Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Nationalism and Public Opinion in Contemporary Spain: The Demobilization of the Working Class in Catalonia

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Nationalism and Public Opinion in Contemporary Spain: The Demobilization of the Working Class in Catalonia

Article excerpt

Keywords: Public opinion, Spain, Catalonia, nationalism


This paper examines the relationship between nationalism and public opinion in the region of Catalonia in contemporary Spain. It analyzes the interaction of the climate of opinion, expectations, poll results, and political action. This holistic approach permits a conclusion that successive Catalan governments and the political class, in an effort to solidify their foothold in and emerging democracy, have been successful in creating a climate of opinion that has encouraged the nationalist part of the Catalan population, concentrated proportionally in highest socioeconomic strata, to be actively involved in politics, while at the same time demobilizing a significant part of the working class, the sector of Catalan society most resistant to nationalism, by ignoring other social problems.


"Should I remind them that the boy was a blue-collar worker: that is to say, a person who doesn't do dialectic ostentation, a man with other problems?"

(Juan Marsé, Last evenings with Teresa, 1966)

The recent literature on Catalan nationalism is prolific and its production has intensified with the devolution of power to the regions of Spain that took place during the transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975. Most studies acknowledge the historical reality of oppression during the Franco dictatorship of some cultural groups, including the Catalans, as a prelude to arguments supporting more autonomy, if not outright independence, for this region. As such, most of these studies focus on historical justifications, social aspects and the vindications of Catalan politicians to support the legitimacy of more self-government.

Nonetheless, most of these approaches justifying the idea of Catalonia as a "stateless nation" have shown significant theoretical and interpretive biases. First, most emphasize the strong sense of identity of the Catalans (Keating, 1996; Conversi, 1997; McRoberts, 2001; Gibernau, 2006), but fail to mention that the same surveys they cite show the percentage of the population that feels some kind of Spanish-Catalan dual identity is majoritarian and never dips below 67 percent. Second, they focus on the positive attitude of the Catalan population toward more self-government (Lancaster, 1997), but avoid factors like the negative reactions of citizens to, for example, the implementation of linguistic policies that prioritize the Catalan language over the Spanish language in the public sphere (Martínez-Herrera, 2002).

Most of these works end up at least partially mystifying Catalan nationalism thought the use of expressions such as "organic community," "core values," and "consensus" (Miley, 2007, p. 3). They ignore the social conditions under which public opinion is formed and do not take into consideration relevant aspects such as the dominant climate of opinion, the expectations of the Catalan people, the level of political participation of the citizenship, and the social relations of power. Furthermore, although the variables of birthplace and native tongue would seem to be the most relevant when analyzing attitudes toward Catalan nationalism as demonstrated in surveys, the usual emphasis on the distinction between "Catalans" and "immigrants" has tended to denaturalize the debate and offer a slanted view of the situation. As an example, no Andalusian would argue seriously that he/she feels in a foreign land when working and living in Catalonia. An additional lacuna is the fact that, due to the time context, most of the existent analyses still rely on data from the decade of the nineties and have not been able to evaluate the repercussions of events as important as the approval of the third Statute of Autonomy in 2006.

Theoretical framework

This paper argues that the post-Franco nationalist Catalan political class can be understood as a top-elite movement that has marginalized at least half of the Catalan people - mostly those whose first language is Spanish and those from lower classes - from the political and public sphere. …

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