How Spain voted

Both Chris Brooke and Matthew Turner have raised the suggestion that the Socialist victory in Spain may not have been caused by an actual swing in the electorate from the Popular Party (PP) to the Socialists (PSOE) after Thursday, but rather by the attacks in Madrid inspiring more people to go out and vote. With the majority of these new voters trending towards the left and the PSOE, the argument goes, this meant that they can attribute their victory to these new voters, rather than voters who switched from the PP to the PSOE.

Curious about whether or not this is true, I took a look at the actual election results and there is evidence there to support this view. However, any conclusions from this evidence are necessarily tentative and speculative, as the evidence could be interpreted many ways.

Firstly, there was a definite rise in participation from 2000 (68.71%) to 2004 (77.21%), representing approximately 2,500,000 extra voters. This is a return to the participation level of 1996 (77.38%), though, not a new record high, at least in percentage terms – it may be in actual numbers. However, this does buck the recent European trend of generally lower turnouts in elections.

As for the parties themselves, the total cast for those other than the PSOE and PP (the United Left (IU), nationalist and regionalist parties) remained roughly static numerically (approximately 3.8 million votes) but, as a percentage, dropped from 16.4% to 14.8% of the total. This is consistent with the idea that the majority of extra voters were for the PSOE, and it’s also worth noting that the only one of the smaller parties to make noticeable gains both in number of votes and vote share were the Catalan Republican Left (ERC).

The most noticeable effect of the higher turnout, however, is amongst the two main parties. As a whole, the PP have lost approximately 700,000 voters since 2000 – a drop of 6.7% in their number of votes, returning them to roughly the same level numerically as they got in 1996. However, the Socialists have gained close on 3 million extra voters, an extra 37.7%. This obviously skews the result heavily in the PSOE’s favour – if they’d merely captured the 700,000 voters the PP lost, they’d still have been almost a million votes behind the PP in the final count – it’s the extra 2.3 million votes they’ve picked up that have made the difference. And, as we saw earlier, there were approximately 2.5 million more votes cast in 2000 than in 2004.

If we remove the ‘extra’ 2.3 million PSOE votes from the reckoning, then turnout drops to about 70%, the PSOE’s share of the vote drops to 36.6% and the PP’s rises to 40.9% and, if I remember correctly, a 4% or so lead for the PP was what the polls were showing last week before the Madrid bombings.

Obviously, this isn’t a conclusive proof, and I doubt very strongly that all those who voted on Sunday who hadn’t planned to before last Thursday voted for the PSOE. However, it seems likely that a majority of those who did vote having not planned to would have been voters for one of the left parties and this contributed strongly to the PSOE’s victory on Sunday. The bombings may have elected the election, but not in the way some think – they caused people to vote, but didn’t affect the way they voted.

Of course, this is just speculation, and there are no doubt other explanations for the voting patterns. It’s hard to say anything conclusively without decent polling data, but the results do show enough of interest in themselves to make looking at them a worthwhile exercise.

31 thoughts on “How Spain voted

  1. “Both Chris Brooke and Matthew Turner have raised the suggestion that the Socialist victory in Spain may not have been caused by an actual swing in the electorate from the Popular Party (PP) to the Socialists (PSOE) after Thursday, but rather by the attacks in Madrid inspiring more people to go out and vote.”

    And of course Ed did, on this very blog, before anyone else I think. Maybe you should update the post.

  2. I think you have it about right Nick. The swing from CiU to ERC is a purely Catalan question and comes from the aftermath of the ‘Eta truce’affair.

    The 700,000 votes moving – ie the ones who left the PP were already showing in the polls two weeks ago – they were the ones it gained 1996-2000 when it appeared to be a more centre party, and then lost 2000-2004 as it moved back towards the right.

    The other votes are, I guess, old PSOE voters, previously disgusted with PSOE for corruption and the GAL affair, who finally decided to come out and vote.

