Scottish Independence Gains Support With Help of Young

Support among voters in Scotland for becoming an independent country is rising, with a majority of young voters now ready to quit the U.K., according to a poll published today.

Backing for independence rose to 34 percent of respondents, while those in favor of retaining the status quo fell to 55 percent, according to the Ipsos MORI survey published in today’s London-based Times newspaper. The 21-percentage-point gap compares with 28 points in October and 20 points in June, based on reports from the same pollster.

“Our latest poll shows a boost in support for those campaigning for Scottish independence, who will take some encouragement from these findings,” Mark Diffley, director at Ipsos MORI Scotland, said on the pollster’s website. “Having said that, support for independence is behind where it was a year ago.”

Independence is the cornerstone policy of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party. The poll is the first to be published since a group of his economic advisers, including Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, set out recommendations two days ago for how an independent Scottish economy might work. The poll was carried out before the U.K. government published a legal opinion the same day stating that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for European Union membership.

Young Voters

Since the last Ipsos MORI poll in October, support for independence among 18-24-year-olds has more than doubled to 58 percent from 27 percent. Still, only 60 percent of that age group said they were certain to vote in the referendum, compared with 80 percent of older voters, Ipsos MORI said.

Respondents were asked the same question that will be on the ballot paper: Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No. The referendum is set to be held in the fall of 2014.

The survey was the first since the U.K. and Scottish governments, as well as the Electoral Commission, settled the process for the vote and the debate started to center on the arguments for and against independence.

The poll also showed that Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is fronting the independence campaign, has higher approval ratings among voters than Alistair Darling, the former chancellor of the exchequer who is heading the campaign to keep Scotland in the U.K.

The results of the latest poll are broadly in line with levels of support Ipsos MORI recorded over the last 35 years, the pollster said on its website.

The poll was conducted Feb. 4 to Feb. 9 among 1,003 voters. No margin of error was given.

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