Social Media and Shaping Voting Behavior of Youth: The Scottish Referendum 2014 Case


  • Saba Munir Fatima Jinnah Women University


Social media, Voting behavior, Political information, Young voters, Referendum


This study analyzes the role of social media in shaping voting behavior of youth in the Scottish Independence Referendum 2014. Findings from a survey of inhabitants of Scotland and England (n=985) indicate that the social media is composed of limited self- selected members (especially Facebook). Young voters seek information from like-minded political experts on social media. The politically aware young voters are more efficient and active than their less politically aware counterparts with respect to gaining political information. Social media were effective in changing voting behavior of young voters in Scottish Referendum 2014.


Author Biography

Saba Munir, Fatima Jinnah Women University

Lecturer, Communication and Media Studies

Fatima Jinnah Women University, The Mall, Rawalpindi, Pakistan 



Adeyanju & Haruna (2012). Uses of SMS in campaigns: An assessment of the 2011 general elections and post election violence in northern Nigeria, in Des Wilso (ed.) The media, terrorism & political communication in Nigeria. Uyo; ACCE.

Akinwunmi, A.O. (2011). New media, political campaigns and violence in Nigeria. ACCE, Covenant University, Ota.

Anaeto, SG, Onabanjo, OS & Osifeso, JB (2008). Models and theories of communication. USA; African Renaissance Books Incorporated.

Antunes, S. F. (2015). The Scottish Referendum 2014: the Political Process Before and After the “No” Vote’. JANUS. NET e-journal of International Relations, 44-60.

Baran, S. J., & Davis, D. K. (2006). Mass Communication Theory. Belmont, CA: Thomas Wadsworth

Baxter, G., & Marcella, R. (2014, December). The 2014 Scottish independence referendum: A study of voters' online information behaviour. In Proceedings of ISIC, the Information Behaviour Conference, Leeds (pp. 2-5).

Bimber, B. (2003). Information and American democracy: Technology in the evolution of political power. Cambridge University Press.

Bimber, B., & Davis, R. (2003). Campaigning online: The Internet in US elections. Oxford University Press.

Boffey, D. (2014). Shambolic and divided: how Better Together nearly fell apart. Observer, 21 September.

Bond, R. M., Fariss, C. J., Jones, J. J. Kramer, A., Marlow, C., Settle, J. E., & Fowler, J. H. (2012). ‘A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization’,Nature, 489(7415), 295-298.

Breitenbach, E. (2009). Empire and Scottish Society: The Impact of Foreign Missions at Home, c. 1790 to c. 1914. Edinburgh University Press.

Campbell, A. (2013). The future of United Kingdom monetary union and Scottish independence. Law and Financial Markets Review, 7(5), 239-249.

Carmines, E. G., & Huckfeldt, R. (1996). Political behavior: An overview.

Carpini, M. X. D., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. Yale University Press.

Cartrite, B. (2012). The impact of the Scottish independence referendum on ethnoregionalist movements in the British Isles. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 50(4), 512-534.

Cohen, C.J., Kahne, J., Bowyer, B., Middaugh, E., and Rogowski, J. (2012). Participatory Politics-New Media and Youth Political Action. A Project of the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP). Oakland, CA: YPP Research Network.

Cohen, C.J., & Kahne, J. (2011). Participatory politics. New media and youth Political action. Oakland: YPP Research Network.

Colomb, C., & Tomaney, J. (2016). Territorial politics, devolution and spatial planning in the UK: Results, prospects, lessons. Planning Practice & Research, 31(1), 1-22.

Comm, J. (2010). Twitter power 2.0: How to dominate your market one tweet at a time. John Wiley & Sons.

Cortizas and Antunes (2016), ‘Yes Scotland’ verses ‘Better Together’, How did it all happen? Accessed 15/11/2016

Dalton, R. J. (2008). Citizenship norms and the expansion of political participation. Political Studies, 56(1), 76-98.

Dalton, R. J. & Wattenberg, M. P. (Eds.). (2002). Parties without partisans: Political change in advanced industrial democracies. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Dardanelli, P., & Mitchell, J. (2014). An Independent Scotland? The Scottish National Party’s bid for independence and its prospects. The International Spectator, 49(3), 88-105.

Davis, S., Elin, L. & Reeher, G. (2002). Click on Democracy: The Internet’s Power to Change Political Apathy into Civic Action. Boulder, CO: Westwood Press.

Delli Carpini, M. X. (2000). Gen. com: Youth, civic engagement, and the new information environment. Political Communication, 17(4), 341-349.

DiGrazia, J., McKelvey, K., Bollen, J., & Rojas, F. (2013). More tweets, more votes: Social media as a quantitative indicator of political behavior. PloS one, 8(11), e79449.

