The impact of social media on young people’s attitudes towards independence

Dr Mark Shephard, Dr Stephen Tagg and Dr Stephen Quinlan, University of Strathclyde, and Dr Jan Eichhorn and Professor Lindsay Paterson, University of Edinburgh

This project built on existing ESRC–funded research (the Future of the UK and Scotland cross-investment AQMeN social media project) on the impact of social media on attitudes towards independence. This project had two specific objectives: 1) To extend the analysis of social media’s impact on referendum to young people on the cusp of voting age, in the process establishing whether negative social media messages have an impact on behaviour; 2) to compare and contrast social media’s impact on the behaviour of pre-voting age youth and youth who have just recently entered the electorate. To do this, we used quantitative experimental survey methods to explore if there are any systematic differences between pre-voting and newly enfranchised young people dependent on their exposure to referendum content from social media.

The outputs from this project included an anonymous dataset of young persons’ attitudes towards independence; a knowledge exchange event to disseminate research findings and recommendations for best practice (e.g. how to post and host and how to spot fallacious threads and make sense of the impact of population asymmetries in postings) through widespread engagement in knowledge exchange events (e.g. schools and teacher training programmes, AQMeN national and local seminars, and political science conferences such as PSA and EPOP) with parliaments (UK, Scotland and Scottish Youth Parliament), cross-party working groups and discussion forums on the referendum, and other external organisations including the media. Outputs also included an academic article in a peer reviewed journal and participation in AQMeN seminars and quantitative training workshops.