ASEP’s Indicators System
Fear of an economic crisis, whether or not real, is influencing Spaniards’ evaluation of their personal and the country’s economic situation. Whatever the reasons may be, Consumer’s Sentiment Index decreases two more points this month, obtaining its lowest value since the 2004 elections, while Evaluation of the National Economic Situation increases two points (obtaining its second lowest value since the last elections), so that both indicators are 19 and 28 points respectively below the level of equilibrium. Propensity to saving grows two points since December, and the proportion of savers, however, is reduced by two percent points (the lowest in the last twelve months, like in July and September). Personal Optimism is reduced by eight points since December, its lowest value since the 2004 elections, something that suggests that Spaniards have acknowledged the first signs of economic crisis, just as they are acknowledged by households, not by macro-economic indicators. Thus, the three indicators deriving from the Consumer’s Sentiment continue this month below the level of equilibrium. Satisfaction with the Quality of Life continues at high levels, but loses four points with respect to December (the lowest value in the last twelve months), the self-evaluation of religious practice diminishes to its lowest value in the last year (as in June and July), and a historical minimum is reached in the proportion of Spaniards who have an orientation towards the new post-materialistic and self-expression values (something that suggests an abrupt change towards values that put more emphasis on personal and economic security). Regarding political indicators, there is a four points increase in Satisfaction with how Democracy is working in Spain, and Satisfaction with the Government also gains two points, a very low compensation for the fifteen points lost in December. However, political alienation loses five points, reaching the lowest value in the last twelve months, and one of the lowest since the last elections, suggesting that Spaniards, whether or not they vote, seem to be very concerned with the next elections. The ideological centre of gravity remains between the centre and the centre-left, while the centre of gravity between Spanish and nationalist sentiments remains also in double identification with both sentiments, though Spanish sentiment predominates over nationalist sentiment. Satisfaction with Spain’s membership in the EU increases a little, but Exposure to Information decreases three points, being again under the level of equilibrium. Regarding the rating of institutions, this month’s ranking is the following: The Crown (6.4 points in a scale 0 to 10), the European Union (6.2), Armed Forces (6.1), United Nations (5.9), Spanish National Government (5.1), NATO (5.0), and Catholic Church and Banks (4.6 each in the scale 0 to 10 points). The rating of all institutions has increased this month, with the only exception of NATO that loses one decimal percent point. In the ranking of public leaders King Juan Carlos confirms once more his usual good public image, obtaining a rating (6.6 points in a scale 0 to 10) that is one and a half points higher than that of its immediate follower, Felipe Gonzalez (5.2 points), while all other leaders obtain ratings below 5 points: Rodríguez Zapatero (4.9 points), José Bono (4.8), Ruiz Gallardón (4.6), Rodrigo Rato (4.5), Pedro Solbes (4.3), Pope Benedicto XVI (4.2), Rosa Díez (4.0), Mariano Rajoy and Gaspar Llamazares (3.6 points each), José Mª Aznar (3.4), and Juan José Ibarretxe (2.6 points in the scale 0 to 10). Voting estimate this month indicates only one percent point difference between PSOE and PP (still favourable to PSOE), with an estimated abstention rate that is 1.7 points higher than observed abstention in the 2004 elections. When comparing this month’s estimate with the 2004 results one may easily deduct that PSOE is losing voters while the opposite seems to be true with respect to the PP, which in turn seems to be maintaining and even increasing electoral support. This month’s abstention estimate, 24.5%, would be in levels favourable to PSOE, a reason why voting estimate is higher for PSOE than for PP, but last month’s and this month’s data suggest a trend towards increasing abstention, and what is more important, a significant increase in vote to “other” parties (especially “blank” vote), something that would damage PSOE more than PP, who seems to have a more stable electorate. This month, as in other occasions close to election day, degree of certainty about voting or not voting has been asked. Turn out estimate based on this question is 68-70 per cent, a proportion lower than the one estimated according to ASEP’s monthly estimation model, the difference being explained by the inclusion of this question when a decision about voting or not voting is probably more decided upon. In any case, results from the next February poll will have to be taken into consideration.
Preferences for Post-Electoral Agreements
Half the Spaniards think that PSOE will win the next elections by a simple or relative majority (not absolute), and a little less than an additional 10% thinks that it will win by an absolute majority. But only 22% believe that PP will win, including the 4% who think that it will win by absolute majority. These data are practically the same than in December. But when Rs are asked about their preferences for post-electoral agreements on the assumption that none of the two major national parties obtains an absolute majority, opinions are divided into four options with similar weights, so that one fourth would prefer the winner to make an agreement with nationalist parties, another fourth would prefer a pact with the other major national party (PSOE or PP), another fourth would prefer to make no agreements at all, and the other fourth does not answer the question. These answers are almost identical to those obtained with the same question in ASEP’s polls in September, November and December, something that suggests that they are very stable opinions.