Downs, A. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. NY: Harper. Drew, D., & Weaver, D. (2006). Voter learning in the 2004 presidential election: Did the media matter?. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 83(1), 25-42.

Executive, S. (2007). Choosing Scotland’s Future: A National Conversation. Independence and responsibility in the modern world. accessed online at www. scotland. gov. uk/Publications/2007/08/13103747/0 on, 15.

Falck, O., Gold, R., & Heblich, S. (2014). E-lections: Voting behavior and the Internet. The American Economic Review, 104(7), 2238-2265.

Fellner, D. W., & Seidel, H. P. (2015). The Scottish Independence Referendum and After. Academia Europaea, 27.

Finlay, R. J. (2008). 'Thatcherism and the Union.' Scotland and the Union 1707 – 2007. Ed. Tom M. Devine. Edinbourg University Press, 2008.

Fishkin, J. S. (1995). The voice of the people: Public opinion and democracy. Yale University Press.

Fleming, C. M., & Gebhard, C. (2014). Scotland, NATO, and transatlantic security. European Security, 23(3), 307-325.

Gibson, R. K., & McAllister, I. (2011). Do online election campaigns win votes? The 2007 Australian “YouTube” election. Political Communication, 28(2), 227-244.

Griesbach, D. (2012). 'Your Scotland, Your Referendum': An Analysis of Consultation Responses. Scottish Government Social Research.

Grow, G., & Ward, J. R. (2013). The role of authenticity in electoral social media campaigns. ERMeCC-Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture.

Gustafsson, N. (2009). This time it's personal: Social networks, viral politics and identity management. In 4th Global Conference: Cybercultures-Exploring Critical issues.

Habermas, J. (1996). Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. MIT Press.

Haggerty, A. (2014). Social media more influential information source than newspapers in Scottish independence referendum, YouGov finds. The Drum, 17.

Himelboim, I., Lariscy, R. W., Tinkham, S. F., & Sweetser, K. D. (2012). Social media and online political communication: The role of interpersonal informational trust and openness. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(1), 92-115.

Huckfeldt, R., & Sprague, J. (1993). Citizens, contexts, and politics. Political science: The state of the discipline II, 281-303.

Hutchison, I. G. C. (2005). 7 Workshop of Empire: The Nineteenth Century. A HISTORY, 176.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. NYU press.

Johnson, T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2003). A boost or bust for democracy? How the web influenced political attitudes and behaviors in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 8(3), 9-34.

Kaunert, C., Léonard, S., Carrapiço, H., & Rozée, S. (2014). The governance of justice and internal security in Scotland: between the Scottish independence referendum and British decisions on the EU. European Security, 23(3), 344-363.

Kavanaugh, A., Yang, S., Sheetz, S., Li, L. T., & Fox, E. A. (2011). Between a rock and a cell phone: Social media use during mass protests in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt.

Kenealy, D. (2014). How Do You Solve a Problem like Scotland? A Proposal Regarding ‘Internal Enlargement’. Journal of European Integration, 36(6), 585-600.

Kuklinski, J. H., Luskin, R. C., & Bolland, J. (1991). Where is the schema? Going beyond the "S" word in political psychology. American Political Science Review, 85, 1341-1356.

Ladd, J. M. (2005). Attitudes toward the news media and voting behavior. In annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.

Lamal, P. A., & Greenspoon, J. (1992). Congressional metacontencies. Behavior and Social Issues, 2, 71-81.

Langford, L. & Baldwin, M. (2013) Social Life2 Report: The Most Comprehensive Tracker of UK Social Media Use, November 2013 (Harris Interactive).

Lau, R. R., & Sears, D. O. (1981). Cognitive links between economic grievances and political responses. Political Behavior, 3(4), 279-302.

Law, A. (2015). Mediating the Scottish independence debate. Media Education Journal (56).

Lazarsfeld, P. F, Berelson B., & Gaudet, H. (1948). The People's Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lipset, S. M., Lazarsfeld, P. F., Barton, A. H., & Linz, J. (1954). The psychology of voting: An analysis of political behavior. Handbook of social psychology, 2, 1124-1175.

Lorenzo-Rodriguez, J. (2014). How do parties use the Internet during electoral campaigns? The case of 2014 EU Parliament Elections. Browser Download This Paper.

MacDonald, J. (2014). A blessing in disguise? Scottish independence and the end of the UK nuclear posture. European Security, 23(3), 326-343.

Marshall, P. (2014). Reflections on the Scottish Referendum and the Prospects of EU Reform. The Round Table, 103(6), 547-556.

McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-187.

McCombs, M. (2004). Setting the agenda: The mass media and public opinion. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Inc.

McLean, B. (2004). Labour in Scotland since 1945: Myth and reality. The Scottish Labour Party, 34-50.

