Women and Independence

If you have read a paper, watched the news, or been on campus at all over the past few months, you will be aware of both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns involved in the future of Scotland. The facts are these: there will be a referendum on Scottish independence towards the end of 2014; if successful, Scotland would become independent by 2016. The question will be ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

Statistics will be thrown at you by both sides of the debate. The Yes Scotland campaign will latch on to the ones that show an increase in support upon the last poll, while the Better Together campaign will constantly remind you that the Yes voters have yet to have a majority in a poll. The Yes campaign will remind you that support among young voters is on the rise. The No side will remind you that there are those who have yet to make up their mind and that there is a large market there for more votes to back them up. What neither side is either addressing or capitalising on is a consistent statistic – women are less likely than men to vote Yes.

In an article in the Scotsman in October of last year, they reported that 32% of men would support independence, while 17% were undecided. Only 24% of women, however, were likely to vote yes, with 21% saying they were yet to make up their mind. A poll by Ipsos MORI from the same time reported than 35% of men would vote yes, while just 24% of women would also do so. This is a significant, almost 10%, gender gap that neither side is reporting on.

We took a quick poll in the qmunicate publications meeting. Sure enough, these percentages synched up with how those in the boardroom voted. We thought we would be a bit more professional though and figured we should ask female voters in the Glasgow University Scottish Independence Referendum why they thought, regardless of their own voting allegiance, that women are less likely than men to vote yes. As a quick note, to every female reading this who I did not ask, literally 90% of the women I asked replied with ‘because they’re more sensible than men’ so you didn’t miss your chance for that one!

What was surprising me about the collected opinions was how similar they were across the spectrum. Looking at my notes, it makes no difference if I highlighted “yes voter comment” or “no voter comment” as both sides saw women making very similar cases.

Harking back to the sensible comment, the majority of women I asked said that a large part of voting no, or remaining undecided, is the lack of information available on what the entire independence plan would be. While men are impulsive and perhaps more likely to vote emotionally, women tend to stand back and look at the long term effects. They ask questions that require more details than we currently have, therefore, they will remain impartial or unconvinced until those details become available.

There was also the maternal argument. At the moment, whether you think the current political situation is good or bad, there is stability to be found in the status quo. Women know they can fend for their families and provide security while acting as part of the union. There is an apprehension from some corners that, while we know that we may not be in the best position, things could always be worse, and there is a worry that independence could bring that situation upon us.

I spoke to a man who helped organise the student referendum. He commented that when the QM held a debate on gender relating to independence, it was a mostly female crowd. This shows that the larger undecided percentage compared to men is one that is simply yet to make up its mind and is in no way a disinterested party. Likelier still, women who voted no in the student referendum may still be open to the idea of a yes vote when more information is released by the Scottish government. As it is, the interesting and loud statistic that female voters are providing to this campaign is being greatly ignored.

[Scott Wilson]

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