Economic and social indicators have improved slightly this month, as usually happens before vacation periods. Consumer Sentiment’s index gains six points and the Evaluation of the Economic situation of Spain gains one point, while the evaluation of the personal situation (as measured by Personal Optimism) gains two points, so that though the three indicators have improved with respect to last month, the three continue significantly below the equilibrium level, between 5 and 19 point below, the Evaluation of the Economic Situation of Spain being the most negative of the three. Indicators on savings also improve a little this month, one point the Proclivity to save and the three percent points the proportion of those who can save, something that does not imply any significant change with respect to November. Social indicators (satisfaction with life, religious practice and post-materialism) do not vary significantly either. As regards political indicators, Satisfaction with how Democracy is working decreases by three points, and Satisfaction with the Government loses four points, so that the latter reaches its lowest level since the 204 elections, 109 on a scale 0 to 200, when its value in May 2004 was 152 (See this Month’s figure). Self-anchoring ideology and nationalist sentiment maintain themselves in their usual levels, between centre and centre-left, and with a majority who feel as Spanish as Valencia, Gaelician, etc. respectively. Satisfaction with Spain’s membership in the EU continues also at a high level, the third highest value during the last twelve months. And the Exposure to Information index is again below the equilibrium level this month, to the point of being the second lowest value during the past twelve months. This month’s ranking of institutions is the following: Physicians (7.2 points on a 0 to 10 scale), University professors (6.8), The Crown (6.0), the Armed Forces (5.8), the military (5.7), judges (5.4), diplomats (5.3), public servants (5.1), banks (4.9), the National Government (4.5), and politicians (3.9 on a scale 0 to 10 points). In the public leaders’ ranking Felipe Gonzalez receives again the highest rating (4.9 on a 0 to 10 scale), and continues to be higher than José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (4.6). With the exception of Alberto Ruiz Gallardón (4.2 points) all other leaders receive this month ratings below 4 points: Miguel Sebastian (3.8), Rafael Simancas and Esperanza Aguirre (3.7 in both cases), Gaspar Llamazares and Mercedes Cabrera (3.6 in both cases), Mariano Rajoy (3.5), José Mª Aznar (3.2) and Angel Acebes (3.0 points on a scale 0 to 10 points). In summary, economic indicators improve slightly this month, though all of them continue below the equilibrium level (as is usual since more than a year ago), but political indicators continue to worsen. The worst evaluation of political aspects reflects itself again in voting estimate, in the sense that the difference between the estimates for PSOE and PP decrease this month to 3.5 percent points, four decimal points less than last month and three less that in the 2004 elections. The reduction of the difference coincides again with a small increase in estimated abstention, 25% this month, that is, six decimal points more than in November and 16 more than in the last 2004 elections. The reiterated negative relationship between the difference in voting estimate for the two main parties and estimated abstention confirms, once more, what has been said in many previous reports, that abstention favours PP and participation favours PSOE.
Recent Government’s actions and performance
Rs have been asked about how satisfied or dissatisfied they feel about the way the Government has been solving certain problems, something that has allowed to see that there is a certain balance between those who feel satisfied and those who do not (with a very slight predominance of the former) with respect to how the Government is dealing with the teaching of Spanish in Catalonia and the Basque Country. There is also a certain balance (with a very slight predominance of the dissatisfied) regarding the investigation of the March 11 terrorist attack and the negotiations with Batasuna and ETA. Dissatisfaction is more clear and intense regarding the handling by the Government of the problems of gender violence, urban corruption, drug consumption among the young, and school violence, and is almost unanimous regarding the price of housing.
Negotiations with Batasuna and ETA
Taking into account that the deadline established by ETA to reach some agreement with the Government after their truce declaration was approaching (at the end of December),Rs were asked their opinion on what the Government should do in these circumstances. A little more than half of the Rs say that the Government should “maintain their contacts and conversations open, but without accepting any of Batasuna’s and ETA’s requests until violence stops completely”, but 25% think that the Government should “completely break all conversations and negotiations and return to the policy of finishing with ETA through police investigation and courts of justice”. On the contrary, only 9% would favour “accepting some of the requests posed by Batasuna and ETA in order to avoid breaking all contacts and negotiations”.
