Risk-taking Catholics born in Scotland tend to back Yes finds study

Ballot: Machines replace ones used in 2007 election.
Voting intentions: The less risk averse are 'more likely to vote Yes in the referendum'.© STV

Support for independence is "substantially higher" among those who are more willing to take risks, a new study has concluded.

Researchers at the University of Stirling also found that religion could impact on how people vote in September's referendum, as could which part of the UK they were born in.

They found backing for independence among those born in Scotland was almost 40% — about twice the level of support among people living in Scotland but who were born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Support for leaving the UK was also higher among those with no religious affiliation and Catholics — with about 40% of both these groups in favour of a Yes vote — than it was among people in either the Church of Scotland or the Church of England.

The study said support for independence was "related to a wide variety of economic beliefs and preferences including beliefs that an independent Scotland will have better debt and inflation outcomes".

But the research, part of a range of work by universities and think-tanks examining the future of the UK and Scotland, found that measuring a person's attitude to risk was "highly predictive of voting intention".

Here it suggested people who were less risk averse were "more likely to state that they would vote Yes in the referendum".

The report stated: "Respondents who score highly on a simple scale measuring willingness to take risks show substantially higher support for independence."

Professor Liam Delaney, one of the authors of the study, said: "The upcoming referendum poses a difficult choice for Scottish voters and one that requires consideration of many complex economic and political factors. Our evidence bears out the importance of people's core attitudes to risk in determining their voting intention."

The part of the UK a person was born in "strongly predicts support for independence", according to the research, which stated: "Of those born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland support for independence is approximately half that of those born in Scotland."

Even if people "intend to vote for independence they prefer to keep the pound, rather than the creation of a new currency, or adopting the euro", the study indicated.

Meanwhile a small number of Yes voters would prefer for Scotland to remain within the UK but with greater powers over tax, while a small group of No voters would prefer independence if Scotland could keep the pound as its currency.

The report said: "This suggests that a small number of respondents would choose to vote No to independence if there were some guarantees of increased tax powers, while a small number of respondents would vote for independence if they could be guaranteed that Scotland would definitely keep the pound."

Prof Delaney and his colleagues who carried out the study, Professor David Bell and researcher Michael McGoldrick, said: "Our survey showed that a majority of respondents were in favour of retaining the Union.

"Consistent with previous research, males are more supportive of a Yes vote than females and there is somewhat less support among older voters. Around 18% of the gender effect is explained by higher levels of risk aversion among female voters."

A spokesman for the pro-UK Better Together campaign said: "Breaking away from the UK would involve huge risks that we Scots simply don't need to take. Whether it's on what would replace the pound, how our pensions would be funded or what would happen to the money available to pay for our schools and hospitals, separation would be a big risk.

"As part of the UK we can have the best of both worlds — a strong Scottish Parliament, with the guarantee of more powers, backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of the larger UK. The only thing putting that at risk is Alex Salmond's obsession with separation."

But Sarah-Jane Walls, a spokeswoman for Yes Scotland, said: "The biggest risk to Scotland's future is a No vote, leaving us under the control of Westminster which is out of touch and willing to gamble, for example, with our place in Europe simply to appease the rise of Ukip south of the border.

"We have found that the more the people of Scotland are informed of facts, figures and reality, the more likely they are to reject a future under the control and austerity imposed by Westminster and have decided to vote Yes on September 18.

"A Yes vote means putting Scotland's future in Scotland's hands and using our vast wealth and resources, both natural and human, to build a better and fairer country."

Related articles