    Mrs T raised the question as to whether this wasn’t unduly harsh, I would say they were paying the bill for earlier episodes: this was but the straw which broke the camels back. I think, in the end, they were much less at fault last week than the opposition were suggesting.

    OTOH many may have been asking why, if getting in the frontline in Iraq undoubtedly meant exposure, the government hadn’t done more in the way of preparing the public, and raising security in the week preceding the election. This I would say was an issue.

    I have heard many people compare the security for the highly mediatic European summits under Aznar’s EU presidency – whole sections of Barcelona traffic were diverted, and the frontiers closely guarded to avoid anti-globalisation demonstators – with the lack of security last week, and the lack of any alert given that general warnings going back to OBL himself were there.

    A lot of issues were on the table last Sunday.

  3. Yes, Ed’s piece was very good.

    One caveat to the argument is it doesn’t really get around the opinion polls suggesting the other result, because most opinion polls poll all those who say they might vote — as far as I am aware it is a British thing to try to adjust for liklihood to vote (and even some British ones don’t do this).

  4. Oops, sorry I missed out Edward out!

    Matt – that is something to consider, and like I said, one needs to really see the polling data to give a proper judgement. Of course, if the polls originally weren’t weighted on likelihood to vote then that is an extra degree of inaccuracy in them to consider.

    Also, from what I’m aware (and maybe Edward can corroborate) the poll last Monday that gave the PP at 3-4% lead was the last one conducted, or at least, the last one published. Does Spain prohibit the publication of polls in the run up to an election? It’s often in the week leading up to the vote that the electorate is at its most volatile (for instance, Britain in 1992) and so that poll may have missed any late swings that were already in place before Thursday.

  5. I don’t see what you think this would mean? It suggests to me that a very large percentage of the people who felt motivated to vote in response to the attack are the same people who wanted to vote Socialist to remove troops from Iraq. In effect you are taking the long way of saying exactly what the war-bloggers say less politely.

  6. “as far as I am aware it is a British thing to try to adjust for liklihood to vote”

    No. There was quite a bit about this on the telly before the elections explaining all the techniques being used for all kinds of things. Of course this doesn’t mean that they did this well, but they certainly did try.

    “Does Spain prohibit the publication of polls in the run up to an election”

    Yes this is the case, that is why it is really impossible to do this very scientifically since up to that time the gap had been closing, and Rajoy made a very notable move to the centre, what you don’t know is whether this was winning him votes or losing them. Remember he was possibly appearing to be weak and ‘ineffective’, while Aznar definitely kept them captivated rolling the shirt sleeves up and giving them a good ‘old style’ oration.

    One detail we have also missed: the young people who were first time voters, they don’t fit the 1996 panorama at all – 8 years of people who weren’t voting in 96 in total, and while I don’t think this changes anything essential, it should not be overlooked.

    “It suggests to me that a very large percentage of the people who felt motivated to vote in response to the attack are the same people who wanted to vote Socialist to remove troops from Iraq”.

    I’m sorry, have you been listening to anything that is being said here? Firstly there is no evidence whatever that the new voters wanted to remove troops. It still is unclear how many people want the troops removed. Talking to people I don’t think they had thought about this being an implication.

    What we have been saying is that the people who wanted the troops out (and part of those would have been the small number of ‘useful voters’ who crossed from the IU left party – which lost votes) were already going to vote PSOE: no way they wouldn’t have.

    What we are asking is what about the others, the ones who I guess are more in the centre, or not normally interested in politics. I am not sure they are the ones pushing for the troops to come out. What we have been suggesting is that they may have been tired of feeling they have been lied to.

    To say for the 1,000 time this time they probably weren’t being lied to, but on countless other topics – prestige (were even the poor old FT said Aznar and co were lying), WMD (in Spain there has been no investigation of intelligence, mad cow – they may well have felt that this was happening. This was the issue I believe, and not the troops in Iraq directly. (BTW one clear lesson here might be that playing fast and loose with the truth may weaken enormously the fight against terrorism: George Bush please note!).