Measures against violence
During the last year the number of admonitions and the volume of information on violence in schools have increased greatly. Public opinion manifests itself clearly in favour of repressing and avoiding this kind of violence, as shown by the great majority who agrees that “exemplary sanctions should be imposed on violent students” (84%), “students who show reiterated violence should be expelled from school” (78%), “teachers should be allowed to implement their authority without fear to be under enquiry” (70%), and “violence in schools should be given much less protagonism in mass media to avoid the imitation effect among violent students” (69%). A second form of violence that gets a lot of attention since a long time ago is relative to domestic violence against women. Recently, a member of Government stated that ill-treated women are partially responsible that violence towards them does not diminish, because they do not pay attention to the advices that public Administration provides through their information campaigns, but public opinion does not share that opinion, since a great majority of citizens say that they disagree with it. Finally, and regarding citizens’ opinion about relationships between judges and delinquents, a great majority are in agreement with the statement that “Justice is more preoccupied about protecting the rights of those who commit a crime than about helping the victims of those crimes”, a certainly very worrying opinion itself.
Territorial Organization of the State
The same question has been asked in nine monthly surveys, with very similar results, showing a majority opinion, generally very close to 50%, who is in favour of “leaving things as they are” (49% this month). This proportion was only somewhat lower in November 1996 (35%) and higher in October 1998 (62%), but it has always been the majority opinion. However, it must be underlined that the favourable opinion towards “the National Government should recover some powers already transferred to regional governments” decreased from 13% in 1996 to 6% in February 2006, but increased to 11% in the last two surveys in which the question was included, May and December 2006, something that could be interpreted as a consequence of public debates on the new statute for Catalonia and on the situation in the Basque Country. On the contrary, opinions in favour of greater decentralization than that provided by the present regional system has decreased over time. Thus, a favourable opinion towards one Unique Administration has decreased from 20% in 1996 to 11% in this month’s survey. Similarly, the favourable opinion towards establishing a federal state has decreased from 11% in 1996 to 8% now in December. And the favourable opinion towards “Regions that so desire may declare themselves independent states, separate from Spain, has fallen from 6% in 1996 to 3% in this month’s survey. In summary, Spaniards seem to be quite satisfied with the present regional system, and in terms of making some reforms they seem more inclined to have the Government recover some powers than fir the Autonomous Communities to extend their own.
The Purchase of Spanish Firms by Foreign Corporations
The different public options over ENDESA have led public opinion to consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain Spanish firms being bought by foreign firms or financial groups. In fact, the question was asked about the Spanish firm they would like least to be bought by a foreign firm or financial group, and about the Spanish firm they would mind least to be bought by a foreign group. In both cases about two thirds of all Rs didn’t answer the question or didn’t mention any Spanish firm susceptible of being bought. For obvious reasons ENDESA was omitted among the Spanish firms. The firms that were mentioned to Rs in relation with both questions were the following: Repsol, SCH, Iberia, Telefónica, BBVA and El Corte Inglés. And the result, taking into account that only one out of three Rs answered both questions, was that Repsol and Telefonica are the firms that Spaniards would like least to be bought by foreign groups (mentioned by 11% and 9% respectively). On the contrary, 10% of Rs answered that they would not mind that El Corte Inglés was bought by a foreign group, being the Spanish firm more mentioned in this case.
Admission of Turkey into the European Union
Public debate within the European political elite on the admission of Turkey as member of the European Union seems to have reached public opinion. Till then, Spanish public opinion had been rather favourable to its admission. However, public discussion seems to have changed partially that opinion, so that in the December survey opinions for and against admission seem to be very balanced, with 30% in favour and 27% against admission. The main reasons that Rs give against Turkey’s admission as a member of the European Union are religious reasons (33%), that they do not respect human rights (25%), or because of its economic indicators (11%), though less than 10% in each case also mentioned that they have a very large population and with great power, that they maintain the death penalty, and that the military retain too much power.