mark, pointing to early decisions for “no” among voters and anxiety over the economic impacts of independence.
Oxford sociologist Stephen Fisher weighed in on the post-vote analysis and pointed out two trends which help explain the outcome. First, economic concerns were closely related to decision patterns:
“…in all four councils won by Yes Scotland, unemployment rates are higher than the Scottish average… Better Together’s best results were in councils where unemployment rates were below the Scottish average.”
Second, despite widespread national conversation and high intentions to vote, actual turnout among “yes” voters wasn’t quite enough:
“Only in one of the four councils where yes came on top was turnout higher than the countrywide 84.6%. This indicates that the participation among groups that tend to historically vote less (or not at all), such as younger people, the unemployed and those living in more deprived areas, where yes was theoretically strongest, while far higher than normal, was not as high as expected.”
There is plenty more work to be done before we fully understand the outcome, but these preliminary findings remind us that the key challenge for any political movement is getting enough folks to move where and when it really counts.