Undecided moving towards ‘Yes’, but not enough to win referendum vote

Press Release
28 July 2014 01:00–29 July 2014 00:59

New data released by the British Election Study (BES) shows that previously undecided voters are more likely to say Yes on September 18, but are not enough in numbers to catch up with No voters.

The findings come from waves of data collected in March and June by BES and analysed by Professor Ed Fieldhouse from The University of Manchester, who Co-directs the study.

Looking only at voters who responded to both waves of the survey, June’s data shows little change with the No vote at 51%, the Yes vote at 39%, with 10% of the sample still undecided and the rest saying they will not vote.

Findings from the first wave showed the No camp ahead by 52% to 37% with the rest undecided.

But, asks the team, does overall stability hide switching under the surface?

Overall, nearly 90 per cent of voters did not change their mind in the three months between the two waves.

Those who said they ‘don’t know’ in March were much more likely in June to say they’ll vote Yes (25%) than No (18%).

If all the remaining ‘don’t knows’ moved from undecided to Yes in exactly the same proportion as those between March and June; the final result would likely be Yes 44% and No 56%. 

The data also shows that the economy is one the most important factors which would persuade voters to change their vote to Yes.

Professor Ed Fieldhouse and BES colleagues will be on hand to provide commentary in the run up to the vote on 18 Sept.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Future of the UK and Scotland initiative, has so far produced three waves of data from a panel of Scottish voters as part of the British Election Study. Further waves will follow the referendum and the UK General Election in 2015.

The BES Scientific Leadership Team is a consortium of the Universities of Manchester, Oxford and Nottingham.

Professor Fieldhouse said: “The BES is unique in that it is able to track the referendum vote intention of same voters over time.

“And the data tells us that the vast majority of those intending to vote Yes or No did not change their mind in the three months between March and June.

“However, the don’t knows are still significant. We find they are more likely to vote Yes when the time comes.

“But our data also shows not enough of them will support the Yes camp to win the eventual race: more people are yet to  be persuaded.”



Wave one was collected between 20th Feb and March 9th and Wave 2 between 22nd May and 18th June. If you are to use BES data, please credit the British Election Study. Visit

The British Election Study is one of the longest running election studies world-wide. It has made a major contribution to the understanding of political attitudes and behaviour over nearly sixty years. Surveys have taken place immediately after every general election since 1964. Follow us on twitter @BESResearch.

The BES is run by a consortium of the Universities of Manchester (Professor Ed Fieldhouse, Professor Jane Green and Professor Hermann Schmitt), Oxford (Professor Geoffrey Evans, Nuffield College) and Nottingham (Professor Cees van der Eijk).

The BES work on powers attitudes is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Future of the UK and Scotland activities to inform the referendum debate and the policy environment whatever the outcome. For more details visit Follow @ukscotland

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