Scottish independence: Study suggests most 16/17 year olds would vote 'no'

The survey was "road tested" on pupils at Knox Academy in Haddington

A study of teenagers who will be eligible to vote in the 2014 referendum has suggested 60% do not think Scotland should be independent.

In a major piece of work, more than 1,000 14-17 year olds were questioned by researchers from Edinburgh University.

The results indicated 21% would say yes to independence, with 19% undecided.

Of the young people questioned, 67% said they would like more information ahead of their final decision.

Sixteen and 17 year olds have never been able to take part in a national election, and the Scottish government has said it wants to ensure they have their say in the decision about Scotland's future.

Proposed legislation to allow them to vote in next year's referendum on 18 September was formally lodged before the Scottish Parliament in March.

The new study, given exclusively to BBC Scotland, was developed by researchers from Edinburgh University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Of those interviewed, 94% said they were aware the referendum will take place next year, with 69% intending to vote.

Voting intention

When asked the agreed referendum question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" a total of 60.3% said no, 20.9% said yes and 18.8% were undecided.

Start Quote

We need to have more surveys. No survey on its own tells us everything that there is”

End Quote Prof Lindsay Paterson University of Edinburgh

The young people were then asked about the debate over Scottish independence so far. A third of them (32.8%) said they had enough information to make a decision, but 67.2% felt they would like more information making a final decision.

The study, the first of its kind, also asked the young people who they had talked to about the referendum, giving multiple choice answers including parents, friends, classmates, nobody.

It went on to look at the young people's level of general interest in politics and also compared their voting intention with that of their parents and in terms of age, sex and how they identify themselves in terms national identity.

Prof Lindsay Paterson, from Edinburgh University said: "No survey is ever totally definitive and we would be delighted if somebody would replicate this. We need to have more surveys. No survey on its own tells us everything that there is.

"This is an indication. It is the first time it has ever been done. There has never before been a systematic, representative, rigorous survey of the 14-17 year olds in relation to the referendum."

Both the Scottish and the UK governments welcomed the fact young people were keen to engage in the debate about Scotland's future.

'Road testing'

A Scottish government spokesman added: "It is clear from this survey that a high proportion of the young people who took part have an open mind about how they are going to vote in the referendum - with two thirds keen to get more information about independence before they finally decide how they will vote."

Ballot box at school Two thirds of the young people wanted more information before going to the ballot box

The Scottish government said it would be publishing a series of papers and proposals showing how independence will give new opportunities to Scotland and its people.

A spokesman for the Scotland Office said: "This poll shows that younger people in Scotland are thinking through the issues and taking the positive view that Scotland should stick with the UK family.

"But the UK government will take nothing for granted. We are also providing a wide range of objective and fact-based evidence to inform decisions on the referendum and will continue to do so."

A total of 1,018 interviews - with equal numbers for each of the eight Scottish parliament election regions - were carried out by telephone by Market Research UK between April and May this year.

Parents were asked for permission to interview their children and also asked a few questions themselves.

Most of the questions came from existing adult surveys, with some questions changed to make them more relevant to the target age group after "road testing" on pupils at Knox Academy, Haddington, East Lothian.

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