Scottish Social Attitudes survey 2021/22: attitudes data

Findings from the Scottish Government funded Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021/22 Core Module

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Chapter 5: Conclusions

SSA 2021/22 was an unprecedented year in the history of the survey. While attitudes to government and public services have been tracked by conducting SSA face-to-face since 1999, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions, SSA 2021/22 was, for the first time, conducted as a telephone survey. The pandemic not only had implications for the methodology used for this year's survey, but it also provided an important contextual background for the findings presented in this report. Differences in approach by the UK and Scottish Governments to the pandemic and the nature of restrictions highlighted how the current devolution settlement impacts on people's everyday lives.

A new variable measuring attitudes towards Scotland's handling of the pandemic was included in this year's report. Whether people had a positive or negative perception was frequently found to have a significant relationship with attitudes towards government, the economy and the health service in general. Often this had a notable effect on attitudes even when controlling for someone's political and social views. Given that these views are likely to have been held by respondents for a long time, this demonstrates the large impact the pandemic has held on Scottish politics and attitudes towards government in the recent past.

Beyond the introduction of the new variable on Scotland's handling of the pandemic, certain subgroups were consistently found to be key drivers of attitudes across the report as a whole. A person's political and social values, such as their position on the left-right and liberal-authoritarian scales, their views on independence and Brexit, and their party-political identification were much more likely to return statistically significant relationships than demographic variables such as someone's age, gender or level of area deprivation (SIMD).

At a time when trust in institutions was of particular relevance due to the coronavirus pandemic, in general the results across the various questions used to gauge the level of trust people had in the Scottish Government were positive. A majority of the people in Scotland said they trust the Scottish Government to work in Scotland's best interests (66%) 'just about always' or 'most of the time', and around half (48%) trust them to make fair decisions either a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot'. A majority of the Scottish public (58%) also said that they think the Scottish Government is either 'very' or 'quite' good at listening to people's views before taking decisions. New questions on the Core Module this year to do with people's general level of social trust showed a connection between this and trust in institutions like the Scottish Government.

As well as more general questions on trust in government, all respondents were also asked for their opinions on the Scottish Government's policy on taxation, spending, and the redistribution of income, as well as what they think their highest priority should be. Most people (64%) were in favour of government increasing the level of taxes and spending more on health, education and social benefits. Around a third of people in Scotland (32%) felt the level of taxation and spending should be kept as it is, while 3% thought it should be reduced. A majority of the Scottish public (68%) also either 'strongly agree' or 'agree' that 'government should redistribute income from the better-off to those who are less well-off'. The most important focus for the Scottish Government in 2021/22, according to the public, should be to improve standards of education, with 21% of people highlighting this as a priority. This was followed closely by 'reducing inequality' (19%) and 'improving the economy' (18%).

Although 'improving the economy' was not listed as the top priority for the Scottish Government, the majority of people in Scotland felt the general standard of living had either fallen 'a little' or fallen 'a lot' (63%) over the last twelve months, with a similar proportion (66%) stating that Scotland's economy had either got 'a little' or 'a lot' weaker. Of those who thought the standard of living had fallen in the past year, 45% said this was mainly the result of the UK Government's policies, 17% attributed blame to Scottish Government policies, while 31% said this was the result of 'some other reason'. In comparison, among those who thought the economy had grown weaker in the past year, 31% blamed the UK Government's policies, 25% blamed the Scottish Government's policies, and 33% cited 'some other reason' as the cause.

At a challenging time for the health service in Scotland, people said they were generally satisfied with the way the NHS is being run. Over half of people said (54%) they were either 'very' or 'quite' satisfied with the way the NHS runs nowadays, while 28% said they were either 'quite' or 'very' dissatisfied. Despite this level of satisfaction, two-thirds of people in Scotland felt that the standard of the health service had fallen either 'a little' or 'a lot' (66%) over the last twelve months. Of those who felt the standard of the health service had fallen, more people said this was the result of 'some other reason' (40%) than specifically the fault of policies of the UK (28%) or Scottish Government (24%).

Finally, the level of social trust and the importance attributed to voting in elections was generally high. There is a broad consensus in Scotland that it is important to vote in elections: in 2021/22 over 9 in 10 people said it was either 'very important' or 'fairly important' to vote in UK, Scottish Parliament and local council elections. Voting in Scottish Parliament elections was considered most important, with 98% of people in Scotland stating it is 'very' or 'fairly' important to do so, followed by local council elections (95%) and elections to the UK House of Commons (92%).

With regards to social trust, a majority of people in Scotland (61%) felt that 'most people can be trusted', while 37% thought that you 'can't be too careful in dealing with people'. Almost 8 in 10 people in Scotland (79%) either 'agree strongly' or 'agree' with the statement: 'I feel that there are people in this area I could turn to for advice and support'. Despite challenging times, there are encouraging signs that both trust in institutions and trust in others are strong in Scotland.


Email: Arfan.Iqbal@Gov.Scot

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