5. Discussion and conclusion
Prior to discussing the findings it is important to note that the response rate to the survey was low (11.6%) and that as demographic and other salient data items (such as crime committed for example) were not collected, it is not possible to determine how representative of the overall eligible prison population the respondents to this survey were. As such the results should be understood as the views of respondents only and not the general population of eligible prisoners.
Nonetheless it is also interesting to note that the sample achieved did not appear to be biased towards only those prisoners who were politically engaged, vis-à-vis voting. As noted in the findings section of this report, the majority of respondents stated that they had not previously voted during either a local government (56%) or Scottish Parliamentary election (62%). This fact, coupled with a number of respondents making it clear within the free text section of the survey that they had no interest in voting or politics at all suggests that the sample was likely to be unaffected by a selection bias favouring politically engaged prisoners.
With regards to the processes associated with registering to vote, the majority of survey respondents felt that they had not received the relevant information inviting them to register (61%), and with a majority also stating that they did not have access to the enough information to facilitate registration (75%). Similarly, 67% of those who had not registered stated that they did not know that they could register. These findings suggest that for respondents of the survey they felt that there was a general lack of information and communication which could help facilitate registration.
Of respondents, 9% stated they voted in the 2022 Local Government election and of those the majority (83%) did so by postal vote. However of those that voted, 63% of respondents also felt that they did not receive as much information from candidates and parties as they would have liked to facilitate informed voting. Some respondents specifically stated that they would like more information to be made available regarding political parties, candidates and their policies.
With regards to findings on processes that were put in place to facilitate prisoner voting it should be noted that as per the methodology section, just under half of all responses received were from one prison. Therefore the findings detailed above are not to be interpreted as reflective of the registration process across all institutions in Scotland.
The findings detailed in this report suggest that the majority of prisoners who voted in the 2022 Scottish Local Government elections, and who completed the survey, felt that the processes put in place to facilitate voting could benefit from further consideration and improvement. Areas for improvement included better information on how to register and who was eligible to vote, as well as information regarding political parties, candidates and their policy positions.
However it should also be kept in mind that the results of this survey are not necessarily reflective of the entire eligible population of prisoners. As such further research and information gathering may provide a more detailed understanding of how to encourage participation, and the broader views of prisoners on their recently acquired right to vote.
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