New poll finds large majority for Catalan independence

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   By a Newsnet reporter

A new poll from the Spanish newspaper El Periódico shows that a clear majority of Catalans support independence from Spain, and an even greater number demand that the Spanish government recognises the right of Catalonia to decide its own future.

57.8% of those polled said they would vote in favour of Catalonia becoming an independent state, 36% were against and 6.2% didn’t know or had no opinion, when don’t knows are removed, this would give a referendum result of 61.6% Yes, 38.4% No.

The Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy claims that the Catalan independence referendum runs against the Spanish constitution and is illegal.  Veiled, and not so veiled, threats have been made by senior members of the ruling Partido Popular to send in the armed forces or the paramilitary police force the Guardia Civil if the Catalans do not back down.

However the new poll shows that Madrid’s hard line position has had little success in persuading Catalonia to reconsider, and Catalans remain unimpressed by Madrid’s threats. 

According to the poll results, even a substantial proportion of those Catalans who want Catalonia to remain a part of Spain support the right of the Catalan people to make a sovereign decision about their country’s status.  69.8% said that the Spanish government must recognise Catalonia’s referendum, with only 25.8% against.

Support for independence drops to 45% if other options are considered, however it remains the most popular choice.  25.4% would prefer a status roughly equivalent to “devo-max”, 18% prefer the status quo, and just 6% want Catalan autonomy to be abolished.

The date and question of the Catalan referendum have yet to be decided, although it is understood that sometime in 2014 would be the preference of the centre-right Convergència i Unió (CiU, Convergence and Union) party, which is the largest in the pro-sovereignty grouping which governs Catalonia. 

The other main pro-independence party, the left wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia), has called for the referendum to be held this year.

The poll finds that Catalans are increasingly sympathising with the more radical position of the ERC, 43% of those polled want the referendum to be held this year, while 39% would prefer it in the same year as the Scottish referendum. 

The poll will strengthen the hand of the ERC and its allies within the pro-sovereignty coalition, and increase the pressure on the Generalitat (the Catalan government) to push for an early ballot.

In another sign that many in Catalonia are growing tired of the more cautious approach of CiU leader Artur Mas, other recent opinion polls in Catalonia show that the ERC would make substantial gains at the expense of the CiU if elections were to be held soon and would overtake the CiU as the largest pro-independence party. 

With the polling figures for Scottish independence appearing less positive for Scotland’s Yes campaign, some in Catalonia fear that if their referendum is delayed and there is a No result in Scotland, this could have a negative impact on the Catalan campaign. 

However a successful Catalan Yes result prior to the Scottish referendum could potentially encourage Scots to show a similar faith in their own country as a sovereign and independent state.