Madrid’s pressure fails to erode support for referendum and independence

64 per cent of respondents claim they intend to vote, with Yes leading by four points overall

The second batch of results from ARA’s opinion poll carried out by Institut Opinòmetre on the subject of the independence referendum slated for October 1st (1-O) shows that Madrid’s attempt to cast doubt into the minds of independence supporters has failed. The number of Catalans who intend to vote on 1-O keeps hovering at around 64 per cent (63.9 in July, 64.2 in June), when you add those who are determined to vote (54.9 per cent) to those who say they are likely to (9 per cent).

The second item which remains stable is the Yes lead whenever the general public is asked the referendum question: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?” 41.9 per cent of Catalans with a right to vote say they do, whereas 37.8 per cent say they don’t. Compared to the results of the June poll, support for secession drops by 0.4 points, but the percentage of those who oppose it falls by 1.1 points. Therefore, support for an independent republic has broadened from 3.4 to 4.1 points. These variations are not statistically meaningful (the margin of error is 3.2 per cent), but they indicate that the Yes has consolidated its lead, with a 3 to 4 point gap over the No.

Is it significant that the scenario has changed relatively little over the last month? Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be. But considering how much news coverage the referendum has received in the last four weeks, there is some merit in the fact that the pro-secession bloc is holding its ground. In the last few weeks Madrid has insisted in its strategy of intimidating public employees and threatening elected officials with hefty fines if they persevere with the referendum. After sacking minister Jordi Baiget, president Puigdemont conducted a government reshuffle to ensure that the entire cabinet was committed to holding the vote. While the opinion poll was being carried out (between July 17 and 20), Spain’s Court of Auditors took action with a view to freezing the assets of the political leaders who organised the non-binding independence vote in 2014 and Spain’s Guardia Civil turned up at the parliament in Barcelona to request documentation to do with an alleged corruption case in Catalonia.

Nevertheless, the Catalan public’s determination to go to the polls is unwavering, even among those who sympathise with political parties that oppose the referendum: 20 per cent of Ciudadanos voters, 31 per cent of the PP’s and 44 per cent of the PSC’s intend to vote on October 1st. When we analyse the figures, we can safely say that roughly a third of those who oppose independence will go to vote, which would amount to 700,000 No voters (as opposed to merely 100,000 on November 9 2014, when the unofficial referendum was held). This would account for a greater than 60 per cent turnout, which is the best news for the Catalan government, indeed.

The result of the referendum

Still, what would the referendum result be if these predictions came true? With a massive turnout for Yes (over 90 per cent of those who voted for a pro-secession party intend to vote) and only a third in the No camp, a Yes victory seems a sure thing. If we only include those who say they will most definitely vote, independence would win with 66.5 per cent of the vote with the No support at 18.5 per cent (the remaining 15 per cent are undecided or would cast a blank ballot). If we also include those who say they will probably vote (9 per cent), the result would be 62.5 per cent for Yes and 21 per cent No. This 9 per cent of likely voters is evenly split between both camps, so it would not change the overall result.

There are no big surprises when you look at the figures by political affiliation, with the exception of Catalunya en Comú, whose voters are divided into three blocs: 32.6 support independence, 35.95 oppose it and 31.5 per cent are either undecided or would cast a blank vote. However, there is no doubt about their desire to participate: 75 per cent wish to go to the polls. As for the PSC, 14.9 per cent of their voters would vote Yes and 69.1 would vote No. In the unionist camp, Ciudadanos voters oppose independence more firmly than PP voters, whereas in the separatist bloc support for independence is at 85 per cent among PDECat sympathisers and 90 per cent among ERC voters.

A key factor that accounts for the result is the vote in Barcelona city, which resembles more that of mid-size Catalan towns than the larger metropolitan areas. For instance, 63 per cent of respondents in the city state that they wish to vote on October 1st (which is on a par with the national average), but the Yes vote is higher (44 per cent versus 38 per cent of No supporters). Therefore, Barcelona city is the key that tips the balance for Yes.

The underlying idea is that there is a very wide consensus in Catalan society around the wish to hold a referendum. 67 per cent of all respondents are in favour, 26.3 oppose it and 5 per cent do not have an opinion on the matter. Among those who support holding a referendum on independence are virtually all voters of pro-secession parties, 86 per cent of Comuns supporters, 50 per cent of PSC voters, 24 of PP voters and 17 of Ciudadanos supporters. This is the mortar that holds Catalan society together and averts the risk of a social rift.

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