modified from flickrtickr2009

If the polls are to be believed, Labour are going to loose a lot of Scottish seats in Westminster to the SNP next month. This wave of support seems to come largely out of the referendum last year on Scottish Independence, but it's difficult to completely understand why this is. Qualitative research to the rescue!

“I mean, it used to just be like, “If you dislike the Tories, you had to vote Labour,” and then you kind of vote Lib Dem but now the SNP are a realistic choice as well.”


Earlier this year we ourselves conducted a fun little study looking at what people thought about the campaigning for the Referendum, and how this affected views on political parties and the prospects for the 2015 general election. We interviewed 12 people, face to face, all voters living in Edinburgh. It wasn’t intended to be a representative sample, but does capture a range of ages and political leanings.


We did this mostly to demonstrate how Quirkos can be used to understand complex social issues, and help expert researchers understand qualitative data. We also make all of the transcripts of the project available to download on our website for use in training workshops.



This week we are releasing a couple of insights into the data, created and coded with Quirkos. Personally, I was struck by how nuanced and detailed people’s political understanding was, and how far removed it seems to be from the mainstream media’s summations of major political messages.


When we look at how people describe Labour and the SNP (using the overlapping codes function) there are some interesting insights:

“I think they were just in a bit of a muddle because a lot of the SNP’s policies are quite left wing, I think, and Labour ought to be, that should be their ground so the SNP were sort of stealing Labour’s voters. Not stealing in a bad way but taking over Labour ground, so the Labour party have lost out on support because they’ve tried to go a bit more middle to counteract the Conservatives.”

“it’s sometimes harder to distinguish the Labour policies from the Conservative policies and I think that was under Tony Blair that drift to the right happened so I can understand why that has been a vacuum created and the SNP has managed to fill it. I have to say, I used to think of the SNP as a right wing party and they’re not. They’re a very left wing party, aren’t they?”



But it is clear that while Labour supporting the ‘Better Together’ campaign had a negative impact for some, wider policy issues seem to be the main reason, as shown when looking at overlapping codes for Negative and Labour:


“a lot of Scottish people used to really like the Labour party and I think they haven’t done themselves any favours in the referendum, you know. Ed Miliband coming up at the last gasp but not actually knowing where the Fife was and things like that”

“I mean, a big one in UK terms is this whole programme of austerity and how it’s been dealt with. Perhaps not so many people have seen through that now, but anyone who really probes the policies, you’ll find that the Labour party’s policy isn’t that much different, even in a matter of degrees or billions of pounds or whatever it is, but actually fundamentally, they’re still supporting austerity as well”

“There is enough power in Scotland to move towards the left. There is party that could do something so why not vote for them? So, I think that’s how my thinking goes and I think it’s a lot of people. I mean, I thinks that’s why Labour is now in real trouble because they’ve identified with what they did in power for 14 years or however long it was.”



While others note that it is a difficult balancing act:

“I think they’re kind of playing both sides, you know, they’re trying to promote that they’re a Scottish party looking after the interests of Scotland, but we’re also part of a bigger organisation that’s looking at the needs of the UK as a whole or a particular area.”



You can download a more detailed list of quotes from here, and don’t forget that the full transcripts are also available from our workshop page. More insights to come in the next few days!