Monday, November 07, 2011

Spanish General Election 2011....The Story Behind The Polls

Imagine a general election in a country where:
  • More people think that the right-wing opposition party would have done a worse job compared to the current government than think it would have done better.
  • Only 11% of those polled think that this opposition party has done a good job of opposition to the government.
  • The governing party attracts more ideological sympathy than the opposition.
  • The candidate of the governing party has a higher approval rating than the opposition leader.
  • Only 16% of those questioned situate themselves on the right of the political spectrum as opposed to 34% who position themselves on the left.
And, finally....this same opposition party has a lead in the polls of 16.69%!

This is the great paradox of the major pre-election opinion poll in Spain carried out by the CIS. A lead greater than almost any other opinion poll for a candidate and a party that inspire little confidence even amongst their loyal voters. The answer to this is perhaps not that difficult to find, almost 90% of those polled regard the current economic situation in Spain as bad or very bad, and this translates into the mother of all punishments for the incumbents. Bill Clinton's people had a phrase for it. 

The best hope for the PSOE with less than 2 weeks to go before voting on November 20th lies with the 31% of those who say they haven't yet made their minds up. Many of those could well be disillusioned PSOE supporters who are not prepared to vote for the Partido Popular but not yet motivated enough to come out for Rubalcaba. If the PP maintain this poll lead on election day then they will have an absolute majority even bigger than that achieved by Aznar in 2000. It's unlikely that the PP once in power will ponder too much on the origin of their votes, experience tells us that they assume a majority in parliament to mean popular support for anything they might choose to do, no matter how out of step their ideological positions are with much of Spanish society.

The CIS poll is of additional interest for its predictions on how well some of the smaller parties will do. Izquierda Unida are predicted to get 5 seats, and their former allies of Iniciativa in Cataluña to get 3. It doesn't sound like much but remember they only had 2 between them in the last parliament. A genuinely big change could take place in the Basque Country where the new nationalist coalition of Amaiur is challenging the hegemony of the PNV for the nationalist vote. CIS puts them equal on 3 seats each, and it's worth bearing in mind that the polling data precedes ETA's recent declaration of a definitive end to violence. The other relative newcomers of UPyD are predicted to increase their presence from 1 to 3 members of parliament, all of these being elected in their natural base of Madrid.


ejh said...

I saw some amazing stat to the effect that the PP had a 19-point lead among people aged under thirty (I may have the figures slightly wrong but it was of that magnitude). Well, I thought, it's your kids' schools they're going to cut. But so much for the revolt of the young.

It's hopeless, though. This always seems to happen when the left-of-centre party is in power during a big economic crisis - actually, I can't think of any cases to the contrary, though there must be some. On top of that, I'd guess that PSOE has rotted away during the years of power, much as New Labour did, and that it simply didn't realise, or didn't care, that it was losing the natural support on which it had previously rested.

I've said before that it reminds me very much of 1979, and nothing has happened recently is likely to change that. As I often say, it's going to get worse before it gets even worse.

Tom said...

There's a very reactionary current you can observe by talking to lots of young people here. I suppose that makes sense because there's also a genuine radical current. Problem is: most radicals probably won't vote. The best we can hope for is that they're convinced somehow to vote for IU, though with practically no attention given by TV stations or newspapers to anyone other than the two main parties, that seems unlikely. Also, young radicals have rejected 'established parties' which I take it includes the old left.

BTW - I don't read it except when waiting to get my hair cut. But the Spanish edition of FHM (it seems to appeal to a fair number of young men here) a couple of months back had some really unpleasant vitriol about Indignados. Like Intereconomía-level stuff, albeit brief. Not such a surprise, I suppose, but if that's the kind of crap that lots of young people are reading...

Roberticus said...

Hi folks,

The reference to IU's expected faring at the election brings me to question:

Isn't there some gross disproportionality between the number of votes that IU need to get in their bastions in order to actually win a seat, and the lesser number required in certain PP/PSOE-leaning zones?

That in itself would seem an injustice.

Graeme said...

I was a bit surprised by the figures showing the strongest lead for the PP amongst the youngest voters - but maybe that's just the economy again? After all, who bears the brunt of the unemployment?

There are parallels with 1979 in the UK, but there are differences too. We're not being offered a change of economic model (for better or worse), just more of the same failed policies. In that sense it's more like the 1930's.

Roberticus, the reason why IU (and other small national parties) need many more votes per seat is because so many of their votes in the smaller provinces simply don't count. There are numerous provinces where a party getting around 10% of the vote hasn't got a chance in hell of wining a seat under the Spanish system. The larger areas (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia) are relatively representative because of the number of diputados they elect and a vote for a smaller party has some meaning.

Lenox said...

No doubt something to do with the unemployment figures (highest in Europe - contrast Greece at 16.8% and Romania at around 7%), the Ley de Sinde, the institutionalised corruption, the daily lunacies from Trafico, the smoking and drinking pressures (in this, a tourist country), the PSOE support for the banks and the 'fat cats' (see 'Los indignados'), together with Rubalcaba's treatment of the European home owners and residents here. Rajoy may not be a solution, but he is going to win and the PSOE is going to have to rethink their values. Meanwhile, if you are a true progre, support the IU or UPyD, whatever.

SarahHeartburn said...

It would be hard for me to think of the UPyD as "progre" considering their position on abortion. (Though I don't think any party in Spain is progressive enough on abortion).

Graeme said...


If you think the PSOE has been tough on drivers wait until I come to power. I don't regard a huge reduction in deaths from road accidents as lunacy, in a single parliament we're talking about 1000+ lives saved. As for the smoking and drinking 'pressures' I don't know anyone in Madrid who is changing their vote because of the anti-smoking law. I don't know anyone who is even opposed to it. On institutionalised corruption, we'll see how that one runs under a Rajoy administration which doesn't even recognise the existence of the issue. It's the economy.


