Wednesday, October 5

The “classic” and the Madrid-Catalonia polarization

I learned a few years ago that in any corner of England you can mention “El Clasico”, like this, in Spanish and without adding anything else, and everyone will know that you are referring to a football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The familiarity with this rivalry is not only explained by the well-known English fondness for football, but also because the competition between these two teams extends beyond the confines of sport.

Rivalry between local or regional teams often reflects and in turn fuels tensions between communities for causes less related to sporting competition than to economic, political, or both at the same time, since political elements intermingle in territorial disagreement. and identities with the economic struggle and on financing. These tensions end up penetrating the public debate when politicians transform the disadvantage that arises from comparing their own region with other territories into a comparative grievance.

In addition to conditioning the discourse of politicians, the comparison between territories is an important factor when theorizing about how citizens evaluate the success or failure of their rulers. For example, in research on fiscal federalism, the theoretical mechanism that disciplines the fiscal behavior of rulers is that citizens can compare the supply of taxes and services between different regions and move to those that provide them with a combination of public goods and services. more appropriate tax.

However, although we have evidence that the comparison between regions or countries matters in the evaluation of the citizens of their rulers, we know little about how the feelings of individuals towards the different territories they condition the effect that comparison may have. In other words, it is possible that in the evaluation of governments not only matters excuse me compare their results with others, but also with who (with which territories) they are compared. This question about the relationship between the effects of benchmarking Regional (or comparison) and feelings towards the territories being compared is precisely what guides a research work that I am developing in collaboration with Amuitz Garmendia at the Carlos III University.

Returning to the Spanish case and to our territorial “classic”, the first step to investigate this issue has been to explore the feelings of citizens in Catalonia and Madrid towards the citizens of Madrid and Catalonia, respectively, and also towards those of other autonomous communities. More specifically, in a survey we conducted in November 2020 in Madrid and Catalonia (with a sample of 1,600 interviewees in each) we applied the so-called “feeling thermometer”, an indicator that normally measures the degree of affection of citizens towards political parties and their voters, to measure the feelings of citizens towards the inhabitants of other autonomous communities. The thermometer ranges from 0 to 100 and a low value indicates negative or disaffected feelings and a high value indicates positive or affectionate feelings.

There are three main results of a descriptive analysis on the degree of affection between territories. The first is shown in figure 1, which summarizes the feelings of the citizens of Catalonia and Madrid towards the inhabitants of all the autonomous communities (including their own). In general, we see that on average the feelings are positive, since the degree of affect is at values ​​above 50. Furthermore, as expected, there is a positive bias towards the region of residence, since the highest values ​​in Catalonia and in Madrid they are towards Catalans and Madrilenians respectively (the positive bias in Catalonia with respect to the rest of the regions stands out). Finally, in Madrid there is a more negative sentiment towards Catalans than the other way around, since Catalonia is, by far, the region that arouses the lowest level of affection among Madrilenians.

Graph 1. Average of the sentiment thermometer (0-100) towards the inhabitants of the autonomous communities in Catalonia and Madrid

Second, graph 2 shows the distance between affection towards one’s own region and that of others according to ideological self-location. As can be seen, distance correlates more strongly with ideology in Madrid than in Catalonia. In Madrid, the further to the right, the more positive the valuation of the Madrilenians compared to the valuation of the Catalans. In Catalonia, the ideological division intersects with the territorial division, which may explain that the correlation between ideology and territorial affect is lower.

Graph 2. Ideological self-location and relative distance between affection towards Catalonia and towards Madrid

Third, the party that citizens support is highly related to the degree of affection towards the other territory (graph 3). As I said above, in Catalonia the perceptions of Madrilenians are on average somewhat more favorable than those of Madrilenians towards Catalans (see graph 1 above). However, as shown in figure 3, when the party identification of individuals is taken into account, we see that the differences between groups within Catalonia are greater than in Madrid (the box plot shows the distribution of values)[1]. Those who identify with the pro-independence parties in the Catalan government show more homogeneous perceptions (being relatively more positive towards Catalonia and more negative towards Madrid). This means that the differences between those who support the government and those who support the opposition are greater in Catalonia than in the Community of Madrid.

Graph 3. Distribution of the distance between affection towards Catalonia and towards Madrid

How do these sentiments moderate the effect of the comparison between territories? If citizens compare the economic results of one community with another, does it condition with who Is the effect of this comparison being compared on support to regional governments? I will answer this question in a next post by Piedras de Papel, in which I will talk about this issue based on the results of a recent survey that we have designed and implemented in 7 autonomous communities within the framework of a collaboration project with the ” Institut Català Internacional per la Pau “on coexistence and polarization. To be continue.

[1]The bottom of the box is the first quartile (Q1), the middle bar of the box is the median or second quartile (Q2), the top of the box is the third quartile (Q3), the interquartile range would be the height of the box, that is, the difference between Q3 and Q1.