THE independence debate is passing many young people by, according to an exclusive poll for The Herald.
In spite of the franchise being extended to 16-year-olds, younger voters are following the debate much less closely than their elders.
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The poll of just under 1000 people who will potentially decide Scotland's future in the September 18 referendum asked them to rate on a scale of one to 10 how closely they had followed the debate so far. There was a noticeable lack of interest among those aged 16-34, with only 29% rating themselves interested, against 49% giving themselves low interest scores.
Writing in today's Scotland Decides supplement, Tom Costley, head of TNS Scotland which conducted the poll, observes: "Much has been made of the role of younger voters and how they may influence the outcome. At this stage, however, the debate appears to be of less interest to them, with one in five of 16-34-year-olds saying they have not been following the debate at all, more than twice the level in older age groups."
Those rating themselves very interested (7-10) stood at 37%, against 36% indicating a lack of interest (1-4) and 27% scoring in the middle.
For men, the interested/uninterested split was 40% to 27%, whereas for women it was reversed, at 30% to 43%.
There was also a much higher level of interest among social groups ABC1 (upper middle class, middle class and lower middle class) at 47% to 27%, than in C2DE (including working class, state pensioners and unskilled workers) at 28% to 44%.
Within younger voters low on interest, the proportion ranking themselves at just one on the scale - not interested at all - stood at 22%, more than double the figure for older voters.
Kyle Thornton, who chairs the Scottish Youth Parliament, said: "The importance of ensuring the inclusion of young people in this debate cannot be emphasised enough. Through our work at the Scottish Youth Parliament we have found that young people are interested and want to influence the decisions that affect their future.
"We have also found young people can be put off by party politics. If they have access to sources of factual and robust information, and answers to the questions they are concerned about, then they are more likely to be engaged and therefore more likely to cast their vote."
The questions were asked as part of the poll of 996 voters carried out last month. The details emerged yesterday as Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont announced the findings of her party's Devolution Commission. She said the Scottish Parliament should have much greater control over income tax.
The poll also found the Yes campaign had been more successful at energising and engaging with its supporters than Better Together. When the comparison is made between those planning to vote Yes or No there is a significant difference in interest levels. Among the Yes camp 58% record high interest, against 20% who report low interest. The equivalent figures among those planning to vote No are 38% and 36%.
Mr Costley said: "The survey suggests supporters of independence are more energised than those against. It is possible that, with most polling evidence in recent years pointing to a No win, people on that side of the debate are less inclined to engage in a debate over a scenario they see as unlikely.
"The higher level of activity and interest among Yes voters suggests Better Together has more work to do to energise its potential supporters."
The poll also asked voters which activities they had got involved in so far - watching special TV programmes on the issue (49%), writing to newspapers (3%), taking part in online discussions (6%), talking about the issues with friends and family (56%), reading any of the White Paper (14%), attending a public meeting (3%), working with Yes Scotland (1%, rounded down), or worked with Better Together (1%, rounded up).
Overall, 74% said they had taken part in at least one of those activities. Men were more active than women, and activity increased with age and social class.