20% margin in favour of Catalan independence

It is very encouraging to see the support for independence in these pictures from Catalunya on BlogMenai, and in particular this newspaper headline:


If anyone needs a translation, it says that 45.4% would vote for independence and 24.7% would vote no, a bigger margin than in the last poll.

The poll in question is the Baròmetre d’Opinió Política, an official poll conducted every three months based on a large sample of 2,500 people. It can be downloaded here, but this is a rough translation of what another Catalan paper said about it:

Support for Catalan independence grows by more than two points, according to CEO

45.4% of those surveyed said they would vote 'yes' in a referendum on independence, compared to 24.7% who would vote 'no' and 23.8% who would not vote. The same survey shows that support for the Economic Agreement remains at 75%.

Support for the independence of Catalunya has increased 2.5 points in three months, according to the third wave of the Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO) to be presented Wednesday. Thus, 45.4% of respondents say they would vote yes to becoming an independent state in a referendum on self-determination (the wave in June was 42.9%), while those rejecting independence fell by 3.5 points to 24.7% of respondents (28.2% in June). In a hypothetical referendum, discounting those who would abstain (23.8%), the percentage voting yes would be more than 60%. Similarly, in a three-way choice, independence is the preferred option of 28.2% of Catalans (a year ago it was at 25.2%), and is in a technical tie with those wanting Catalunya to be a state within a Federal Spain (30.4%) and an autonomous region (30.3%).

Those who would vote yes in a referendum, moreover, are highest in CiU (56.4% versus 18.3%), ICV-EUiA (48.1% versus 18.7%), ERC (94.5%) and SI (95.1%), with many in PSC (27.6% with 40.4% opposed) leaving PP (only 8%). The reasons given for independence are mainly pragmatic (32.2% want to obtain economic self-management and 13.7% to "improve Catalonia" while only 11.7% said "a feeling of identity"), while Spanish national identity was uppermost for those who oppose independence (35.5% said no to preserve the "unity of Spain", 13.9% for the "feeling of identity", while 13.2% simply said it was "impossible").

The same wave of CEO's barometer of opinion indicates that support for the Economic Agreement remains at 75%. Voters in the vast majority of the parties favour this, namely CiU (84.1% support), ICV-EUiA (82.8%), ERC (93.7%), SI (100%) and the PSC (69.8%) who prefer a "federal fiscal pact." 39.2% of the electors of the PP also wanted that, as did 15.1% of Ciutadans.

Diari Ara, 25 October 2011 | Google Translate

To explain some of that, CiU currently form the Catalan government. They are a centre-right party that has traditionally been nationalist but not in favour of independence; however that is now clearly changing with many of their leaders voting for independence in the unofficial referendums. However, rather than adopting an official position in favour of independence, they are pressing for an "Economic Agreement" with Spain which would give them the same status as the four Basque provinces: namely that they set and collect all their own taxes and only give Madrid an agreed percentage for those services provided centrally. This full fiscal autonomy is probably the best model for the DevoMax option in Scotland.

The next biggest party is the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya, who are—rather like Labour here—definitely a Unionist party. The surprise is that 27.6% of their voters want independence, with only 40.4% against. Their "federal fiscal pact" calls for greater fiscal autonomy, but not to the extent currently enjoyed in Euskadi.

The Partit Popular are equivalent to the Tories, and are about as popular in Catalunya as the Tories are in Scotland. So even though they're solidly opposed to independence it wouldn't really make a lot of difference in any referendum. However there is a general election due in Spain next month, and they look fairly certain to win it.

ICV-EUiA are best described a "ecosocialists" with about 7% support. ERC—who with Plaid Cymru and the SNP are part of the EFA group in the European Parliament—have always wanted independence, and SI was set up specifically to call for independence in the elections in 2010, so their 95% figures are to be expected.


What happens next in Catalunya will depend on the Spanish general election next month. If the PP fail to get an overall majority, the CiU will offer them support at the price of this new Economic Agreement. But if the PP don't need support (or can get it elsewhere) getting a similar arrangement to that enjoyed by the Basque provinces seems unlikely. Spain is in so much economic trouble that it needs all the money it can get from Catalunya ... and it is getting a great deal of money from them. The headline below says that the amount redistributed to poorer regions in Spain is €2,256 per person per year, a total of €16.43bn in 2009.


If Spain does nothing to redress this disproportionate outflow of tax from Catalunya the only option left for the Catalans will be independence. So it's a win-win situation. If CiU hold the balance of power in Madrid, Catalunya will get full fiscal autonomy. But if they don't get it, the margin in favour of independence will just keep growing.

With their own supporters in favour of independence by a margin of more than three to one, CiU should now be able to shift its policy without any risk of splitting the party (all politicians put their own power base first). So there is every likelihood that the next Catalan Parliament will have a majority elected on an pro-independence mandate after the 2014 election.

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Anonymous said...

What happens if PSOE (labour) continue in Govt or are biggest party? Rojoy (?) the PSOE leader is quite popular.

MH said...

