One of the interesting things recorded at the political opinion survey released in March by the Opinion Research Centre of the Catalan government is the range of motivations that are currently pushing people to support independence (a move that is wished by 44.6% of those asked). In Spanish nationalist milieus it is usual to hear that the pro-independence movement in Catalonia is inherently ethnicist, closed in on itself, even xenophobic. The survey shows that these are basically false accusations.
“Why would you vote in favour of independence?”. A variety of responses emerge to such an apparently simple question. Economy-related reasons amount for 41% of the answers. This means that four out of ten pro-independence Catalans see secession as the most efficient way for withholding wealth generated in Catalonia (according to calculations from official sources, Catalonia suffers a fiscal deficit of 21,000 million euros per year). Still, although having an obvious impact on health, education and infrastructures, this imbalanced economic relationship between Spain and Catalonia is not the most important issue for the other six out of ten. Then, what?
Values seem to come in second place, very close to economic reasons. As much as 37% of pro-independence citizens state that they want a Catalan state because Catalonia would be more free and prosperous (21.4%), because it would have a greater decision-making capacity (13.7%) or simply because they perceive it as “the only way” to build a better country (2%). This is of course related to a very long political discourse of Catalan nationalism that has tried to link itself to the ideas of progress, democratic deepening, equality, Europeanism and enlightenment. To my view, this approach has clearly permeated broad sectors of Catalan society that, on the contrary, perceive Spanish nationalism as linked to immobilism, rejection of new ideas, and reluctancy (if not opposition) to accept difference.
Identity-related questions only come in third place, still if they are important to about one out of four pro-independence Catalans. Issues specifically relating to the national nature of Catalonia and to the identity of citizens amount to some 22.4% of the answers. To this a further 4% of what we can call “epic issues” (“we have fought for independence”, “we deserve independence”…) could be added to reach a figure of 26.4%.
So yes, identity issues are important, if only because they are at the basis of any national movement. In other words, a national movement that has no historical, linguistic or religious roots is seldom found in Europe. But nevertheless, it appears that economy and civic values are more important than strictly identity matters in Catalonia now. Obviously this is only an opinion study, but anyway it gives us some clues on the nature of Catalan nationalism.
In sharp contrast -and contrary to what Spanish nationalism usually proclaims-, those respondents rejecting secession do so mainly because of identity-related issues. This amounts for 58.1% of their answers: 45.6% of them say that they do not wish an independent Catalonia simply because they want to preserve the “unity of Spain”, while a further 12.5% argue that they feel Spanish.
This post is also available in: Catalan