Carles Castro, 22 January 2023-01-22
Pro-independence demonstration during the Spanish-French summit in Barcelona EP
Pro-independence is fading but is still stronger than before 2012 and could be reactivated in the future
While some people are trying to issue a death certificate for the procès, others proclaim its full validity, anchored testimonially in the mandate of a unilateral referendum that took place five years ago. But beyond the self-serving narratives, is the procés still alive, or is it just a gesticulating zombie?
The record abstention rate in the last regional elections was a clear reflection of the precarious health of the Catalan pro-independence movement. However, polls such as the ICPS annual survey allow a more complete diagnosis to be made: independence maintains a potential support of close to 40% of the electoral roll (it exceeded 37% in the 2017 elections), but its expectations are so dismal that a large part of the secessionist movement has entered a stage of hibernation. Hence, the mobilisation of this movement in the Catalan elections of 2022 did not go beyond 27% of the electorate.
Almost half of pro-independence supporters now believe that the goal of breaking with Spain will eventually be abandoned.
The data from the ICPS study – with series going back more than three decades – suggest that the growing fatigue of Catalan society in the face of the false dilemma between rupture or immobility has also taken its toll on the pro-independence bloc. Support for independence has fallen below 40% of those surveyed, which is almost 8 points lower than five years ago. Moreover, in the panel of preferences on the model of state, the break with Spain is now below 36%, while at the beginning of the procès, in 2012, support for this option exceeded 44%.
Even so, independence is here to stay, albeit with insufficient muscle to achieve its goals. Proof of this is that, despite the decline in social support for independence, current support is still 15 points higher than it was until 12 years ago (when it never exceeded 22%).
Secessionism is hibernating because its failure has brought more pessimism and disappointment to Catalan politics.
However, the pro-independence ideal carries a decisive burden after its failure: disappointment and pessimism. For example, in 2016, to the question “how would you like the pro-Catalonia process to end”, 38% answered “with the independence of Catalonia”. But in 2022 this percentage has fallen to just over 29%. And when asked “how do you think the procés will end”, the percentage that in 2015 predicted a break with Spain (17%) now stands at 4.2%.
However, other indicators are more decisive. Seventy per cent of pro-independence supporters would like the process to lead to secession, but less than 10 per cent of them believe that it will actually end that way. In fact, almost 50% of pro-independence supporters are convinced that the final horizon will be the abandonment of the process of breaking away from Spain. The pessimism of the pro-independence bloc has reached the point where pro-independence voters are the most convinced (up to 80%) that dialogue with the State will not crystallise in any agreement.
Expectations of achieving secession are also nil among its supporters: less than 10% believe it is possible.
Even so, 48% of Catalans want the process to end with an agreement to improve Catalonia’s self-government, and 42% are even convinced that the conflict will be resolved through an agreement. Thus, independence is neither here nor expected, but secessionists continue to represent a not insignificant percentage of Catalan society. A society that, after the ephemeral declaration of independence in 2017, is more politically disbelieving and frustrated than ever (at a rate of 72%).
The very evaluation of democracy reveals the seriousness of the political and emotional mess: only 27% of Catalans are now satisfied with the Spanish democratic system, compared to 62% who gave a positive judgement just 15 years ago.
The question, therefore, remains: is the procés dead? And the answer could be this procés is. But the foundations for a new populist national outburst have not disappeared. Today, less than 30% of Catalans support the current autonomous model, while in 2007 they accounted for 60%. These indicators may improve, as they have been doing since 2018 – when only 23% of Catalans opted for the autonomous system -, or they may worsen again. The answer is called state policy.