Americans are evenly divided on Scottish independence

September 17, 2014, 12:06 PM GMT+0

However, those who are actually following the issue are more likely to say Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom

Only half the American public is paying attention to Thursday’s referendum on Scottish independence – so it’s no surprise that Americans overall aren’t sure what to think about the vote: they are evenly divided on whether Scotland should become independent or remain within the United Kingdom. But in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, those who are paying attention hope Scotland remains part of the U.K.

There is support for independence in some places: the South, which once seceded from the rest of the United States, is more supportive of independence for Scotland. And even those Southerners who are following news about the referendum are more likely than those in the rest of the country who are paying attention think Scottish secession is the right thing.

This is not an issue that divides the country by party. Both Republicans and Democrats express similar positions on Scottish independence. And those in both parties are equally likely to be paying attention.

Those following events across the Pond see independence as creating economic difficulties for Scotland. By better than two to one (17% to 44%), they say that Scotland will be economically worse off – not better off – if it separates from Great Britain. Those favoring independence have a much more rosy view. More than three times as many (38%) of them think Scotland will do better economically if it secedes than think it will do worse (11%).

Beyond Scotland

Of course, the United States separated from Great Britain more than two centuries ago, and being independent is important to Americans. But that hasn’t translated into support for Scotland doing the same thing. Americans also oppose provincial secession in the country just north of the continental U.S. By five to one Americans think that Quebec, where secessionist votes have failed in the recent past, should stay in Canada.

But there is a different answer when it comes to Iraqi Kurdistan. Americans favor independence for the Kurds, and that feeling is particularly strong among those who are following current events in Iraq, which include recent attacks by ISIS, very closely (people in this group favor Iraqi Kurdish independence by 53% to 23%).


Americans also oppose secession in their own country. By nearly two to one, they reject the possibility that a state or group of states should be allowed to leave the union if a majority in the state or states voted to secede. While there is a little more support for the idea in the South and among Republicans and conservatives, those groups too oppose the notion.

Even those who favor independence for Scotland aren’t sure about extending the right to independence to American states: 38% of those favoring Scottish independence would, while 41% would not.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

Image: PA