As you might already have noticed (and we foreshadowed last month) over the New Year we have launched a redesigned version of the whatscotlandthinks website. The site was originally launched in June 2013 in advance of the Scottish independence referendum. Ever since then it has endeavoured to provide a comprehensive database of polling data on public attitudes of relevance to the debate about Scotland’s constitutional status together with analysis from an impartial standpoint in the form of blogs and occasional longer analysis papers. In the event, the independence referendum did not end the debate about Scotland’s constitutional status while, at the same time, it opened a new chapter in the debate about how England and Wales should be governed. Thanks to various tranches of support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the site has not only been able to maintain its original service during the last five years, but also to extend its remit to cover attitudes of relevance to the debates about the governance of England and Wales.
However, as some users have noted, the site has been showing its age for some time – response times have sometimes been inordinately slow, while all but the most recent blogs were no longer displaying as they should. It was clearly time for a revamp. Meanwhile, the site was now running in parallel with a similar service, whatukthinks.org/eu, which we launched in October 2015 in anticipation of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU – the outcome of which ensured that the debate about Britain’s relationship with the EU has also continued long thereafter. We thus decided that it would make sense to bring the two operations together and relaunch whatscotlandthinks using a design based on the one which was originally created for whatukthinks.org/eu. The ESRC, under the aegis of its ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’ initiative, has kindly funded the costs of this redesign, which has been executed by Helpful Technology for whose support we are deeply grateful.
Apart from providing a faster and more reliable service, the redesign has enabled us to introduce a number of new features. In particular, you will see that the polling data on the site is now in two sections – Scotland and ‘England and Wales’. The former contains attitudes from polls conducted in Scotland, while the latter collates polls of attitudes in the rest of Great Britain – including England only, Wales only, England and Wales, or the whole of Great Britain. Both sections cover both attitudes of relevance to the debate about how Scotland is governed and attitudes pertinent to the debates about the governance of England and Wales. Hitherto, the only indication that data came from a poll conducted outwith Scotland was in the text of a question. Now, the new division should make it easier for users to find data of relevance to how people in England and Wales think that they (as well as Scotland) should be governed.
Otherwise, you will see that the data on the site are now searchable in exactly the same way as the data on whatukthinks.org/eu. Consequently, those of you who have used that website will find that whatscotlandthinks now functions in much the same way as that resource. This means, in particular, that there are now some facilities that were not previously available on whatscotlandthinks. First, you can now secure a list of all of the questions that were asked in any poll (click on ‘about these data’ for any question and you will acquire not only the technical detail that previously appeared under ‘Notes and Methodology’ but also a list of all of the other questions that were asked on each poll that forms part of the time series). Second, you can limit the time period that is represented in a chart of the results of a frequently asked question (just move the slide bar at the bottom of the graph of a question). And third, you can now choose to see only those polls that have asked a question using a particular mode (i.e., online, phone, or face to face, etc.) (click on Filter by mode’ at the bottom of a table or graph).
We hope you like the new site and find it useful in an era in which Brexit seems set to throw up fresh debate about how Scotland – and the rest of the UK – should be governed. However, any upgrade like this inevitably throws up a few gremlins (and even uncovers infelicities that were always there), while we are also in the course of updating the time series from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey – something that had become impossible with the old site. Please bear with us if you spot the odd problem or a question that does not work as it should, but do let us know by emailing email@example.com. And please also tell us if you notice that we are missing data that you think should be on the site.
About the author
John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.