ASEP’s Indicators’ System
All indicators, economic and political, are in the lowest or almost lowest levels since 1986, and some of them are even below the 1992-93 level, as is the case regarding the main economic indicators, indicating the growing and higher number of the pessimists and unsatisfied ones over the optimists and satisfied ones. In fact, Consumer Sentiment has lost 36% of its value in January 2008, and loses 10% of its value in June 2009, so that it is 48 points below the equilibrium level. The Evaluation of the National Economic Situation is 70 points below that level (its value is 30 on a scale 0 to 200), which means that Spaniards’ confidence in the economy is at present 58% below the level it had one year ago, and 25% below its value six months ago.
The two indicators on saving are in their lowest levels of recent years, so that the proportion of savers is this month only 28% of the population 18 years and over. Confidence in the personal economic situation, as measured by Personal Optimism, also loses 27% of its level one year ago and 9% of its value six months ago, being at present 36 points below the equilibrium level, something that suggests that the loss of confidence is much higher regarding the national economy than regarding the personal economy, due to the fact that even those who feel quite confident regarding their personal economic situation do not trust the situation of the national economy.
Though social indicators are less subject to variation, this month they also seem to be affected by the general climate of dissatisfaction and pessimism. Satisfaction with the Quality of Life loses two points since June, and for the first time is below 170 points. Post-materialism continues to be far from the 40% that was common years ago. Repeating our comments since more than one year ago, the great and significant loss in post-materialist orientation probably is the best indicator of the growing concern of Spaniards with the present and future situation of the national and personal economies. Religious practice hardly varies from one month to the next, as might be expected, and this month it remains at its usual level, 2 points in a scale 1 to 5.
With respect to the two main political indicators, Satisfaction with how Democracy is working loses seven points since June, the lowest level of the past recent years (similar to that measured at the end of 2003 because of the official Spanish position regarding the Iraq conflict and to the level measured during the 1992 crisis. But Satisfaction with the Government is even worst, as it loses two more points since June, so that for the second consecutive month it is below the equilibrium level, meaning that there are more unsatisfied than satisfied with the Government’s performance. Political alienation increases two points and reaches its highest level since three years ago. As regards indicators relative to the ideological centre of gravity and the nationalist or Spanish sentiment of identity in Spanish society, the usual levels are maintained, that is, between the centre and the centre left in the first case, and a majority sentiment of sharing Spanish and regional identities without any problem. On the other hand, Satisfaction with Spain’s membership in the European Union increases by 4 points, (recovering the almost five points lost in May and June). Finally, economic and political concerns probably explain the slight increase of four points in Exposure to Information.
The evaluation ranking of institutions and social groups this month is the following: Armed Forces (5.9 points in a scale 0 to 10 points), the military (5.8), The Crown (5.5), journalists (5.1), diplomats (4.9), judges (4.2), the National Government (4.1), banks (3.9) and politicians (3.4). In the ranking of public personalities Queen Sophia receives this month the highest evaluation among all those included in the questions (6.2 points in a scale 0 to 10 points), followed by Felipe González (5.2). All other personalities included in the question this month have received evaluations below 5 points: Rosa Díez (4.5), José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (4.4), Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría (3.8), Cayo Lara (3.5), Magdalena Álvarez (3.4), Mariano Rajoy (3.3) and José Mª Aznar (3.2 points in a scale 0 to 10 points). It must be underlined once more that the evaluation of political leaders has little relation with electoral behaviours.
Voting estimate this month suggests that PP is two percent points over PSOE, in spite of the differences in the evaluation of their respective leaders. And the estimated abstention rate is also two percent points higher than the real one observed in the elections of 2008.
Consequences of the economic crisis for Spaniards
One objective of the this month’s survey was to ascertain to what extent Spaniards have experienced personally the economic crisis in their daily life. It was gratifying to observe that one out of four Spaniards declares not to have been affected by the crisis at all, but the contrary finding, that three out of four have been affected to a greater or lesser degree is very worrying. Thus, it has been found that almost half the Spaniards claim to have decreased their expenses in clothing, more than one third have reduced their expenditures last Christmas, in the purchase of household products, or in expenditures in leisure, like going to the cinema or dining out, and about one out of four declare having reduced their monthly expenditures in food and travel. Regarding unemployment, one out of four says that somebody in their family has lost his job or is already unemployed, but 14% claim having lost their job themselves, not being able to find a job, or being already unemployed (a figure which is consistent with the answer to R’s occupation, since 15% declare to be unemployed), and an additional 3% answer that they have started to look for a job though they had not thought of doing it before. With respect to loans or mortgages, their incidence does not seem to be as important as reported in other sources, since only 2% of R’s claim to have been denied their application for a loan or mortgage to a financial institution, while a similar proportion declares the opposite, that is, that they have been awarded their petition. It is possible, however, that knowing the difficulties to obtain a loan or mortgage, many Spaniards have decided not to apply for one, similarly to the 5% who declare that they gave up buying a new car.
Consequences of Government’s measures to face the crisis
Contrary to the great number of persons who have been affected by the economic crisis, the proportion of those who have been positively affected by the measures adopted by the Government is insignificant. Thus, 91% of R’s answer that measures adopted by the Government have not benefited them at tall, and only proportions around 2% answer that they experienced a reduction on taxes, on the interest rate they pay for loans or mortgages, or that they received a subsidy or help of any kind. Regarding employment, and in contrast to the figures mentioned above (14% were unemployed and 3% had started to look for a job when they were not looking for one before), only 1% answer that they have found a job, and similar proportions declare having received a loan or a subsidy or help to rent a house.
Besides, Spaniards’ opinion has also been asked regarding the extent to which measures taken by the Government to help companies and institutions have benefited them already, or might benefit them in the future. More specifically, two thirds of R’s declare that measures to help banks, saving banks and companies have not benefited them at all, and a slightly lower proportion answers that they were not benefited by the measures adopted to help local governments.
Regional elections in Galicia and the Basque Country
The samples in ASEP’s surveys are national, and therefore their results can only be generalized to the whole country, but not for smaller territorial subdivisions. Thus, being loyal to the tradition of not attempting to do “living-room sociology”, ASEP has never produced electoral forecasts for regional or local elections in specific regions or towns, except if the survey was conducted with an appropriate sample. Nevertheless, whenever there are regional or local elections, some questions are included about citizens’ prospective behaviours and opinions on the coming elections. These questions do not allow making predictions about electoral outcomes with statistical rigour, but they do allow to derive some orientations regarding general aspects of the potential results, since they can be related to electoral data and attitudes gathered by ASEP along the past 22 years and in several dozens of elections of different types.
On the basis of this experience, it may be said that electoral participation (turn-out) in the Basque Country elections might be around 65%, and even a little less in Galicia. The degree to which citizens in either region feel informed about the coming elections is rather low, a little higher in the Basque Country (49% answer to be very or rather informed, vs. 44% in Galicia). As for possible results, and with all the reservations mentioned above, it seems that the result in the Basque elections will allow many diverse coalitions among PSOE, PNV, PP and IU to form a government, though not a clear majority of any party, nor even a clear coalition between several parties, may be envisaged on the basis of data. And, in Galicia, PP seems to be somewhat ahead of a coalition between PSOE and BNG.
Technical data: National stratified sample by region and size of habitat, random selection of municipalities and census sections (about 130 sampling points), random routes and final selection of respondent in the household based on stratification by sex and age. A total of 1,213 face-to-face interviews were obtained at respondent’s home between January 26th and February 1st. Research direction: ASEP.