Politics 20/02/2021

Radiography of the Vox voter in Catalonia

The extreme right penetrates into the poorest neighbourhoods and does not connect with the elderly

3 min
Santiago Abascal and Ignacio Garriga, the latter the leader of Vox in Catalonia

BarcelonaThe most iconic rally of Vox's election campaign was the one in Vic, and not because of what was said, but because of the insults, the throwing of objects and the clashes with the police by groups of anti-fascists protesting against the presence of the far-right. In Vic, Vox was not looking for votes. To be more precise, it did not intend to convince the vigatans (it obtained 3.7% of the votes), but it did want to take advantage of images that would help it to convince Catalans in other places. It is not the only party that appeals eminently to feelings, but it is one of those that most dominates this way of doing politics, in its case basically by standing against many things: anti-independence, anti-irregular immigration, anti-linguistic immersion...

Percentage of the vote for Vox by municipality

Osona, where Vic is located, is one of the territories with the highest percentage of pro-independence votes and where the extreme right has little to say. In the map of the distribution of the votes that Vox got on 14-F it can be seen how it basically makes a hole in the metropolitan areas of Barcelona and Tarragona, and in the Vall d'Aran. Also in the Alt Empordà, where there is one of the only two localities where the far right was victorious: Vilamalla. In a recent ARA report, some of its 1,200 residents argued that the "Spanishist" sentiment of a large part of the population was the factor that had made Santiago Abascal's party win.

Fighting against the Catalan independence bid is, therefore, one of the characteristics of the formation, which claims to have contributed to the conviction of political prisoners - it acted as a popular accusation in the trial - and calls for the outlawing of pro-independence parties. Of the 10 points of its electoral pamphlet -it cannot be defined as a program-, half of them referred to the threat of "separatism" and three more to the effects of "illegal immigration".

Percentage of foreign population

The criminalization of young migrants has been a constant in the campaign. The party attributes to them an alleged sense of insecurity in the country. Although it is true that there is a certain relationship between the vote for Vox and the presence of foreign population, the relationship is not as causal as one might expect. In Vilamalla, for example, the far right won 22.5% of the vote despite only 8.4% of the population of the town does not have Spanish nationality. In Guissona, a municipality where 47% of the population is foreign, only 1.6% of voters voted for Vox. On the other hand, in Salou (38% of foreigners), the far right got a good result with 18% of the votes, much higher than the 9% it obtained in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, which has 30% of immigration.

Independence in the case of Guissona and socialism in the case of Hospitalet acted as a brake on the extreme right. However, there are examples of all kinds and these two variables (Vox and immigration) do not match as significantly as the two we will discuss below.

Percentage of population aged 65 and over

The extremes that touch each other

Some of the voting patterns were already intuited in the polls. For example, that of age. It is true that Vox's postulates are often reminiscent of other eras, but even so (or precisely because of this) its message has not yet caught on among the elderly. At least in Catalonia. The graph shows that as the percentage of people over 65 increases, support for Vox decreases. In other words, the party suffers more in the older municipalities.

And one last characteristic of the voter that the extreme right has managed to seduce in these Catalan elections. The discourse penetrates more clearly in the poorest neighbourhoods. Dividing Catalonia into census sections and grouping them according to their income, the conclusion is clear: the poorest are those who give the most support to the far right, which has won 11.5% of the votes in neighbourhoods with a maximum average personal income of 9,369 euros net per year. The line is clearly descending as income increases and only changes when we reach the richest neighbourhoods, where the average personal income can triple or quadruple. In the 30 richest census sections of Barcelona, the average vote for the extreme right is close to 16%, double that of Vox in Catalonia as a whole.

Therefore, it gets most of its votes in working class neighbourhoods and also has a niche market among the elites. For the moment it is not in the majority, but the hole it has made on 14 February has placed it as the fourth force in Parliament and as the first choice of the Spanish right. And this was unthinkable in Catalonia two years ago. The general elections of April 2019 opened the door to the Spanish Parliament, when it won a seat for Barcelona with more than 150,000 votes. In November, in the repeat election, they had already doubled the representation and gained almost 100,000 more votes. And now, in a context of declining turnout, it has consolidated almost 220,000 votes.

The challenge for the rest of the political forces will not only be to apply the cordon sanitaire to the extreme right, but to generate confidence in all those who believe that Vox is the solution to their problems.