The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in Westminster Abbey on Saturday has unsurprisingly generated a considerable amount of polling on attitudes towards the monarchy in recent week. Much of that has been Britain-wide. However, there has also been some polling of Scotland alone that allows us to examine attitudes north of the border and compare them with the position in the rest of Britain.
We previously examined this subject in September, shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. In that blog we made three points. First, that while the monarchy was more popular than having a republic, support was lower than in the rest of the UK. Nevertheless, there might still be majority support for thew monarchy even if Scotland were to become independent, though on this the evidence was not consistent. That said, what was clear is that those who are in favour of Scotland becoming an independent country are much less likely than those who back the Union to refer retaining the monarchy.
Comparing Scotland and Britain
Since we wrote that blog, there have been three pieces of polling conducted in Scotland where the results can be compared with polling conducted by the same company elsewhere in Britain at much the same time. One of these was a poll conducted by YouGov in early October, not long after the funeral of the late Queen, and two undertaken more recently, one by YouGov and one by Lord Ashcroft. The table below summarises the results.
In YouGov’s case, the question asked on both occasions on both sides of the border was:
Do you think Britain should continue to have a monarchy in the future, or should it be replaced with an elected head of state?
The difference between attitudes in Scotland and across Britain as a whole is similar in the two pairs of YouGov polls, albeit that in both cases the monarchy appears less popular now than it did in the immediate wake of the late Queen’s death. Last autumn, support for the monarchy was 17 points lower in Scotland, while more recently the gap was 12 points. The picture is similar to the gaps of 13 and 10 points that we showed in our previous blog.
As part of a much broader study of attitudes towards the monarchy across the Commonwealth, Lord Ashcroft asked the following question (again on both sides of the border):
If there were a referendum tomorrow, how would you vote?
For my country to remain a constitutional monarchy with King Charles III as head of state, or
For my country to become a republic
Despite the difference in wording, the results are similar to those of YouGov, with a ten-point difference between Scotland and Britain in the level of support for the monarchy. Meanwhile, both polls suggest that while retaining the monarchy is still more popular in Scotland than having a republic, the level of support may now have dipped to below a half.
What if Scotland were to become independent?
The poll conducted by YouGov last autumn and that undertaken by Lord Ashcroft also asked people their attitude towards retaining the monarchy if Scotland were to become independent. This enables us to examine more robustly than we could in our previous blog how much difference independence might make.
Both polls suggest that it could make quite a lot of difference.
If Scotland became an independent country, do you think it should continue to have a monarchy in the future, or should it be replaced with an elected head of state?
Just 41% said that an independent Scotland should continue to have a monarchy, while almost as many, 40% said they would prefer an elected head of state.
Lord Ashcroft’s question was:
If Scotland voted to become independent, would you want the King to remain as Scotland’s head of state, or not?
I would want the King to be our head of state
I would want Scotland to have its own Scottish head of state
In this instance, slightly more (44%) backed Scotland having its own head of state than said they would want to retain the King (38%). The difference from YouGov’s reading might be a consequence of the very different wording or the fact that the monarchy is somewhat less popular now than it was last autumn. Either way, it appears that Scotland is more or less evenly divided on whether to retain the monarchy in the event of independence.
The Nationalist/Unionist Divide
As we noted previously, not least of the reasons why the monarchy is less popular in Scotland is that most of those who support Scottish independence are opposed to a continuation of the monarchy. That continues to be the case.
According to YouGov’s most recent Scottish poll, only 31% of those who voted Yes in 2014 support the monarchy, while 57% would prefer an elected head of state. Among those who voted No the equivalent figures are 67% and 24% respectively. That said, the fall in support since last autumn has occurred among both groups – by four points among Yes voters and three points among those who backed No. Thus, the recent fall in support for the monarchy has not been occasioned by any widening of the difference between Yes and No supporters, substantial though that divide already is.
About the author
John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.