ASEP’s Indicators System
If last month a significant improvement of the Government’s image and all indicators related to the Government and the PSOE was observed, at the same time that the economic indicators deteriorated drastically, this month both sets of indicators are again related and coherent with each other. The deterioration of political indicators is in fact a return to the trends observed during the past months, and the anomaly was precisely last month’s improvement, probably due to electoral promises and subsidies awarded by the Government, but this month the bad results of the economy and certain political issues have gained a greater weight. Whatever the reasons are, Consumer Sentiment and the Evaluation of the National Economic Situation are respectively 17 and 30 points below the equilibrium level, being the second worst and the worst results within the last twelve months (and among the worst since the 2004 elections). Both indicators have lost 13 and 19 points respectively since last July. Regarding the two indicators on savings, propensity to save has decreased by three points since November, as a consequence of growing difficulties of a large part of Spanish society to match the increase in the cost of living, which is leading many Spaniards to spend their savings and even to live on credit. The proportion of savers, however, increases by one point, indicating a similar proportion than in November. Personal Optimism gains six points, though it remains below the equilibrium level, as it has been during the past twelve months with the exception of July and September 2007. All three indicators derived from Consumer Sentiment index, therefore, remain this month below the equilibrium level, the Evaluation of the Economic Situation of Spain being the most negative of the three, and Personal Optimism being the least negative, as usual. Satisfaction with the Quality of Life continues at very high levels, and the remaining social indicators continue in the same levels as in November. With respect to political indicators, Satisfaction with how Democracy is working loses 11 points, reaching its lowest level of the past twelve months, and Satisfaction with the National Government loses 15 points since November, reaching its second lowest value of the last twelve months, and one of the worst since the 2004 elections. Besides, Political Alienation gains three points, the ideological centre of gravity remains between the centre and the centre left, Satisfaction with Spain’s membership in the European Union decreases slightly and Exposure to Information gains 8 points, so that it reaches exactly the equilibrium level. This month’s ranking of the image of institutions is the following: physicians (6.8 points in a scale 0 to 10), The Crown (6.1 points), Armed Forces and the military (5.6 points each), diplomats and public servants (5.0 points each), judges (4.8), Spanish National Government (4.6), and Banks (4.3 points in a scale 0 to 10). It must be underlined that this month the evaluation of all institutions that have been included has decreased, without any exception, the Spanish National Government being the institution that decreases the most, eight decimal points, obtaining its second worst result of the last twelve months. In the ranking of public leaders Felipe Gonzalez (5.7) obtains the best rating, followed by the Judge of the 11-M trial (4.9), Rodriguez Zapatero (4.7), Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (4.0), José Montilla (3.8), Rosa Díez (3.7), Gaspar Llamazares (3.6), Esperanza Aguirre (3.4), Mariano Rajoy (3.3), Artur Mas (3.2), José Mª Aznar (3.0), Angel Acebes (2.8) y Carod Rovira (2.3 points in a scale 0 to 10). Taking into account the drastic decrease of political indicators and the continued decrease of economic indicators, plus the fact that political institutions and public leaders have experienced a significant reduction in their ratings this month, it seems logical to expect that these facts should have consequences over voting intentions. Two consequences must be commented on in the first place, the increase in abstention intentions and the strong and unusual increase in voting intentions to “other” parties and “blank vote”. In fact both results might be a consequence of a certain annoyance of Spaniards with the “political class” and political parties. Besides, one should note that vote estimate for the PP has been almost the same every month, around 28-29 per cent of the electorate, which is the same proportion that voted for this party in the 2004 elections, while vote estimate for the PSOE varies considerably from one month to the other, generally related to a higher or lower abstention estimate. Thus, this month the difference between PSOE and PP is reduced to only 2.5 percent points (1.3 percent points less than in the 2004 elections), at the same time that abstention estimate increases by 1 percent point when compared with that in the 2004 elections. Abstention/participation will be the real key in the next elections.
Preferences for Post-electoral agreements
Almost half the Spaniards believe that the PSOE will win the next elections by a simple majority (not absolute), and a little less than an additional 10 per cent thinks that it will win by absolute majority. But only 20% believe that the PP will be the winner, including 3% that think that it will win by absolute majority. But, when Rs are asked to express their preferences about post-electoral pacts or agreements on the assumption that neither of the two main national parties should obtain an absolute majority, opinions become very much equally distributed among four options: that the winner should reach an agreement with nationalist parties, that it should reach an agreement with the other major national party (PSOE or PP), that it should not make any agreement with any party, or they do not answer the question. These answers are practically identical to those obtained through the same question in ASEP’s monthly surveys of September and November, something that suggests that these opinions are very stable.