    I hope and believe that a formula will be found and that the Spanish troops will stay, and you will see, the majority of the Spanish people will accept this.

    Just one last point about the banners on the demonstrations. Normally people went to these demonstrations without banners. So the ones which were most evident were those of an active minority who have been strongly opposing everything, right back to the Kossovo intervention. Manipulation here has not been the exclusive property of Mr Aznar.

  7. Shame on all of you from spain who vote with ill-conceived emotion and ZERO intellectual thought.
    You have disgraced your dead, you have disgraced western civilization, you have the blood on your hands from all future attacks that these cowards will perpetuate you damn pathetic fools.
    You on the left lie in the same bed as these jihad virgin-seeking cowards, you have welcomed al-queda into your population within Spain for years as you seek to prop up your aging population and replace the home-grown youth who flea your society. You fools say the “bombs that fell on iraq have exploded in spain” How damn foolish you are to talk this nonsense. The guy who you are all Cabana, towel and Coffee boys for now named bin-laden wants the land of Andalusia back which the Spanish re-took in 1492. You blame the US and Bush for your own failures, you throw a guy out of office who has brought new economic strength to your country. You think the withdrawal of a meager 1300 troops from Iraq is going to be a “bitch slap” to the US? Not even close to reality you fools.
    You have disgraced the 201 souls that have perished so far by your cowardly retreat into your socialist and nanny-state welfare shell. You show to them by your vote that your hatred of the US and bush is greater than any love you had for the dead. You disgrace the memory of those murdered by permitting a group of bearded cowards who came to your country to seek welfare monies and freedom to effect the outcome of your election. Your pathetic gesture is a disgrace to all the souls who were also maimed and wounded.
    All of a sudden those in Europe (actually, it’s best to refer to it as EUrabia) say they are “shocked” by these murders and will now appoint another “Super Commissioner” to address this “new” terrorist threat. Will this commissioner be given both a Speedo and Red cape to wear for his mission? Where the hell have you people been? What rock has fallen on all of your heads that make you so damn blind to the world, and blind to reality?
    The people who committed this cowardly act are both spanish and arab. They have been attempting to butcher and kill in your country LONG BEFORE you fools even knew who g bush was. They are living among you like dirty flies at a picnic, simply waiting to apply their brand of Islamo-fascisim to your society. You fools on the left in Spain coddle and embrace these murdering coward monkeys as if they were part “of your struggle against modernity”.
    Shame on you again! as these cowards continue to kill in EUrabia- the blood is now all on your hands.
    Your actions are a disgrace to modern and progressive/forward thinking people everywhere.
    To hell with all of you.
    Your country and the full EUrabia land was THE training ground for those who killed 3,000 US office workers. it is YOUR country that created the environment for these cowards to turn 3000 people into dust. You lose 201 souls and you fall to your knees at the feet of these coward monkeys, begging them to “spare you”. They are laughing in your pathetic faces at this moment.

  8. I’d like to suggest that the victory in Spain will encourage Al Qaeda to adopt a more aggressive strategy towards soft targets in Europe. Obviously Spain’s presence in the Gulf just a token force, but an attack against them is far more easily accomplished than one against America or England, or even Poland. I wonder if Italy doesn’t have something to worry about.

  9. Pato, I suspect you aren’t helping.

    “I’m sorry, have you been listening to anything that is being said here? Firstly there is no evidence whatever that the new voters wanted to remove troops. It still is unclear how many people want the troops removed. Talking to people I don’t think they had thought about this being an implication.”

    My point is that this is not a disaster based on intentions, it is a disaster based on outcomes. The outcome is that Al Qaeda can credibly claim both to have toppled a Western government by bombing and to have helped replace it with one that is less adversarial in foreign policy. It can claim this because the PP (before the bombing) was expected to win.