UPyD fishes for votes amongst those PP supporters who regard Rajoy as being a bit centrist, so it's hardly surprising that they can't adopt a clear stance on issues like abortion.

Tumbit said...

For all the stats, I think it is just a feeling of desperation and that after 8 years in power, surely the opposition can´t do any worse

ejh said...

I hadn't noticed PSOE being paticularly hard on drivers, and I drive round Spain for my living.

Anonymous said...

Unemployment was less than 10% in 2007 - Governments will always be victims on attribution theory - when things go well is us what did it - when things go wrong is the bankers , the chinese etc.

Come to the socialist republic of Andalucia where half of people under 25 are with out a job!

Personally I think PP will do a better job on the economy and are not in the pockets of the dinosaur unions. The tradegy for us liberals is their affinity to the catholic church and the likelihood they will overturn the gains in social liberalism of the last few years.

There is no logical choice for a true liberal!

Graeme said...

No, the PP is definitively in the pocket of the short-term paleolithic employers associations. I predict that after the failure of the 3rd labour market "reform" in 3 years the blame game will have to switch to the persistence of that annoying obstacle to growth called a "salary" and the inexplicable absence of shackles in the workplace. Time is running out for the proponents of economic liberalism, after all the debt fuelled failures of the last 30 years their recipes are now being applied across Europe and the results, you have to say, are less than impressive. But then history had already taught us that.

moscow said...

Yes, a bit of a tough choice for liberals. However, Rajoy claims he is a moderate. My bet is he won't touch divorce or gay marriage. There might be some superficial changes to abortion, although I very much doubt there will be any real change at all. The truth is he will have no time to waste on thorny socio-cultural battles. Actually, he would be best advised to leave these issues aside altogether.

I believe, anyway, that his PP government will be a short-lived one. They will be damned if they don't and damned if they do. If the PP does not implement tough structural reforms Rajoy will have his head chopped-off like Papandreu or Berlusconi by the bosses in Berlin and the City. If Rajoy does implement tough reforms he will have his head chopped-off by the electorate at the next election. Given his total absence of charm or charisma of any sort his popularity (if he ever had any) will plummet like that of a lead baloon in less than a year.

@Graeme. Labour law reform will always be an easy target for radical left wing demagogues like you to take pot shots at. Positive results take years if not decades to surface. For them to work out not only economic growth (not likely in the near future I concede) will be required but real change in the business culture - and this inludes the "exploitative" employers as well. The Trade Unions are - like Eta - the last remaining remnant left from the Franco era. I believe they have a function in society, it is just not the one they are performing right now.

Graeme said...

The problem for the economic liberals Moscow, is that they are no longer in a position where the "give it a few years" argument stil washes. We've had decades of the dogma now, and it isn't producing results. Instead we get the 1930's remake and the only policy option the liberals have to offer in the face of persistent failure is more of the same. That's pure religious dogma, with no failure threshold where you can admit that things aren't working.

I think the Supreme Court, the Catholic hierarchy, and a good part of the PP might be offended at your assertion about ETA and the trade unions being the only things left over from Franco's time. Actually the unions now have nothing to do with the unions under the general, whereas the change in the mentality of the employers in that time has been....? Look at the results of rolling back "union power" in other countries and marvel at the great success of stagnant real wages for the majority whilst a tiny minority does better and better. We don't need to imagine the results of economic liberalism any more, we live with them.

As for Rajoy, there is no reason on past form to regard him as a moderate, and genuine moderates would surely be under no pressure to conceal their policies on social issues as Rajoy has done? The question is who will be the technocrat who replaces him if our real rulers get tired of him. Following recent trends it has to be someone who has played a part in creating the disaster in the first place. I assume Merkozy have Rodrigo Rato's phone number?

moscow said...

@Graeme "genuine moderates would surely be under no pressure to conceal their policies on social issues as Rajoy has done?"
well, just only 2-3 million swively-eyed national-catholic PP voters.

I dont't see myself in the mould of the Neocon-Texas type liberal
of the Bush/Reagan/Thatcher/Aznar/
Aguirre sort mainly because (anathema to them) I do see a role for the State in "society" (which Ms T. famously said does not exist). Labour reform has absolutely nothing to do with being liberal, righwing or leftwing. We are talking here about changing utterly mad unjust plain stupid Franco-era labour laws. Even if Espe happens to support reform that doesn't make the reform automatically evil.

The 1930s were the 1930s. This is 2011.

Graeme said...

The ultras are going to come out and vote anyway Moscow, they might not like Rajoy much but as they fantasise about living in a Soviet style dictatorship under Zapatero they will come out for Mariano. Aznar didn't touch the existing abortion legislation when he was in power and the lunatic right had nothing nothing to say about it.

On the labour market I'm afraid it does form part of an ideological package. I haven't seen one serious economic analysis that demonstrates that it is labour market legislation that is preventing the Spanish economy from recovering at the moment, in the meantime employers are continuing to fire large numbers of people without visible problems. The legislation has undergone multiple reforms, to call it Franquista just doesn't make sense any more.

Anyway we do actually have sufficient historical data now to pass judgement on the "freeing up labour markets" argument. Krugman blogged on a graph of 20th C UK unemployment yesterday ( and I would love anyone who believes in the dogma to get out their marker pens and highlight the improvement in employment as a result of the labour market changes from 1979 onwards.

Of course the situation now is not identical to the 1930's but the parallels are certainly there, as a refusal to admit failure of economic policy or to act on the causes of the crisis risks turning a recession into a depression. We know that the original version didn't have a happy ending, we don't need to repeat it.

ejh said...

utterly mad unjust plain stupid

Reasonable people use reasonable terminology.