Carles Castro, Barcelona 4 February 2024
Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras, in an appearance during their time in the Government – Álex García / Archive
Polls indicate that the electoral recovery of Catalan nationalism does not involve secession but rather more self-government to defend its identity
The pro-independence electorate has returned, albeit with other aspirations and concerns. In reality, they had never really left, but the data from the latest ICPS annual survey -with series going back more than 30 years- confirm that the disappointment and bitterness generated by the failure of the ‘procès’ have bottomed out and the pro-independence electorate is beginning to reactivate. For example, the number of voters who feel close to Junts or Esquerra has increased for the first time since 2017. And the most important thing about this increase is that it has broken a trend that seemed unstoppable for six years.
This evolution is also reflected in the mood of independence supporters. Their perception of politics as a commitment has doubled in the last year and their distrust of politics has fallen by four points. But if there is one figure that clearly reveals this emotional recovery, it is that relating to expectations for the future: in 2022, more than 43% of pro-independence supporters expected to abandon the process; in 2023, this figure has fallen by almost 21 points and there has even been a slight increase in the number of those who are confident that independence will come knocking on the door very soon.
The apparent paradox lies in the positions on secession. Since 2017, those in favour of separating from Spain have fallen seven points in the face of a binary dilemma between rupture vs. continuity. They account for less than 40%, compared to those who wish to remain part of the State, who now account for more than 52%. In fact, when faced with a choice between several options (region, autonomy, federal state or independent state), those in favour of secession have fallen by more than ten points in the last decade (to 34%).
An ICPS survey shows the secessionist electorate reactivated and with other aspirations after the failure of 2017.
From there, the poll allows us to intuit parallels with two very different scenarios: Quebec and Ripoll. In the Canadian province, the referendum no longer brings votes (the Parti Québécois lost the 2014 elections when it proposed a new referendum). Identity and powers, on the other hand, do. The non-secessionist nationalists of Avenir Québec, who govern the territory, include among their objectives obtaining “powers on immigration” (the same as Junts) and “full control of the foreign workers programme”, in addition to strengthening Quebec autonomy, language and values. In other words, the defence of identity in the face of the new threats of globalisation.
44% of Catalans, and more than half of Junts’ supporters, advocate limiting the entry of immigrants, perceived as the new antagonists, who do not adapt to local customs and values
In this sense, the coalition led by François Legault wields a measure that ties in with the atmosphere in Ripoll and other parts of Catalonia: Law 21 on “the laïcité of the state”, legislation that prohibits the display of religious symbols by all civil servants (from teachers to police officers). The measure has particularly angered the Muslim community, but “has maintained the support of about two-thirds of Quebeckers since it was passed”, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.
Identity and the powers to defend it are the vectors that are currently driving the nationalist vote everywhere.
Thus, self-government to preserve identity in the face of its new antagonists (today’s non-EU immigrants): this is the vector that unites the nationalist electorate everywhere and conditions the endless struggle between ERC and Junts, and perhaps also the Aliança Catalana of the mayoress of Ripoll, in the pro-independence space. The ICPS poll reveals that 45% of Catalans – and more than 50% of Junts voters – believe that the entry of immigrants should be limited. The main reason: “they do not accept our customs”. And these rejection rates are close to 60%, according to some CEO studies.