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Attitudes to government and political engagement

Published: 29 Sep 2020 09:31

An Official Statistics Publication.

The Chief Statistician has published data on attitudes to government, the economy, the standard of living, the NHS, levels of tax and spending, and political engagement in Scotland. The findings are drawn from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, which took place between August 2019 and March 2020, before lockdown.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey has been conducted by the independent research organisation, ScotCen Social Research, almost every year since the advent of devolution in 1999.

In the latest survey, four times as many people (61%) said they trusted the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s best interests, as said they trusted the UK Government to do so (15%). Levels of trust in the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests and to make fair decisions have been consistently higher than trust in the UK Government since the survey began.

Views were fairly evenly split on which government had the most influence over the way Scotland is run, with 40% saying that the Scottish Government did, and 42% saying that the UK Government did. Almost three-quarters (73%) thought the Scottish Government ought to have the most influence over how Scotland is run, compared with 15% who thought the UK Government ought to have the most influence.

The proportions of people who think the Scottish Government is good at listening to people before taking decisions, and that the Scottish Parliament gives ordinary people more say in how Scotland is governed, have increased by 19 and 25 percentage points respectively since 2004.

Asked to choose what they thought the Scottish Government’s priorities should be in 2019, the three priorities selected most often were: to help the economy to grow faster (23%), improve standards of education (18%), and improve people’s health (17%).

Over two in five (42%) thought the economy had weakened a little or a lot in the past 12 months (down from 50% in 2017) compared to 17% who thought it had strengthened (28% said it had stayed the same). Of those who said it had weakened, 54% thought this was as a result of UK Government policies, while 19% thought it was a result of the policies of the Scottish Government.

Almost half (49%) said that the general standard of living had fallen a lot or a little over the last year (compared with 55% in 2017) compared to 16% who said it had increased and 30% that it had stayed the same. Of those who said it had fallen, 57% thought this was as a result of UK Government policies, while 17% thought it was a result of the policies of the Scottish Government.

Satisfaction with the NHS had increased from a low of 40% in 2005 to a record high (in this survey) of 65% in 2019 (it was 55% in 2017). At the same time, in almost every year, more people think standards in the NHS have fallen since the previous year than think they have increased (in 2019 – 45% thought standards had fallen, 9% that they had increased, 37% that they had stayed the same). Those who thought standards had fallen were more likely to attribute this to UK government policies (44%) than to Scottish Government policies (19%).

Over half of people in Scotland (55%) thought the government should increase taxes and spend more on health, education and social benefits, compared with 37% who thought taxation and spending should be kept the same and 4% who thought taxation and spending should be reduced.

The importance attached to voting in elections has increased over time – from just under 8 in 10 considering it important to vote in 2004 to around 9 in 10 considering it important to do so in 2019.

Background 

Analysis and reporting of the 2019 data was undertaken by ScotCen Social Research. The full publication and supporting data files are available at the publication page.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is based on face-to-face interviews with adults aged 16 and over drawn using probability sampling (from 1999 to 2015, the survey was conducted with adults aged 18 and over).

In the latest survey, the interviews took place between August 2019 and March 2020. The sample size was 1,022.

Publications from previous years can be accessed at the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey collection page.   

Official statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.