Next week’s Scottish referendum has seen the highest number of people registered to vote. One in five have also registered for postal votes.
Over 4.25 million people have registered to vote in next Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum - a record breaker of a number. Scotland's population is 5.295 million, according to the 2011 census. The figures, posted by the BBC, demonstrate the interest ordinary people are having in this debate.
Couple this with expected turnouts of over 80% in most polls it is clear that there is an incredibly high level of engagement - something not seen in recent elections.
Considering that the turnout for the 2011 Holyrood election was 50.4% and just 33.5% for the European election this year, the engagement seen for next Thursday's vote is considerably more. Additionally, 2012’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections had a turnout of 15%. Although theses were not conducted in Scotland it just demonstrates the lack of interest in the democratic process across the country.
People who have not voted in years will turn out to vote. It is clear that the independence debate has forged strong views on both sides with more people than ever determined to get to the ballot box.
Another record breaking figure is the nearly 790,000 postal votes. That’s almost 1 in 5 of the 4,285,323 registered voters, showing continued engagement.
But where are these new voters coming from?
John Curtice has recently suggested, on the ‘What Scotland Thinks’ blog where he is chief commentator, that the so called ‘missing million’ are considerably boosting the expected turnout - people who have tended not to vote. He has argued that this could advantage the ‘Yes’ campaign as many of the ‘missing million’ live in less well off areas of Scotland, where ‘Yes’ appear to be doing better.
However, he also stated that ‘Only in one case, that is YouGov’s most recent poll, is there any indication that those who did not vote in 2011 might be a little more inclined to vote Yes’, suggesting an advantage for Better Together.
Whether the new registered voters will sway the vote one way or another will only be decided on the day. Opinion polls can only go so far, so it is the actual referendum - a week today - that will be the only one that truly matters.
With recent polls showing a close result it is clear that every one of these votes will count. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why engagement is so high. Every vote will make a difference. There will be no wasted ballots - no voting one way and having your voice lost in oblivion.
It’s one week to go and Scots have all to play for, but whichever way the vote goes, only time will tell if this level of political engagement can be sustained.
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