The Scottish referendum is an historic decision that will impact the world for years to come, so it is clear to see why it has received such huge amounts of coverage in the media. We’ve seen arguments switch to appeals as the game-changing YouGov poll, released on the 5th of September, made the outcome too-close-to-call and startled many into taking action. But what caused the upswing in support for the Yes Scotland campaign after only 27% of voters supported independence in December 2013?
The referendum debate has been intense on Twitter, where it has been mentioned almost six million times over the past year, accounting for 97% of the overall mentions across media platforms. An analysis of social media using Yatterbox shows that the Yes campaign is being driven more effectively than the No campaign on Twitter, with a majority of Scottish MSPs tweeting in favour of the Yes campaign. Conversely, the House of Commons and the House of Lords have been tweeting predominately in favour of the no campaign, but on a far lesser scale.
The Yes campaign is also receiving support from members of the Welsh Assembly, where the two top hashtags of #yes and #voteyes cumulatively exceed the mentions of #bettertogether five to one. This coincides with the YouGov, ITV Wales and Cardiff University research which puts support for independence for Scotland at 64% in Wales. Interestingly, the campaign for Scottish independence has increased support for Welsh independence, which now stands at 17%, compared to traditional levels of 10-15%, according to the Welsh Political Barometer poll for ITV Cymru Wales and Cardiff University.
The social media push from the SNP has considerably boosted coverage for the Yes campaign on Twitter, where ‘#voteyes’ holds 90% of the coverage, compared to the 10% held by ‘#nothanks’. The Yes campaign’s social media domination has clearly generated a loyal band of supporters for Salmond, which goes to show just how influential an effective social media campaign can be.
The No campaign strategy differs to Salmond’s, by focusing on the economic consequences of a Yes vote; this has been widely covered in the traditional media. We’ve recently seen Cameron take a more active role in the debate by flying to Scotland to appeal to the Scots directly where he stated “I would be heartbroken if this family was torn apart.” This more poignant strategy came as the polls put the Yes vote ahead, prompting Cameron to take action by appealing to the loyal Scots. Cameron’s change in tact became more prominent as he united with Clegg and Miliband and vowed to deliver more power to Scotland in the event of a No vote; a move that Salmond rejected as a “desperate offer of nothing”.
Westminster seems to have reacted to the Yes campaign’s twitter dominance by orchestrating a final push, where the House of Commons have mentioned ‘indyref’ slightly more than the Scottish Parliament over the last few days leading up to the vote. However, this decision has arguably come too late. Most people seem to have already made up their mind where the ‘don’t know’ responses are steadily decreasing, as shown by the latest YouGov poll which clocks them at 6%, down from 12% a few months before.
Twitter is obviously a powerful tool in generating support though a social media campaign, where it can be used to raise awareness and drive support by communicating with voters directly through a medium that people use on a daily basis. The more direct, personal and emotive approach Yes Scotland achieved through social media has clearly helped Salmond generate their loyal following, at a time where Westminster are frequently accused of being ‘out of touch’. It will be interesting to see if Westminster have learnt from their experience in the Scottish referendum and act to take advantage of social media in the upcoming general election.