All parties involved in the Catalan independence process agree on one point: once it is certain that it will actually go ahead, the success of the referendum which the government has announced for 1 October [or 1-O as it is known] will depend on voter turnout. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Institut Opinòmetre for ARA, most Catalans are willing to go to the polls, despite being well aware that the Spanish government is opposed to the referendum being held. If we add those who say they are certain to vote (54.9%) and those who are likely to vote (9.3%), the total comes to 64.2%; a typical turnout for a Catalan election. Therefore, the Catalan government’s first objective —to attain a similar turnout— seems to have been achieved.
The second important message provided by our opinion poll is that, for the first time, respondents —both those who said they will vote, as well as those who have said they won’t— have been able to answer the actual question announced by the President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, on June 9: "do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?" In reply, the 'yes' vote won over the 'no', albeit by a narrow margin of 3.4%: 42.3% said that they would vote 'yes' and 38.9% would choose 'no'. A not insignificant 6% would be inclined to cast a blank vote, 9.1% admitted that they are still undecided and 3.1% refused to answer.
If we combine the result of the two questions from the poll, several conclusions can be reached: the first is that, despite the continuous declarations by the Spanish government that it will not allow the referendum to go ahead, the ballot on 1 October is a very real possibility for most voters, with a clear willingness to participate and, furthermore, a firm idea of how they will vote. This stems from the fact that the percentage of undecided voters has gradually shrunk to around 10%. Over the last five years, the independence process has permeated public opinion, allowing people plenty of time to mull over their position.
How can we explain the expected voter turnout for 1-O and the Yes victory? The underlying reason is that there is a huge consensus in Catalan society in favour of resolving the conflict through a referendum. 58.3% fully agree with the vote and 10.2% tend to agree with it: A total of 68.5%. However, 26.5% of respondents declared themselves against the referendum.
Mobilization of the 'no' vote
Nevertheless, if we look closely at the details we can observe a key difference over 9-N [the non-binding referendum held on 9 November 2014]: this time there is a significant number of voters from the No camp who wish to express their opinion: 34.7% of those who oppose independence said they will vote. According to the electoral register, this would translate into some 750,000 votes, a huge increase over the 100,000 who cast a negative ballot on November 9. At present, only half of the ‘no’ voters said they will not vote under any circumstances.
In terms of political affiliation, the most determined to participate are supporters of the pro-independence parties (ERC PDECat and CUP, with 90%). However, it is worth noting that 56% of the PSC’s supporters and 72% of Catalunya en Comú’s voters [or the Comuns, as they are often referred to] expressed a willingness to participate in the referendum that Puigdemont plans to hold on 1-O. A not insignificant 18% of Ciudadanos’ voters and 11% of the PP’s also responded that they intend to vote.
The 'republic' in the question
The other unknown was what the effect would be of including the concept of a 'republic' in the wording of the question: the results indicate a 3.4% advantage in favour of the 'yes' vote (greater than the poll’s margin of error). This advantage is based on several factors, such as the loyalty of the pro-independence bloc, and also the support of voters who favour options which are not explicitly secessionist (though who perhaps wish to see Catalonia becoming a republic), such as the Comuns. 34.5% of those who are sympathetic towards the Comuns and 17% of PSC supporters say they would vote ‘yes’ in the referendum.
Another key factor is the preponderance of a 'yes' vote among the young and those in towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. In the 18 to 34-year-old age group, the difference is 10% in favour of independence. Meanwhile, among women the ‘no’ prevails over the ‘yes’ vote by 40.6% to 39%.
The result of the referendum
Do these figures suggest that it would be a close victory in the referendum? Far from it. The picture painted by the opinion poll is of massive voter turnout of those who favour a 'yes', with the ‘no’ vote being split. In other words, if we only count those who say they will vote, the ‘yes’ vote would total 67%, while the ‘no’ would stand at just 19%. The remainder would either cast a blank vote or are undecided/refused to answer.
This is a snapshot of the situation with 105 days left until the referendum. If nothing changes, a Yes victory seems guaranteed. Only a massive turnout by the 'no' vote could even things up, leaving the final result open. However, for now, this does not appear to be the strategy of either the unionist parties or of Rajoy’s government.