Falling support for independence and levels of radicalisation in Catalonia reflect the results of the détente policy
Anti-inflammatory drugs have side effects. Some of them are very dangerous for the patient. But in politics these side effects can be even more lethal for the doctor who prescribes them, even if in the case of President Pedro Sánchez it is a doctorate in Economics and Business. Proof of this is that one of the PSOE’s electoral erosion factors is its polícy of détente towards Catalonia, with the pardons of June 2021 as the most visible element.
However, beyond the costs involved for the doctor in fulfilling the Hippocratic oath to relieve the patient, the key to any therapy lies in its results. And the truth is that, according to CIS data, the Catalan conflict as a Spanish problem has gone from being the fourth concern in the autumn of 2017 (the first for one in four Spaniards), to fade from 2020 (with 1% of mentions). It did, however, register a momentary upturn in December 2019 -after the severe Supreme Court ruling-, when it was ranked as the eighth problem and the number one concern for one in ten citizens.
The Catalan conflict as a problem has gone from worrying one in four Spaniards in 2017 to less than 1% now.
And in Catalonia? Data from the CEO and the ICPS indicate that anti-inflammatory drugs work much better than electroshock therapy by judges and police once legality has been re-established. Four indicators seem to confirm this: support for independence, preferences about the relationship between Catalonia and Spain, the level of radicalisation between blocs and the identity polarisation of Catalan society.
Support for independence draws a line very much in tune with the intensity of events. The ‘Yes’ vote was clearly imposed from 2017 onwards and only began to lose steam in June of the following year, after the changeover in the central government. In fact, the rejection of secession is already in the majority since July 2019, after the PSOE’s electoral victory, and only registers a slight inflection after the ruling in November of that year (when supporters and opponents of the break with Spain are close to a technical tie).
However, the advantage of those opposed to secession becomes more pronounced from mid-2020 onwards and, except for the occasional blip, consolidates between eight and 11 points from the pardons of 2021 onwards. And this same evolution is confirmed in the panel of preferences on the relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
Radicalisation between blocs reached its maximum expression between 2017 and 2019, but has fallen visibly since 2021.
Between June and October 2017, the percentage of Catalans who choose independence as the best solution rises five points (to 40%), and this percentage is maintained until July 2019, when it falls again by five points. It is true that the pro-independence option rises slightly in autumn of that year, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, but then starts a downward trend that places this choice at its lowest level in the last ten years (34%).
Third indicator: radicalisation between blocs. Data from an ICPS study on affective polarisation in Catalonia over the last quarter of a century reveal that emotional radicalisation between blocs (for or against independence) reached its peak in 2017 and only began to visibly subside from 2020 and, above all, from 2021. The same applies to identity radicalisation (fourth indicator). In other words, polarisation between identities (more or only Spanish versus more or only Catalan) reaches its highest level between 2017 and 2019, but from 2020 and 2021 onwards it begins to decline noticeably.
If the effectiveness of a treatment is measured by its results, the deflation therapy applied by the current Spanish government in Catalonia would undoubtedly surpass any assessment by a specialised agency.