Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Economic expectations and support for secession in Catalonia: between causality and rationalization

  • Jordi Muñoz (a1) and Raül Tormos (a2)

Support for independence from Spain has sharply increased in recent years in Catalonia. According to all available evidence, public opinion has shifted from an overwhelmingly pro-autonomy position to an increasingly pro-independence stance. How can we explain such widespread support for secession in a democratic context? Traditionally, national identity has been regarded as the main explanatory factor, but recent accounts tend to underline the effect of political elite’s agency as well as instrumental calculations regarding the economic consequences of secession. However, the identification of this last causal effect is subject to a fundamental challenge: the possibility that economic expectations are mere rationalizations of prior preferences. In order to overcome this identification problem, we combine the analysis of observational survey data with an original survey-embedded experiment that provides a robust test of the causal nature of economic expectations. Our results show how identity, as well as partisanship, are the main drivers of support for secession, but also that economic considerations play an independent role. Results show that economic motivations are more relevant for citizens with ambivalent identity positions and for those that have no party identification, or are partisans of parties with less clear-cut stances on the issue.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

G.A. Akerlof and R.E. Kranton (2000), ‘Economics and Identity’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics 115: 715753.

V.O. Bartkus (1999), The Dynamic of Secession, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

A. Blais and R. Nadeau (1992), ‘To be or not to be sovereignist: Quebeckers’ perennial dilemma’, Canadian Public Policy 18: 89103.

A. Blais , P. Martin and R. Nadeau (1998), ‘Can people explain their own vote? Introspective questions as indicators of salience in the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty’, Quality and Quantity 32: 355366.

H.D. Clarke and A. Kornberg (1996), ‘Choosing Canada? The 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum’, Political Science and Politics 29: 676682.

C. Colino (2009), ‘Constitutional change without constitutional reform: Spanish federalism and the revision of Catalonia’s statue of autonomy’, Publius: The Journal of Federalism 39: 262268.

R.M. Duch and R.T. Stevenson (2008), The Economic Vote: How Political and Economic Institutions Condition Election Results, New York: Cambridge University Press.

E. Duchesne , M. Eagles and S. Erfle (2003), ‘Constituency homogeneity, economic risk and support for Quebec sovereignty: a research note’, Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique 36: 643656.

G. Evans and R. Anderson (2006), ‘The political conditioning of economic perceptions’, Journal of Politics 68: 194207.

M. Gabel and K. Scheve (2007), ‘Mixed messages party dissent and mass opinion on European integration’, European Union Politics 8: 3759.

B.J. Gaines , J.H. Kuklinski and P.J. Quirk (2007), ‘The logic of the survey experiment reexamined’, Political Analysis 15: 120.

M. Hechter (2001), Containing Nationalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

J. Hellström (2008), ‘Who leads, who follows? Re-examining the party electorate linkages on European integration’, Journal of European Public Policy 15: 11271144.

M.J. Keating and A.B. Wilson (2009), ‘Renegotiating the state of autonomies: statute reform and multi-level politics in Spain’, West European Politics 32: 536558.

D. Martí (2013), ‘The 2012 Catalan Election: The First Step Towards Independence?’, Regional & Federal Studies 23(4): 507516.

M. Mendelsohn (2003), ‘Rational choice and socio-psychological explanation for opinion on Quebec sovereignty’, Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique 36: 511537.

J.H. Pammett and L. LeDuc (2001), ‘Sovereignty, leadership and voting in the Quebec referendums’, Electoral Studies 20: 265280.

D.N. Posner (2005), Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

L. Ray (2003), ‘When parties matter: the conditional influence of party positions on voter opinions about European integration’, Journal of Politics 65: 978994.

I. Serrano (2013), ‘Just a matter of identity? Support for independence in Catalonia’, Regional & Federal Studies 23(5): 523545.

P. Sniderman , R. Brody and P. Tetlock (1991), Reasoning and Choice: Explorationism Political Psychology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

E. Spolaore (2008), ‘Civil conflict and secessions’, Economics of Governance 9: 4563.

M.R. Steenbergen , E.E. Edwards and C.E. De Vries (2007), ‘Who’s cueing whom? Mass-elite linkages and the future of European integration’, European Union Politics 8: 1335.

F. Yale and C. Durand (2011), ‘What did Quebeckers want? Impact of question wording, constitutional proposal and context on support for sovereignty, 1976–2008’, American Review of Canadian Studies 41: 242258.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 1755-7739
  • EISSN: 1755-7747
  • URL: /core/journals/european-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 66
Total number of PDF views: 303 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1052 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.