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Statistics and identity

A new poll offers some curious findings about nationalism and regional feeling in Spain.


“I adore the independence that you breath in Galicia,” said actor Martin Sheen, himself the son of a Galician, during a visit to the region in 2011. But he wasn’t talking about that kind of independence and, as a new poll shows, Galicians aren’t very interested in breaking away from Spain at the moment.

According to the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS), only 19 percent of people from the region describe themselves as “nationalist”. This is perhaps not surprising given that of Spain’s three northern “historical nations” – the others being Catalonia and the Basque Country – Galicia has traditionally had the most muted independence movement.

But more interesting than the figures the CIS published regarding nationalism were those related to national identity. A total of 75 percent of Galicians feel as Galician as they do Spanish; 17 percent feel “more Galician” and a tiny 3 percent feel “more Spanish”.

Predictably, the numbers were different in the Basque Country, although not as different as you might have expected, with 23 percent defining themselves as nationalist. Nearly a quarter felt “only Basque” and another quarter “more Basque than Spanish”. And yet, despite the deep roots of Basque nationalism, only 36 percent of people said they would like independence (a number that has risen and then dipped in recent years, possibly coinciding to some extent with the fate of the economy).

What conclusions can be drawn from this? Well, for one thing, such polls cannot be carved in stone. After all, in Catalonia, only 34 percent of people want to break from Spain despite the major push for independence there recently, according to a CIS poll published a few weeks ago (but taken last year, when the “Catalan issue” was at a frenzied peak). That contrasts very sharply with the figures being brandished by Catalan nationalists, who say that a clear majority wants independence as the 2014 referendum bid looms. Like many people in Spain, they would probably cast doubt on the objectivity of the Madrid-based CIS.

But beyond the many factors that can dent the accuracy of such studies, one thing the recent CIS study has shown is the depth of feeling that lies beneath Spain’s regional debate. Overall, only a very slim majority of Spaniards feel their national identity as strongly as that of their comunidad autónoma  – and only 15 percent see themselves as exclusively Spanish.

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Published: Jun 6 2013
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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1 Comment for “Statistics and identity”

  1. Another interesting reading to be made here: Spanish media are lying through their teeth in this subject and it is getting increasingly difficult to make the polls look not overwhelmingly for independence.

    Only 34 % of Catalans want independence? Even in the cited article they had to break the question in as much as 5 categories to get that answer. A more accurate reading would be 55.4% of Catalan want more self-government. Or 19.2% of Catalans want a more centralised Spain.

    The issue is not a minor one. In the election on November 25th 2012 clearly positioned pro independence parties secured 55.4% of elected representatives (74 out of 135) and parties supporting a referendum on the issue of independence summed a total of 79.25% (107 out of 135). Parties positioned clearly against independence and against the referendum gathered 20.7% of supports (28 out of 135).

    Notice how the two number 55% for a change in government and 20% clearly against independence remain stable in spite of the efforts of Spanish media to imply the opposite. The issue is not minor, a majority of Catalan people seem to be in favour of independence and 80% of society wants a ballot to settle the question.

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