1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 A draft Young Voter Registration Form (YVF) was developed by the Scottish Government. The YVF will be used to register young people to allow them to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. This document provides the findings from Ipsos MORI's testing of the YVF.
1.2 The ultimate aim of the study was to test whether the purpose of the YVF was easily understood and that the YVF was correctly completed by households who have 15 year olds who will be 16 by the date of the referendum.
1.3 The testing method was qualitative in nature. It was conducted through a series of 40 one-to-one cognitive interviews which involved: participants completing the YVF and a generic annual canvass form; researchers observing how participants completed the forms; an in-depth interview with participants.
1.4 To ensure that the testing explored the experiences of a range of people in different circumstances, and thereby indentify a range of potential problems with the YVF, interviews were carried out with participants from a mix of different types of households, levels of qualifications and working status.
1.5 In addition, the study included groups who are likely to experience problems with filling out forms because of language issues or low literacy.
1.6 To begin with, the draft version of the YVF designed by the Scottish Government (version 1) was tested in 23 interviews. In light of the findings which emerged in these interviews, the YVF was slightly amended. The amended version of the YVF (version 2) was tested in the remaining 17 interviews.
1.7 The findings from the testing show that the YVF works well. The instructions provided at the front of the YVF were felt to be "clear" and "easy to understand" and, from reading these, participants were generally able to understand the purpose of the form.
1.8 Those who had 15 year olds in their household experienced little difficulty in working out whether their child would be 16 by the referendum date. Those who had eligible 15 year olds were generally positive about the layout of the YVF and found it easy to complete.
1.9 In general, participants completed the YVF correctly or correctly left it blank. The few errors that did emerge could be dealt with by Electoral Registration Officers without the need to re-contact households for clarification.
1.10 Above all, nobody failed to include an eligible 15 year old on the YVF.
Changes made between version 1 and version 2
1.11 There was a view among participants that there was too much text in the instructions on the front page and some participants did not understand the word 'eligible'. In version 2, the instructions were amended accordingly. The remaining changes made were in relation to the layout of the YVF in order to overcome errors which emerged in testing version 1.
1.12 The fairly minor amendments that were made to create version 2 appeared to work well among participants.
Errors made when completing the YVF
1.13 While in most cases participants filled out the YVF correctly or correctly left it blank, a small number of errors did emerge during the testing: one participant in his twenties included himself on both forms; one participant included a 15 year old on the YVF and the annual canvass form; one participant included a 16 year old on the YVF instead of the annual canvass form; one participant included a 16 year old on the YVF and the annual canvass form; two participants from households containing ineligible children signed blank YVFs.
Other issues with the YVF
1.14 There was some uncertainty around whether participants themselves, or their eligible 15 year olds, should complete and sign the YVF. Anyone in the household, including the young person themselves, could complete and sign the YVF. Even in the interviews where there was uncertainty, the YVFs were nonetheless completed, so we recommend keeping the YVF as it stands.
1.15 The testing found that the YVF worked well from the outset:
- participants understood what the YVF was for
- those with eligible 15 year olds were able to complete the YVF accurately and with ease
- those in ineligible households correctly left the YVF blank
- the amendments that were made to the YVF during the testing appeared to work well.
1.16 We recommend keeping version 2 of the YVF largely as it stands. The only amendment we recommend is changing the word 'mailshot', used on the back page to explain how the electoral register may be used by certain organisations, to 'information'.
Email: Wendy Van Rijswijk