CEO poll: over 75% of Catalans would vote in unilateral referendum

Date: 31.03.2017

Author: Aleix Moldes

Source: Ara English


Most Catalans are in favour of holding a referendum on independence. It is a question which is repeatedly asked in opinion polls and which was once again made clear this Thursday in a survey by Catalonia’s Office for National Statistics (CEO). 73.3% of respondents are in favour of a referendum, the majority, even if it is not negotiated with the Spanish state (50.3%). 23.3% would only vote if it were a negotiated referendum, in agreement with the Spanish government, while 22.7% reject the independence referendum under any circumstances.

The main novelty of the latest opinion poll, however, is the potential turnout for a unilateral (non-negotiated) referendum. Although half of the population is not in favour of such a vote, more than 75% of respondents would be willing to participate. Of these, 43.3% have already decided to vote ‘yes’ if a unilateral referendum were held. A figure which is significantly higher than those who have already decided to vote ‘no’, representing just 22.2% of the total. In addition, 6.2% would cast a blank vote, 1.7% would cast a null vote and 4.7% say they would vote but are as yet undecided as to which option they would choose. In total, 78.1% of respondents said they would cast a ballot in the referendum.

Of course, claiming that one would participate does not necessarily mean that one would actually cast a vote when the time comes. The director of the CEO, Jordi Argelaguet, stressed at the press conference on Thursday that turnout, especially for those who are not in favour of independence, would depend on the assurances provided by the Catalan government.

The under-representation of the ‘no’ vote is caused by a refusal of a part of the population to participate in the referendum if there is no agreement with the Spanish state: 20.7% intend to abstain and not to vote if the Catalan government ends up deciding to hold the referendum in September. “One of the problems facing the ‘no’ camp is the dilemma as to whether to vote or not, since doing so would in itself be legitimizing the referendum”, Argelaguet stated.

48.5% oppose independence

Although the CEO’s opinion polls do not usually include questions on the referendum, they do typically ask respondents for their stance on independence. And in this instance the ‘no’ option has increased marginally. 48.5% of Catalans are against independence, two percent higher than in December 2017. Meanwhile, those in favour remain stable at around 44%, a similar percentage to the number who say they would vote for independence in a referendum.

If more people are against independence than in favour of it, how could the result of the referendum benefit the supporters of the ‘yes’ vote? According to Argelaguet, the division of the ‘no’ vote, between those who would vote to reject independence and those who would prefer to stay at home explains the phenomenon. In other words, the ‘no’ vote is split in two between those who wish to vote and those who refuse to. “If people feel that the Catalan government can organize, hold and implement the results of a referendum, it will mobilize people who are against independence”, declared Argelaguet, adding that “supporters of the ‘yes’ vote are already mobilized”.

Unionist voters would participate in a unilateral referendum

Among voters of unionist parties, the majority are in favour of taking part in a vote, although they do not want the Catalan government to hold one. 51% of Ciudadanos’ voters say that in a unilateral referendum they would vote ‘no’, ten percent more than the 41% who say they would choose to abstain. In the case of the PP the difference is even greater: 61% would vote ‘no’ and 30% would stay home. As for the PSC, 41% would choose to vote ‘no’ and 34% would not participate in the vote.

Argelaguet reiterated that the turnout of citizens who oppose independence will depend on the credibility of the Catalan government when it comes to implementing the result of the referendum. In the current context, however, half of the unionists would prefer to vote ‘no’ rather than abstain, since the latter would represent a conclusive victory of the ‘yes’ vote. If 20% of unionists do not participate, the ‘yes’ vote could climb to 58%, with a level of participation exceeding 70%. According to Argelaguet, discounting the abstainers and those who do not know or do not answer, the ‘no’ would reach 30%. The rest would cast a blank or a null vote.

The Comuns, divided

While support within JxSĂ­ and the CUP for independence exceeds 90%, for the Comuns the choice is not so clear. 34% would choose to vote for independence in a unilateral referendum and 28% would prefer to vote ‘no’. A boycott of a non-negotiated referendum would not reach 20%, in the case of Catalunya SĂ­ que es Pot voters (18%). In any case, as with voters of all parties, the Comuns are clearly in favour of participating in a unilateral referendum.

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