    I don’t understand the ‘lying about the ETA’ issue. The government made the same assumption that almost all European bloggers did. It made the same assumption that allowed many to castigate US bloggers for suggesting that Al Qaeda was involved. Less than 8 hours later, everyone in the world knew about the truck with Islamist writings and explosives. Within 30 hours the government was talking about Al Qaeda involvement. Within 60 hours they were admitting it was very likely. What lying? How fast do you want an investigation to go?

    “Talking to people I don’t think they had thought about this being an implication.”

    Let us not be silly. I am an American. I don’t exactly follow Spanish elections regularly. Even I knew that an very important public policy of the Socialists was to remove troops from Iraq. I also knew that Al Qaeda has been threatening Spain about their forces in Iraq. I knew both things before the election.

    Furthermore witness the actions post-vote. In less than two days we have seen repeated, public and very prominent announcements of the change in policy. The Socialist Party is making a point of being very loud about this particular change. They obviously feel it was an important part of their success.

    Actions speak louder than words.

  10. I’d like to suggest that the victory in Spain will encourage Al Qaeda to adopt a more aggressive strategy towards soft targets in Europe.

    To my knowledge, Al Qaeda has only done a repeat target once: The World Trade Center.

    come to think of it, was the ’91 bombing an Al Qaeda operation, or did they just do it better ?

    Part of doing it better is having us jump at the sight of our own shadows, long after the pyrotechnics have been extinguished.

  11. Well said, Pato, though a bit emotional.

    I especially agree with this:

    “Your country and the full EUrabia land was THE training ground for those who killed 3,000 US office workers. it is YOUR country that created the environment for these cowards to turn 3000 people into dust.”

    It is indeed true that the bulk of anti-American rhetoric employed throughout the world was originally developed in Europe, especially in France.

  12. Pato:

    EUrabia

    I automatically ignore people who use this silly term. It’s about as accurate as talking about “Jew York City,” and no less offensive.

    FYI.

  13. There’s a developing story in Spain that PP was going to use the bombing as an excuse to declare a state of emergency at midnight on Saturday to lock down the Basque province and round up ETA sympathizers while knowing it was likely AQ “attentat”. Disgusted intelligence chiefs went to PSOE and spilled the beans. Meanwhile, a massive text messaging and e-mail campaign got people out on the streets to keep vigil in front of PP headquarters in over 10 major Spanish cities.

    The PSOE vote was in response to the bogus state of emergency in the planning.

    The story is as yet unconfirmed, but based on Ana Palacios’ instruction to the Spanish diplomatic corps on Friday insisting on attributing the bombing to ETA gives the story some legs.

  14. Kitty, it still doesn’t matter. The clear message that was sent to the terrorists is still this: terror works.

    That was possibly the motivating factor behind PP concerns. If that is so, they certainly had a deeper insight into the significance of the bombing than the public at large.

    Perhaps the naivete of the public can be blamed into the limited worldview available in Spanish media.

  15. Pato.

    Who did create Bin Laden? Who did spend millions of dollars (sorry for my bad english) creating Al Qaeda against communist in Afganisthan?
    I dont insult you for this.
    Our discussion is another victory for moros. Think about it.

    Here in Spain people voted shocked. 10 millions voted Aznar. Be patient. We need a pair of years to push socialists out. We will return the right way.

  16. Kitty, it still doesn’t matter.

    Yes, it does matter. The incumbent Spanish government, at a time of national grief, tried to take advantage of the al-Qaeda attacks to make partisan political capital for its goals. (Or rather, to avoid expending it, given how it advocated a foreign-policy stance which the large majority of Spanish never wanted.)

    The Spanish electorate heard about this, and punished the PP accordingly. Among other things, the new government plans on rescinding the foreign-policy plank which the Spanish electorate never supported, not even by a distant margin.

    That was possibly the motivating factor behind PP concerns. If that is so, they certainly had a deeper insight into the significance of the bombing than the public at large.

    Charming way to excuse a government trying to avoid the consequences of its unpopular foreign-policy decisions at the ballot box.

