ASEP’s Indicators System
In spite of Government’s efforts to transmit economic security and to deny the existence of a recession or economic crisis, Spaniards do not seem to change their views on their personal and national economic situation. Nevertheless, the fall of the main economic indicators seems to have stopped, though they have not improved significantly. Thus, Consumer Sentiment has increased by three points this month, while the Evaluation of the National Economic Situation increased by one point, but both indicators are 16 and 27 points respectively below the equilibrium level. Of the two indicators on savings, Propensity to Save increases by three points, and the proportion of savers increases by four percent points. Personal Optimism also increases by four points, but it continues to be 8 points below the equilibrium level. Therefore, the three indicators that derive from the Consumer Sentiment continue to be this month below the equilibrium level, Evaluation of the National Economic Situation being the most negative indicator of all three, and Personal Optimism being the less negative one, as usual. Satisfaction with the Quality of Life continues at very high levels, and it increases by three points, but in general all social indicators remain at their usual levels, with very small and not significant changes. Regarding political indicators, Satisfaction with how Democracy is Working gains three points, but Satisfaction with the Government remains this month at the same level as in January, only 10 points above equilibrium level. All other political indicators remain at approximately the same levels as in January, with no significant changes. With respect to the image of institutions, ranking this month is the following: The Crown (6.3 points in a scale 0 to 10), Armed Forces (6.1), Constitutional Court and Supreme Court (both 5.3 points), National Government (5.1), General Council of the Judicial Power (5.0), Banks (4.5), and the Catholic Church (4.3 points on a scale 0 to 10 points). Comparing these ratings with the last one obtained by each institution, the Supreme Court is the one that gains more (two decimal points), while the Church and the General Council of the Judicial Power are the ones that loose more (three decimal points each). In the ranking of public leaders Infanta Cristina receives the highest rating this month (5.9 points in a scale 0 to 10 points), more than half a point higher than the closest follower, Felipe Gonzalez (5.3 points), and eight decimal points higher than Alberto Ruiz Gallardon (5.1 points), while the rest of leaders obtain ratings lower than 5 points: Rodriguez Zapatero and Jose Bono (4.9 points), Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (4.2), Rosa Díez and “Pepiño” Blanco (3.9), Manuel Pizarro and Gaspar Llamazares (3.7 points each), Mariano Rajoy (3.6), and Gabriel Elorriaga and José Mª Aznar (3.3 points in a scale 0 to 10 points). Voting estimate this month indicates only 1.7 points difference between PSOE and PP (still favourable to PSOE), with an estimated abstention which is 1.8 points higher than the one really observed in the 2004 elections. When comparing this month’s voting estimate with the results of 2004 it may be derived that PSOE is losing electorate while the contrary seems to be true with respect to PP, who seems to be maintaining and even gaining electoral support. Abstention estimate this month, 25%, is still in favourable levels for PSOE, and that is why this party continues to show a voting estimate higher than that of PP, but data for December 2007, and for January and February, suggest a certain tendency to a growing abstention, and what is more significant, a significant vote increase to “other” parties (especially “blank” vote), something that might damage PSOE more than PP, who seems to have a more stable electorate. This month Rs have explicitly been asked about how secure they were that they would vote or not vote on election day. The estimate obtained through this question confirms the estimate of past January, in the sense that it may be between 68-70%, a proportion that is lower than that estimated according to ASEP’s usual estimation model (75%). In previous elections the estimate built in this more independent manner has been closer to the real result than that derived from ASEP’s monthly model. As a consequence, this month’s data suggest that turn out may be closer to 70% than to 75%. Besides, when voting intentions are examined according to party voted in 2004 one may observe a greater intention to vote among those who say they voted for PP than among those who say to have voted for PSOE. And voting fidelity seems to be also higher among PP voters than among PSOE voters. All these results confirm those of past January.
One third of Rs feel closer to PSOE, while one fourth feel closer to PP, the opposite of what was observed before the 2004 elections but similar to what was observed in 1996. In comparison with the 2004 survey, however, Spaniards seem to feel less close to any party, something that suggests a certain general detachment of the electorate from any party at present. A more detailed analysis of data suggests that intensity of sympathisers’ (those who answer they feel close) and voters’ (those who voted for the party in the last elections) closeness regarding PP seems to be a little higher than that of PSOE’s sympathisers and voters in both elections, and the increase in intensity of closeness has grown significantly between 2004 and 2008 in the case of PP’s sympathisers and voters, while it seems to have declined slightly (in any case it doesn’t seem to have increased) in the case of PSOE’s sympathisers and voters.