Urgency of certain Political Measures and Actions
All policies for which their urgency has been asked for are considered urgent by Spaniards. The ranking of urgency is the following: to stop increasing prices through Government’s intervention, to adopt economic measures to face the coming economic crisis, to prevent actions of violent groups in the streets whatever their reasons, to reduce Income tax, to prevent the arrival of more illegal immigrants, to promote an agreement between PSOE and PP for the most important State issues, to guarantee the independence of Judges in the Constitutional Court and other high bodies of Justice, to promote a law that establishes once and for ever the powers of the Spanish National Government and the Regional Governments, to bring back all Spanish troops stationed in areas of armed conflicts, to illegalize ANV and PCTV parties, and to make a new Electoral Law that ceases to benefit small parties. Data are very similar to those of previous studies, something that will increase reliability of results.
Agreement-Disagreement with respect to certain Government’s measures
Results show a high degree of agreement with the Dependency Law and with the legalization of marriage between homosexuals, a moderate but majority agreement with policies to fight delinquency, organized crime and mafias, with establishing the course on Education for Citizenship and with the Law of Historical Memory. There is also a very controversial opinion with similar support for agreement and disagreement with linguistic policy, and with some predominance of disagreement regarding economic policy, immigration policy, allowing the PP to govern in Navarra, giving support to the new statute for Catalonia, and with respect to failing to enforce the exhibition of the Spanish Flag in all public buildings. But there is a very clear and intense disagreement with the negotiations with ETA, the agreements to govern with radical nationalist parties, and for not having requested yet the illegalization of ANV. Results are very similar to those obtained in September.
Government’s Foreign Policy
Agreement generally prevails over disagreement with the different foreign policies. Ranking of agreement with foreign policy towards specific countries is the following: policy towards France, the European Union in general, England, Latin American countries, Germany, Arab countries in general, African countries south of Sahara, Cuba, Morocco, the US and towards Venezuela.
Presence of Spanish Troops in Certain Countries
Presence of Spanish troops in international missions in different countries has been the object of controversy and public debate since this type of actions of Spanish Armed Forces out of Spain was first initiated. The hypothesis that a generic but uninformed and not specific opinion exists with respect to each mission has been fully confirmed. The proportion who does not answer the question is 3% with respect to all five countries. And the proportion who answers that there are not Spanish troops stationed in the country varies between 1 and 2 per cent for the three countries in which there are Spanish troops, but it is only 5% regarding Iraq and 10% regarding Iran. Of course, disagreement with the real or supposed presence of Spanish troops in each one of the five cited countries is clearly predominant over agreement with that presence. And disagreement is higher with respect to the presence of troops in the two countries in which there are no troops (Iran and Iraq), and only somewhat lower with respect to their presence in Afghanistan and Lebanon (though it is higher than 50% in all four cases), and even lower with respect to the presence of troops in Bosnia (48% disagree and 30% agree).
Expectations regarding what PSOE will Do if it Wins the Elections
Results suggest that Spaniards are quite convinced that if PSOE wins the elections, PSOE will negotiate with ETA again, will make agreements again with radical nationalist parties and will defend the unity of Spain. But those who think that PSOE will not improve the economic situation, will not promote a Federal State, will not reduce corruption, and will not make Spain a great world power, predominate over those who do not think that way. Results are very similar to those in September.
Party that will Carry Out better certain Policies
As was already noticed in October’s poll, a majority of Rs think that the PSOE would carry out better than the PP any policies, something that is logic when one takes into account the high proportion of Rs who say they have voted for the PSOE and who say they will vote for the PSOE. But the important thing, before and now, is to take into account the relative differences depending on the policy. Thus, for example, it may be observed that, with respect to policies related to economic and personal security (security in the streets, household economy, the fight against ETA and its supporters, international policy, immigration and unemployment) the difference between those who think that PSOE will do better and those who think that PP will do better is very small (in favour of PSOE of course), while regarding other more social policies (fight against domestic violence, housing, youth and old age policies) the difference in favour of PSOE is greater. Results, also in this case, are very similar to those obtained in ASEP’s October poll.
Interest and Implication in the next Elections
As was found in previous surveys, a majority of Spaniards attaches great importance to who is in power and believe that what one votes has a great influence on events. In spite of these facts, however, Spaniards do not seem to be too interested in events about which mass media report daily. Only 6% admit being very interested and following with interest all the news, and an additional 28% answer being quite interested, but 46% say they are not very interested in these issues because they are more interested in their own affairs, and 19% say that they are not interested at all in these issues, being only concerned by their own personal affairs. As in previous pre-electoral situations, a question has been asked regarding how sure Rs are to go to vote in the next elections in March 9. 53% of Rs say that they will surely vote, and an additional 29% say that they will probably vote. On the basis of these answers and the application of ASEP’s model, it may be said that estimated participation will be 68% to 72%, lower therefore than in the 2004 elections (77%).