  17. Wrong, Randy. It’s less about what is right for Spain, and more about what is right for the war on terror. Spain is the weak link now, and Spain weakened every other western nation engaged in the war on terror.

    But while the Spanish electorate would like to imagine that this was a great victory for democracy, the terrorists will still see it as a victory for themselves, and are encouraged to use terror again.

    The US and Europe are increasingly at odds over how to pursue the war on terror. Perhaps it is best that the gulf will get wider between the two continents: if the US stands alone, it will only make it easier to take unilateral action. After all, that’s what made Afghanistan such a successful operation, while Iraq seems be a lesson in the failure of multilateralism.

  18. Wrong, Randy. It’s less about what is right for Spain, and more about what is right for the war on terror. Spain is the weak link now, and Spain weakened every other western nation engaged in the war on terror.

    But while the Spanish electorate would like to imagine that this was a great victory for democracy, the terrorists will still see it as a victory for themselves, and are encouraged to use terror again.

    The US and Europe are increasingly at odds over how to pursue the war on terror. Perhaps it is best that the gulf will get wider between the two continents: if the US stands alone, it will only make it easier to take unilateral action. After all, that’s what made Afghanistan such a successful operation, while Iraq seems be a lesson in the failure of multilateralism.

  19. Wrong, Randy. It’s less about what is right for Spain, and more about what is right for the war on terror. Spain is the weak link now, and Spain weakened every other western nation engaged in the war on terror.

    I doubt it’s a good thing for the war against terror if participant governments ignore public opinions massively against particular approaches in the war against terror and then, when it turns out that their policies have produced reprisals against their civilian populations, callously lie and try to make political capital of it. If the war against terror draws its legitimacy not from a broad popular consensus, but rather from manipulative governments out of sync with the popular mood and unwilling to admit that their chosen policies will have consequences, then it’s doomed. Spain’s just doing it a favour by ending the charade early.

    (I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had it been acknowledged as al-Qaeda from the start by the PP. Perhaps, if Aznar et al were honest, the PP would still form the government.)

    But while the Spanish electorate would like to imagine that this was a great victory for democracy, the terrorists will still see it as a victory for themselves, and are encouraged to use terror again.

    Quite frankly, the terrorists can be convinced–or at least want to appear able to be convinced–of anything. If we send troops to Iraq, it’ll create an opportunity for terrorism; if we withdraw troops from Iraq, it’ll create an opportunity for terrorism. If you want to abandon decisionmaking altogether as possibly tainted by terrorists, well, then they’ll win. In the meantime, so long as you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you might as well do whatever you want to do.

  20. “Even I knew that an very important public policy of the Socialists was to remove troops from Iraq.”

    I think the point is this is given much more importance in the US than it is in Spain. I repeat: I have been talking to people for several days now, and I still have to find anyone – PSOE voters included – who regard this as a fundamental issue. Most accept that the troops will stay. Most of course want a UN involvement, this was always the big issue in Spain. But again, I don’t know any of that very small group of anti US/anti war fanatics.

  21. “it is YOUR country that created the environment for these cowards to turn 3000 people into dust.”

    If I understand this, it is saying that it was the Spanish who were responsible for 09/11. Interesting perspective. Is there a doctor to hand?

  22. “I don’t understand the ‘lying about the ETA’ issue”

    I think if you read my posts you will see I have *never* been saying this.

    In fact I hung out till the end with the possibility of Eta involvement (I haven’t even discounted it in some form completely yet, we still don’t know where they got the Goma 2 from).

    My point has always been that it was all the earlier lying which mislead people into thinking they were lying now.

    Unfortunately lying, or ‘lying’, as we know is rather too frequent in our democracies, and this is one of the weaknesses which does make us vulnerable to terrorism. We need politicians of a different calibre.

    In fact ‘lying’ in politics isn’t new in Spain either: go back to the affair of the GAL which was what gave the PP their first victory. This time it was the PSOE who were perceived as having lied.

