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The SNP and God? The Scottish religious votes in 2010

The SNP and God? The Scottish religious votes in 2010

Labour and the Liberal Democrats will be praying for a miracle in Scotland.

The latest Ashcroft poll indicates that both Jim Murphy, leader of Scottish Labour, and Douglas Alexander, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, could lose their seats to the SNP. Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy  is also well behind in the polls. Though the methodology of the Ashcroft poll has been questioned in some quarters , other polls point to a similar SNP victory march. One poll-monitoring site predicts that the SNP will take at least 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats on 7th May.

One commentator has susted that the SNP’s rise can be explained by a fervour that is as much ‘religious’ as it is political. Alex Massie, writing in The Spectator, suggests that the Scottish National Party has taken on the role of “guarantor and defender of a distinct Scottish sensibility” which was formerly the preserve of the Church of Scotland. “Politics is now governed by identity and faith.”

Looking back, how did different religious groups vote in 2010?

We can see that Labour gained the highest proportion of votes among all groups. Gordon Brown’s Labour secured 41 seats overall.

Labour gained the greatest level of support from Scottish Catholics. 65% of Catholics voted for Labour, compared to 17.9% for the SNP, and 7.7% for both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. The lowest level of support for Labour (29%) came from the ‘other denomination / religion’ category.

Presbyterians showed the highest levels of support for the SNP at 21%, though those of non-religious affiliation and Catholics were close behind at 19% and 18% respectively. The lowest level of SNP support came from the ‘other denomination / religion category’, only 11% of whom supported the party.

The highest level of support for the Tories came from respondents in the ‘other’ religious category – at 25% compared to 17% of Presbyterians, and 15% of the population as a whole. Respondents from the ‘other’ category were more evenly split between support for Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems than respondents from other groups.

Party loyalties among Presbyterians were broadly similar to those among with no religious affiliation. The largest difference was in support for the Lib Dems – 20% of the former group supported the party, compared to 26% of the latter.

It should be noted that party loyalties among Church of Scotland members varies depending on whether they are ‘practising’ and whether or not they believe in God. In 2013 Presbyterians who were not currently engaged in religious practices with other people were more likely to support the SNP than those who were – 32% to 26%. Presbyterians who said they believed in God were far more likely to support the party than those who said otherwise – 56% to 19%.

This snippet is taken from our report Voting and Values in Britain: Does religion count? (pp. 52-53).

See the full report here and an Executive Summary here for further analysis of voting behaviour and religious identity.

Data source: BES CIPS 2010. Weighted data.

For further information and enquiries on Voting and Values and the 2015 General Election, please contact or 0773648107. 


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