Scottish independence: Women voters’ ‘Yes’ caution

Women are less likely to vote for Scottish independence than men, research has found. Picture: PA
Women are less likely to vote for Scottish independence than men, research has found. Picture: PA
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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond is failing to attract support from female voters ahead of next year’s independence referendum because of a “women problem”, according to new research.

Mr Salmond remains “considerably less popular with women” despite his “unparalleled” appeal as First Minister, claims social research body

ScotCen.

The SNP leader’s confrontational and often aggressive style is among reasons believed to be a turn-off for women, who tend to vote more with their “heads than their hearts”, according to the study.

The “gender gap” among supporters of the SNP has been a long-standing concern for the party, with men generally far more supportive of the Nationalists. But, despite efforts to soften the First Minister’s image, his appeal among women remains muted, even among Nationalists.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey for 2012 recorded support for independence at 20 per cent among women, compared with 27 per cent among men, while results from some of the major polling groups since February this year have found a gender gap in the proportion of people stating they will vote Yes of between 1-22 per cent.

Pro-independence campaigners insisted last night that women voters – 52 per cent of the adult population in Scotland – were still largely “undecided”, but opponents said that Nationalists were making no headway.

The report said: “It is worth noting Salmond appears to have something of a ‘women problem’ even have among Nationalists.”

However, the lower levels of support among women for independence in general precede Mr Salmond’s SNP leadership, the report said.

“This gap existed even during the period when the SNP was led by John Swinney,” the research said.

“So while Salmond may not be the Yes campaign’s best asset in terms of pressing their case with women specifically, findings over a longer timeframe suggest that the gender gap on independence would exist with or without him.”

Victoria Jamieson, of pro-union Better Together Women, said: “Women have been telling us they simply don’t feel they have been given the details or the answers to the many unanswered questions to persuade them of the case for separation.

“So it is not surprising that women have been significantly and persistently less likely to vote for independence.”

A spokesperson for Yes Scotland said: “It is clear that more women are currently undecided on how they will vote in the referendum, and Yes Scotland is confident that as we continue to present our case on the benefits of independence, women in Scotland will realise that a Yes vote secures the best deal for them and their families.”