Evaluation of certain Policies
Rs were asked to indicate the degree or urgency that, in their opinion, certain policies should have. All policies are rated as urgent, so that the proportion who consider little or no urgent at all any of the ten policies that were to be evaluated is under 20 per cent in all cases, while the proportion that considers them very or somewhat urgent varies between 90 and 48 per cent. The ranking on the urgency of these policies is the following: intervention of the Government to stop the rise in prices, putting a stop to the actions of violent groups in the streets whatever their reasons, putting a stop to illegal immigration, an agreement between the PSOE and the PP on important State issues, reduction of personal income tax, defence of the independence of Judges in the Constitutional Court and other high Justice institutions, a law that will establish once and forever the powers of the Spanish Government and those of the Regional Governments, return of all Spanish troops in areas of armed conflicts, illegalization of ANV and PCTV, and a new electoral law that ceases to benefit small parties. On the other hand, in this first phase of the electoral pre-campaign initiated last September the PSOE and the PP have made all kind of electoral promises. It may be observed that, while the PSOE Government offers all kind of subsidies and grants, PP has promised to drastically reduce some taxes for large segments of the population. This is why Rs have been asked to indicate which of two policies they prefer. Opinions seem to be very equally distributed, since 40% prefer no change in taxes but increases in subsidies and grants, but 49% prefer a reduction on taxes and that citizens spend the money they will save as they like.
Retirement remains a pending subject for Spanish society, since some demand that workers be early-retired at younger and younger ages while others demand that the age of compulsory retirement be postponed, and still others demand that retirement never be compulsory on account of age, but only as a result of not fulfilling certain intellectual and physical requirements, and that apart from those cases retirement be always voluntary and not based on age criteria. Rs were asked to manifest their agreement-disagreement with the statement “Since the average age for entering the labour force has been postponed at least 5 years, would you agree or disagree that compulsory retirement age be also postponed 5 years?” 20% of Rs were fully or somewhat in agreement with postponing compulsory retirement age, but 61% are fully or somewhat in disagreement with it. This result shows a majority rejection to an eventual postponement of compulsory age of retirement. But almost half of Rs (41%) say that they rather or totally disagree with the statement that “firms should be able to retire their employees before the compulsory age of retirement (as against 42% who rather or fully agree with this statement). On the contrary, while 72% of Rs rather or fully agree that workers should be able to decide to retire before the compulsory age of retirement, only 10% say that they rather or fully disagree with this possibility. Finally, and with respect to public servants who voluntarily so wish, and provided that they are in good physical and mental conditions to do it, might continue to be active beyond the age of compulsory retirement, that is, even beyond the age of 70 years. 46% of Rs say that they rather or fully agree with the idea that public servants that meet these conditions might continue working after 70 years of age, and a smaller proportion (38%) rather or fully disagree with it. To summarize, the majority of Spaniards agree that workers may choose to retire before the compulsory age of retirement, but also that public servants might continue working after the age of 70, but a great majority is against the possibility of postponing 5 years the compulsory age of retirement, and public opinion is completely divided in two halves with respect to whether or not firms should be able to force workers to retire at ages below 65 years of age.
Sentences that should Apply to different Types of Crime
In ASEP’s February survey of this year the question was posed, taking into account that the highest sanction established in the recently modified Spanish penal legislation is 40 years in prison, whether or not they believed that there were crimes that deserved higher sanctions. 80% answered positively, that there were crimes that deserved sanctions higher than 40 years in prison, and only 14% answered negatively. Now in December’s survey the question has been asked again, and the results are very similar, 84% think that there are crimes that deserve higher sanctions, against 12% who do not think that way. And, similarly to February’s survey, almost 20% of Rs think that terrorists deserve death penalty (19% now in December, 18% in February), 15% in both surveys believe that pederasts also deserve death penalty, and proportions lower than 10% but higher than 5% in both dates believe that death penalty should be applied to domestic beaters, home breakers, and drug trafficants that with their actions cause the death of others. But, between 50 and 59 per cent are in favour of life-long sentence (till death in prison) for terrorists, pederasts, and domestic beaters that cause mortal victims (higher in both cases to the proportions in February), and between 36 and 45 per cent (higher proportions than in February) are in favour of life-long sentences until death in prison for home-breakers and drug trafficants who with their actions cause mortal victims. In December’s survey an additional category of potential offenders has been added, that of daring drivers who may cause death, with the result that 3% of respondents would be in favour of giving them death penalty and an additional 24% would prefer to give them life-long penalties until dying in prison. Therefore, it seems that the proportion of the electorate that demand stronger or higher sanctions, and especially death penalty and life-long sanctions in prison for crimes mentioned above has increased between February and December.
Behaviour of State Security Forces in certain Situations
In line with above issues, a question was asked regarding how should the State Security Forces behave in certain situations, that is, the Civil Guard, the National Police, the Regional Police and the Local Police forces. A relative majority, between 43 and 51 per cent, are in favour of all security and public order forces behaving with as much determination and strength as they do now when facing situations like “drinking parties in the streets”, evicting squatters, demolition of illegal housing, non-authorized public demonstrations, and undocumented immigrants, but more than one third would be in favour, in all cited examples, of their behaving with greater determination and strength than now. But when Rs are asked about how Security Forces should behave in situations when they must face violent anti-system groups, common delinquents of juvenile bands, more than 55% say that security forces should act with greater determination and strength than now, while one third think they should behave as they do now, and less than 5% say they should act with less determination and strength.
Evaluation of certain Government Actions
Between 40 and 45 percent think that the Government is doing more or less what is needed so that “all Spanish children may choose to do their studies in Castillian no matter where they live”, that “the Spanish flag is placed in all public buildings, both inside and outside”, that “all Spaniards have the same rights and duties”, and that “there is a reasonable balance between security needs and protection of individual freedoms”. But, while around 10 per cent of Rs believe that the Government is doing more than what is needed in each of these issues, about one third think that the Government is doing less than what is needed.