Moral sentiment predicts desire for Scottish Independence

Gary Lewis, Graeme Brown

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Scottish independence has been a topic of considerable political debate for some time, with the 2014 referendum concerning whether Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom testament to this fact. Numerous economic and political factors have been noted as determinants of the referendum vote. However, the role of psychological factors as a predictor of the desire for independence has not been well explored despite much work demonstrating the importance of specific traits and values on a range of socio-political attitudes. In the current study, using a sample of Scottish adults (n = 271), we sought to examine how two core constructs capturing moral sentiment – binding (reflecting concern for group cohesion and norms) and individualizing (reflecting concern over individual rights) – predicted the desire for independence during the build-up to the referendum. Results indicated that lower binding and higher individualizing predicted a desire for independence, with evidence for mediation via Scottish identification. These findings are consistent with the notion that the Scottish independence movement can be viewed as a broadly left-wing phenomenon. More generally, these results provide novel evidence in a charged political debate that moral sentiments concerning how individual and group life should be structured play a significant role in explaining individual differences in political sentiment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254–258
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date17 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

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