Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Research finds young voters 'don't copy parents'

Voting booth Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The secret ballot on Scotland's future will take place on 18 September this year

Researchers have found no clear evidence young people would vote the same as their parents in the Scottish independence referendum.

However, think tank "dpart" concluded teenagers were more likely to vote if they talked politics with family.

The September 18 independence referendum is the first time in the UK that 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed at the ballot box.

They will be asked: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Lead researcher for dpart, Dr Jan Eichhorn, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We were not only looking into whether [young people] were leaning yes or no, but whether some of the critics were right in saying that young people simply follow the lead of their parents or what is told in school, and they don't.

"They really make up their mind in quite a complex way themselves and that is really encouraging to see."

Dr Eichhorn added: "We actually found that only just over half of the young people had the same voting intention as one of their parents - so it is nearly 50/50 which clearly does not present a picture of young people who simply follow their parents."

The academic believed, that like the rest of the electorate in Scotland, young people wanted more information. But where are they getting it from?

As well as parents and teachers, those involved with the Scottish Youth Parliament are doing their bit to engage young people through a series of sessions up and down the country.

Media captionDr Jan Eichhorn: "They [young people] really make up their mind in quite a complex way themselves and that is really encouraging to see."

Kyle Thornton, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said the aim was to educate young people in a more "fun engaging manner".

"The people who take part in our sessions come out of it feeling they've actually learnt something and a lot of the time, it just starts that spark and thought process about the referendum," he said.

Seventeen-year-old Christopher Clannachan, who took part in one of the events, in the chamber of East Ayrshire Council, said: "I feel more informed than I did before the session.

"I still don't fully understand all the issues around the referendum but I do feel like I'd know how to vote now.

Image copyright Spl
Image caption Sixteen and 17-year-olds in Scotland will be part of the franchise in the September's referendum

"And I'll definitely go online and do some research before I make an informed decision."

Another participant, Rachael Robertson, 16, added: "I'll watch more debates and read up on the referendum now."

The two official campaigns for independence and the Union - Yes Scotland and Better Together - have their own strategies targeted at young voters.

Yes Scotland operations manager Sarah Jane Walls said the organisation had enlisted young people to get involved in its campaign.

She said: "We will continue speaking to schools, and so far the number of young people involved in the campaign has hit such a level that we will soon be creating local youth groups that are independent of our already established local groups."

Ms Walls added that the youth groups would be tasked with organising activities in their local areas, like speaking to youth clubs and hosting social events, and social media was an important factor too.

Ross MacRae, from Better Together, said it had a team of more than 300 youth representatives.

He added: "To compliment the work of our youth reps the campaign has developed a raft of materials for young voters with the help of our youth reps.

"These materials are available to schools, colleges and youth groups on request and the feedback we've had has been very positive."

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