The SNP and Low-income voters


I missed this research last year (May 2018) but it’s worth a look, as we approach an imminent General Election. You probably know that the SNP has tended to benefit from the support of low-income voters, but this research suggests that it is by no means guaranteed and needs to be nurtured.

Here are the report’s three key findings:’

  1. Our analysis finds that it was people living in places which had most strongly supported Brexit in 2016 that were then most likely to vote in 2017, a pattern that separates Scotland from the rest of the UK.
  2. The SNP continues to perform strongly among low-income voters who live on less than £20,000 per year, the working-class and pro-independence voters. But compared to 2015, their lead among lower-income voters has declined, underlining their need to rejuvenate their offer to this key group.
  3. The Conservative Party has made big inroads among pro-union and pro-Brexit voters, and has also won over low-income voters from Labour, people who voted ‘No’ to Scottish independence in 2014 and then ‘Yes’ to Brexit in 2016.

Dealing with the third point first, things have changed for the Scottish Conservatives since the report was published, ‘pushed under a bus,’ by the Westminster Party and with the Brexit Party and Lib Dems taking some support from them, they seem finished as a force in Scottish politics. Labour, too seem done in.

On the first and second point the researchers do not offer solutions but have helpfully pointed to two areas where policy initiatives are needed and where they might get electoral returns.

First, unlike in the rest of the UK, pro-Brexit supporters are more likely to turn out than Remainers. While, the SNP cannot consider changing its broad support for EU membership, it could present itself as more of a critical friend to the EU than it has done so far. Finding out what exactly Scottish leavers dislike in the EU would be a starting point before going on to suggest that, once within the EU, the Scottish Government would ally itself with groups pushing for reform. Off the top of my head, moves to further strengthen worker’s rights, to tackle poverty and inequality more vigorously and to reduce the democratic deficit we see in appointments to leading positions, might persuade some marginal leavers that the SNP can be trusted to address some of their concerns.

Second, the decline in support from low-income voters clearly requires new bold initiatives to tackle poverty and inequality head-on. More affluent voters will never support the SNP in any significant numbers so a further push on more progressive taxation including reform of land and property taxes to raise productivity and diversity ownership seems logical

. Perhaps most obvious and most worth the effort and investment, would be to find a way of supplementing the basic old-age pension, the lowest in Europe, and attract those most likely to vote and most likely, at the moment, to vote for other parties than the SNP.

As always, I offer this as a mere starter.


5 thoughts on “The SNP and Low-income voters

  1. Jimmock August 11, 2019 / 8:49 am

    How do we contact NO voters. They will get most of their info from BBC. Leaflet! Leaflet! Leaflet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 August 11, 2019 / 9:15 am

      Invite them round for tea and flatter them about something – their dug or their shoes?


  2. Ludo Thierry August 11, 2019 / 5:37 pm

    Hi John – for what it’s worth I agree that your initial three ‘starters’ of the debate are clear runners for consideration in the coming electoral jousts. (Was it Bamber Gascoign who used to offer ‘starters for 10’ on University Challenge? – I’m talking decades back – I think an uncle of his was a Unionist Chief Minister in the original Unionist Stormont Assembly as was – The consummate skill with which scions of the UK landed, moneyed and Unionist political elites colonised the broadcast media from inception and throughout its period of total social dominance is worth studying and learning lessons from.)


  3. Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2019 / 8:12 pm

    It is low income voters who are least likely to turn out and vote at elections, partly because they have more pressing existential matters and, secondly, because many have heard the promises of politicians and it has not done them particularly well.

    At 2014, RISE activists were pretty busy in areas of high SIMD and, to their credit, they did mange to persuade many people that voting can make a difference. The turnout in high SIMD area in 2014 was higher than usual but still markedly lower than the more affluent areas.

    Since Scotland requires more immigration I fear that the Tories, LibDems, Brexit and their media cheerleaders will play the ‘immigrants taking houses, jobs, and benefits’ card, augmented by the kind of social media targeting that has been effective for LEAVE using data from polling companies. SIMD communities tend to have more immigrants, and asylum seekers, and usually, they find kindness and support from within the communities, but there can also be the overt, nasty face of xenophobia, which is often masked by more careful language in other places, which transfers the sense of anger at their disempowerment on to immigrants. it is this which the activists of RISE and other community groups resisted.


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