    Now you could argue that Zapatero has already started ‘lying’: he has said he intends to take the troops out.

  23. “It’s about as accurate as talking about “Jew York City,” and no less offensive.”

    Agreed Bernard. But what was the old saying: “sticks and stones and Goma 2 may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

    Or: “better criticised than ignored”.

    Also I think its useful to get these arguments up on the table. It may serve as a kind of therapy, and it helps to see where we all are.

    I mean venting their anger on Europeans (isn’t there something Oedipul here?) may be one way for many Americans to handle their grief. I think over here we have broad enough shoulders to take this in our stride.

  24. Edward,

    Actually, that was Randy McDonald objecting to the fool, although I second the opinion. While I think the Spanish electorate made a serious mistake the other day, emotions were running high. Two days after 9/11, I’m pretty sure I would have voted for nuking Mecca and setting up concentration camps as an initial counter-move, so I can’t very well heap the sort of nastiness expressed above on the Spanish for having made what I see as a hasty error.

    In any case, as I’ve noted elsewhere, most of the overwrought nonsense spouted by politicians in public is merely posturing for the masses. I doubt that this will have much negative impact on the actual level of cooperation, certainly not nearly as much as the fact of the bombing itself will tend to increase it.

    Bernard Guerrero

  25. Bernard,

    Matthew Parris, a [London] Times columnist and previously a Conservative MP, is always worth reading:

    “The appeasement I mean is not the cheap accusation with which our Prime Minister insults the Spanish electorate. I mean the appeasement of Washington. It is not too late for the British Tories, nor for the Right more widely across the Western world, to start distancing themselves from a doctrine that in Spain has just cost the most successful conservative party in Europe a general election.” – from: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-1044541,00.html

  26. Parris’ comments are very interesting and in line with my own view — as a lefty who respects the “real” right, not the new, dangerous American radicalism. For the most part, each view from the America of the Spanish election has shown that we are increasingly willing to accept the black-and-white perceptions of the Bush administration, a slant which requires us to see the Spanish election as about nothing more nor less than America’s policies and actions.

    Here and in one or two other sites one can find some glimmerings of understanding of what actually occurred during the election. But by and large the American view seems to be that only our elections are worthy of respect(!) and that elections in other democratic countries are only respectable insofar as they support American policy.

    Gee, I wish we were as sensitive to our leaders’ lies as Spain has shown itself to be with respect to Aznar’s last-minute evasions.

  27. A late comment from Spain.

    Many people in Europe feel that the US have created many terrorists in the past who later have gone out of control (for example, Bin Laden). They also think US current way of fighting terrorism is not effective, because although it kills terrorists, it creates many more (good for vengueance, bad for solving a problem).

    And no, practically nobody were thinking in Iraq when we went to vote in such high numbers. We were thinking that we had to show the terrorists we are not afraid of them so we would vote.

    But of course, many were thinking also that the government had lied and, in spite of their success in economic issues and against the internal terrorists, they deserved to be punished.

    Would you want a liar to be your president?

    We neither.

  28. A couple of points from Spain. First, the major issue after the bombing was the official government response. That left much to be desired and although no lies as such were uttered, sincerity left much to be desired. That instanctly brought back past issues such as Prestige, the Iraq war, the Yakolev plane crash etc where the government likewise dropped the ball repeatedly. Bringing the troops back or not was never ever an issue.

    And second: Pato, you disgusting chimpmunk ‘hoo, you give a bad name to carbon based lifeforms. We voted for what we wanted and not for what you liked, get over it.

    We all knew we were not safe after the WTC attack. We still know we will not be safe with or without troops in Iraq. But do not talk me of how much safer the world has become in this last twelvemonth, OK? Not right now, please.

  29. Europeans like to say that they are so much more aware of world events than Americans are. But the Spanish election clearly showed that Spaniards had a very limited understanding of how their vote was going to be interpreted around the world. And the vote was a very clear message: terrorism works.

    So much for European sophistication.

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