Interest and Implication in the next Elections
Similarly to what was done in January, Rs have been asked, on the basis of a 5 categories scale, whether or not they thought that “political parties do not care what ordinary people think”. According to results, 42 per cent belief that political parties do not care what ordinary people think, and only 28 per cent think that they do care. Through a similar scale it has been observed that 70% of Rs think that “political parties are necessary for the working of democracy” (as against only 9% who think they are not necessary), 71 per cent belief that “who is in power is very important” (as against 11% who think it is not important), 59 per cent think that “what one votes has a great influence on events” (compared to 15% who belief that it has no influence), and 27% answer that “most people in Spain say what they think about political issues” (but 42% think that the majority hide what they think). In spite of these answers, however, Spaniards do not seem to be very interested on events of which mass media inform daily. Only 8 per cent admit this month (5% in January) to be very interested, but 49% say they are not very interested in these issues because they are more concerned about their own business, and 16% answer to be not concerned at all about these topics, and to be only concerned about their own personal business.
Estimate of Electoral Turn-Out/Abstention
Rs have been asked about how decided they are to vote or to abstain from voting in the next elections on March 9. More than half answer that they will certainly vote, and an additional third say that they will probably vote. Only 4% answer that they will probably not vote and another 7% say that they will surely not vote at all. On the basis of these answers and ASEP’s model, one that has provided very accurate forecasts in previous elections, it may be said that estimated turn out will be between 68 and 72 per cent, therefore lower than in the 2004 elections (which was 77%). These data are practically identical to those of January’s survey.
Opinion on the Outcome and Consequences of Elections
About half the Spaniards think that PSOE will win the next elections by a simple majority (not absolute), and only an additional 7 per cent beliefs that it will win by absolute majority. But only one fifth thinks that PP will win the elections, including 3 per cent who think it will win by absolute majority. Data are almost the same as those of last January, including the fact that one fourth of Rs do not answer the question. But, when Rs are asked to express their preferences about post-electoral pacts or agreements on the assumption that none of the two major parties obtains an absolute majority, opinions are divided among four options with a very similar weight, as has been observed repeatedly since September, so that a little more than one fourth would prefer that the party who wins makes an agreement with nationalist parties, a little more than one fifth would prefer it to make an agreement with the other national party (PSOE or PP), another similar proportion would prefer that ti makes no agreement at all, and more than one fourth does not answer. Answers to this question are very similar to those obtained with the same question in ASEP’s surveys conducted in September, November, December and January, something that suggests that they are very stable opinions. Questions have also been posed about the degree of satisfaction and concern because of PP winning and PSOE losing the next elections. Combining these four variables it may be observed that: 22% of Rs would be satisfied about PP winning and PSOE losing, 37% would feel unsatisfied because PP wins and PSOE loses, 26% would feel unconcerned because PP wins and PSOE loses, and 24% would be concerned about PP winning and PSOE losing. In general terms, however, something less than half the Rs would feel unsatisfied because PP wins the elections (against more than one fourth who would feel satisfied because it wins), and while one third would feel concerned because PP wins, almost the same proportion would feel unconcerned. In other words, it seems that a victory of PP would generate more dissatisfaction than concern in the electorate, and that the defeat of PSOE would cause more dissatisfaction than concern. It seems therefore that the issue refers more to likes and preferences than to fears.
Mass Media, Campaigns and Information on Elections
Exposure to Information this month is probably the lowest since many years, a fact of great significance in an electoral period as the present one. Besides, only one in three Rs answer to be very or rather interested in events which are the object of mass media’s daily information reports, a proportion which is lower than that found before the 2004 elections. It should not be a surprise, therefore, that only about one third of Rs answer that what they read, see or hear in mass media about the electoral campaign has an influence on their vote choice. However, though this proportion is low, it is higher than the one observed before the 2004 elections. These results would suggest that in this election electors might have more doubts regarding what their electoral behaviour will finally be and, consequently, that they might be more subject to be influenced by media. Certain support for this interpretation would come from the already mentioned fact that in these elections there is more disenchantment with political parties, manifested in higher intentions to abstain from voting, to vote “blank” or to vote for “other” parties. But there seems to be no doubt that one in four electors follows the campaign through TVE, as in previous elections, though the proportion that follows the campaign through Antena 3 is higher than the one that follows it through Tele 5, contrary to the 2004 elections, but very similar to what was observed before the 2000, the 1996, and the 1993 elections, in all of which the audience for Antena 3 was higher than that for Tele 5. As for credibility and efficacy of electoral campaigns, there is a significant difference on the evaluation that electors make of PSOE’s and PP’s campaigns. It may be said that none of the two campaigns receive (neither did they receive in 2004) a passing grade (5 points) neither with respect to their credibility nor their efficacy. But, while in 2004 PP received ratings somewhat higher than PSOE in the two dimensions (especially regarding efficacy), now it is PSOE the one that receives significantly higher ratings than PP (especially on efficacy too), and that is due to the fact that while the PSOE campaign receives now very similar ratings to those of 2004, PP’s ratings are much worst than those of 2004 in both dimensions. Generally speaking, a little less than half the Rs answer that they feel very of quite informed about the next elections of March 9, a proportion that is slightly higher than that of 2004. And, besides, a very similar proportion thinks that this time there is much more or somewhat more political information on the elections than in the 2004 elections (though in 2004 a similar majority thought that there was more political information than in the 2000 elections).