McPhee, W. N., & Smith, R. B. (1962). A model for analyzing voting systems. Public opinion and congressional elections, 123-154.

McPhee, W. N. (1963). Formal theories of mass behavior (No. HM258M2).

Morisi, D. (2014). Shaping voting intentions: An experimental study on the role of information in the Scottish independence referendum. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS, 88.

Mullen, T. (2009). Scotland: Scotland's Constitutional Future. Eur. Pub. L., 15, 33.

Nicoll, A. (2014). Scotland's Vote on Independence. Survival, 56(3), 105-120.

Okoro, N., & Nwafor, K. A. (2013). Social media and political participation in Nigeria during the 2011 general elections: The lapses and the lessons. Global Journal of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, 1(3), 29-46.

Paterson, L., O'Hanlon, F., Ormston, R., & Reid, S. (2014). Public attitudes to Gaelic and the debate about Scottish autonomy. Regional & Federal Studies, 24(4), 429-450.

Pedersen, S., Baxter, G., Burnett, S. M., Goker, A., Corney, D., & Martin, C. (2014). Backchannel chat: peaks and troughs in a Twitter response to three televised debates during the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign 2014.

Piętka-Nykaza, E., & McGhee, D. (2016). Stakeholder citizenship: the complexities of Polish migrants’ citizenship attachments in the context of the Scottish independence referendum. Citizenship Studies, 20(1), 115-129.

Plutzer, E. (2002). Becoming a habitual voter: Inertia, resources, and growth in young adulthood. American political science review, 96(1), 41-56.

Putnam, R. D. (2001). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. Simon and Schuster.

Reeher, G., Davis, S., & Elin, L. (2009). Click on democracy: The Internet's power to change political apathy into civic action. Westview Press.

Rossi, P.H. (1959). Four landmarks in voting research. In E. Burdick & A. J. Brodtbeck, (Eds.), American voting behavior. Glencoe, IL: Free Press

Scheufele, D. A., Nisbet, M. C., Brossard, D., & Nisbet, E. C. (2004). Social structure and citizenship: Examining the impacts of social setting, network heterogeneity, and informational variables on political participation. Political Communication, 21(3), 315-338.

Schlozman, K. L., Verba, S., & Brady, H. E. (2010). Weapon of the strong? Participatory inequality and the Internet. Perspectives on Politics, 8(2), 487-509.

Shah, D. V., Kwak, N., & Holbert, R. L. (2001). "Connecting" and "Disconnecting" with civic life: Patterns of Internet use and the production of social capital. Political Communication, 18(2), 141-162.

Shephard, M. P., Quinlan, S., Tagg, S., & Paterson, L. (2014). Engaging the brain as well as the heart: Political literacy and social media platforms.

Singleton, R. A. (1999). Approaches to Social Research: Oxford University Press. New York and Oxford.

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Simon and Schuster.

Skinner, B.F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Croft.

Smith, A. (2009). The Internet’s role in campaign 2008. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 15.

Somerville, N. (2014). Does Community Learning and Development Have a Role in the Scottish Referendum–Yes Or No?. Concept, 5(2), 11.

Stieglitz, S., & Dang-Xuan, L. (2013). Social media and political communication: A social media analytics framework. Social Network Analysis and Mining, 3(4), 1277-1291.

Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2003). Unraveling the effects of the Internet on political participation. Political research quarterly, 56(2), 175-185.

Tomaney, J. (2000). End of the empire state? New Labour and devolution in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(3), 675-688.

Visser, M. (1994a). The psychology of voting action: On the psychological origins of electoral research, 1939-1964. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 30, 43-52.

Visser, M. (1994b). Policy voting, projection, and persuasion: An application of balance theory to electoral behavior. Political Psychology, 15, 699-711.

Vissers, S., & Stolle, D. (2014). The Internet and new modes of political participation: online versus offline participation. Information, Communication & Society, 17(8), 937-955.

Wahlke, J. C. (1979). Pre-Behavioralism in political science. American Political Science Review, 73(1), 9-31.

Walker, W. (2014). International reactions to the Scottish referendum. International Affairs, 90(4), 743-759.

Waters, T. W. (2015). For freedom alone: secession after the Scottish referendum. Nationalities Papers, 1-20.

Xenos, M. A., & Foot, K. A. (2005). Politics as usual, or politics unusual? Position taking and dialogue on campaign websites in the 2002 US elections. Journal of Communication, 55(1), 169-185.

Xenos, M., & Moy, P. (2007). Direct and differential effects of the Internet on political and civic engagement. Journal of communication, 57(4), 704-718.

Zhang, W., Johnson, T. J., Seltzer, T., & Bichard, S. L. (2010). The revolution will be networked: The influence of social networking sites on political attitudes and behavior. Social Science Computer Review, 28(1), 75-92.