Mariano Rajoy is the leader of the PP, Anon. The PSOE is led by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. On Wiki, the July opinion poll put the PP on 43.1% and the PSOE on 36.0%. If anything, the gap is widening, with a poll for El Mundo last weekend giving the PP 47.8% and the PSOE 30.7%. That would probably be enough to give them an overall majority.

However, if the PSOE were somehow to stay in power, then things would probably just carry on as they are.

Anonymous said...

The PP are down to come second in Catalonia behind the PSC and in front of CiU, check e.g. http://www.electometro.es/2011/11/ciu-primera-en-votos-psc-primera-en-escanos-la-razon/.

The PP will have become, if proved correct on the 20th Nov, a major force at both autonomous and general elections as well as consolidating votes in the industrial belt around Barcelona. Major shift in Catalan political life here. The PP is targeting places like Badalona where previously PxC (Partit per Catalunya), a Catalan-based xenophobe party has been making inroads (but this party has recently stated its intentions to become a state-wide party, rather shattering the allusions to Catalanism). They are taking both a virulent and nasty anti-immigration line and, considering the historical hegemonic power of PSC in the industrial belt, it can be assumed that working class votes are going from PSC to PP, but this is of course very difficult to pick up in opinion polls for obvious reasons. Yes, the shift from PSOE to PP that is happening statewide (no other option due to electoral system!) is happening in Catalonia also, but CiU had better look out and react in the coming years both to their position on independence as well as the increasing polarisation which looks set to occur as, as you point out, a preponderance in favour of independence across political orientations comes into views and settles. Managing this will be core to both national aspirations and social cohesion. Bottom line, the PP may take over as *the* Spanish signifier (although hardnosed and well-heeled Catalan-based PP people seem to accept the acceptability if not desirability of independence), the PSC face oblivion as a party as the Spanish-Catalan duality of their discourse settles within other formations, and the CiU may look to widening their social base among more left-leaning and independentist formations like ERC, who also need to sort themselves out. If it's of any consolation, they're in more of a mess than Plaid on the selling of independence to both party activists and voters.

MH said...

Thank you, Anon. That's interesting. The pattern in Wales and Scotland is that Plaid and the SNP do much better in elections to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament than they do in elections to the UK Parliament in Westminster. This is because Plaid and the SNP can never get a majority in Westminster, and so people think it only worth voting for the big UK parties.

Perhaps that's the same in Catalunya, and explains why CiU are third. From the graph, there seems to be a simple, self-contained, swing from the PSC (-7) to the PP (+6) which probably reflects the swing across Spain. I think CiU would be very happy that they are shown as +2 from 2008, and wouldn't think it was valid to compare this election with the Catalan elections in 2010.

I'd certainly be a bit concerned that PP were making advances, but I think that this is likely to be only for these Spanish elections, and won't be reflected in the next Catalan Parliament election.


As for ERC, they suffered badly from being in coalition with PSC in the Catalan Parliament. We in Plaid were in a similar coalition with Labour in the Assembly, and we lost ground because of it, but not nearly to the same extent as with the ERC. What do you think of Oriol Junqueras as the new leader? Will he be able to turn things round?

Anonymous said...

The PP is in Catalonia to stay, at least until independence or fiscal end-games bring about restructuring again. Today's CIS poll re the PP's advance in both electoral arenas confirms this, as well as the hitherto weak but now strongly identifying PSC to PP switch between autonomous and general elections. Previously, this duality was CiU (autonomous elecs) to PSC (general elecs):

http://www.ara.cat/especials/eleccions20n/CIS-ENQUESTES-ELECCIONS_GENERALS-PP-PSC-CIU_0_584941602.html (PDF of poll on this page)

People thus are going into and straying less from, nationalist or unionist silos, rather than using levels of election to sway between identitarian and social policy options.

But it also confirms that what you say about dual voting patterns which have held constant more or less in both Wales and Catalonia is now going to be tested in this and coming elections in Catalonia. This is why my take on the rise of the PP in Catalonia is a different reading to yours. The Basque Country has never shared dual voting patterns like Catalonia and Wales post political devolution, specifically because polarisation has been too manifest there, making duality in different electoral arenas difficult for people.

But now there is a reason for a block on dual voting to be accentuated in Catalonia in the future, and that of course, is independence, or possibly the Catalan 'devo-max' option which is the fiscal 'concert economic' which the Basques have (all parties tacitly support this, the ONLY thing they agree on. Even Bildu/Basque Left. Money talks.) and CiU, ERC and IC-V want.

For this reason, I see the PP as gaining and maintaining a large chunk of Catalan society for years to come where they didn't before. Catalan-light identifying people will go to, and stay with PP, thus dynamiting the 35-year old PSC project, until they can be persuaded of the benefits of independence. As you point out however, these past 18 months have seen a quite astounding deepening, widening and thus legitimation among all civil society sectors of the independence option.

I don't follow ERC too much, they will probably keep their 3 seats but continue their slide within both max and light independentist sectors, I feel, while they make their curry house moment into a never-ending opera sebon. Pity. CUP have now made the jump from local to Catalan elections and if they make another jump to all electoral levels, ERC had better watch out.

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