I recently posted on the relationship between class and vote in Catalonia [please check the error correction on the first table of the old post]. The main point of the post was to discuss one of the most widespread political beliefs in our country, namely that the two main parties of the Catalan party system (center-right CiU, center-left PSC) have a well-defined and distinct class-dependent vote bases. Yet, we saw that data tell us that classwise both parties have only slightly different voters, both may be defined as inter-class parties, and that explanations of voting preferences should be found elsewhere.
Before digging into voter profiles, though, a further inquiry on the class distribution of Catalan voters should be carried out in order to test the second most spread belief about the Catalan party system—that class differences among voters of both parties really show up in Spanish legislative elections but not in Catalan elections due to differences in voter mobilization and self-selection, or what has been called dual voting and differential abstention.
In other words, the point of the differential abstention argument is that there’s a significant set of Spanish-origin working-class voters (i.e., likely to vote for the left) who never turn out in Catalan legislative elections but only in Spanish legislative elections to vote for the left (mainly PSC). This way, the argument goes, the class structure of vote gets blurred in Catalan elections due to the absence of a significant portion of the potential voting population, which in turn is very homogeneous in its socioeconomic status and cultural (or national) identity.
The discussion of our previous post was based upon 2010 panel data, and in particular on voter preferences in 2006 Catalan elections (CIS, 2660). Vote preferences in the 2008 Spanish legislative election is also part of the questionnaire. Let’s see.
The table below shows how did social groups vote in the 2008 Spanish legislative elections (to be read row wise). This was Zapatero’s second election and as can be seen in the table a majority of voters in Catalonia voted for PSC (center-left), this party being dominant among all classes, high/upper-middle class included. In fact, 65% of the high and upper-middle class voted for a left party in that election (PSC + ICV + ERC), as did a similar percentage of each socioeconomic group (with a peak of 70% of unqualified workers voting for the left).
Regarding the conservative, Catalan nationalist party CiU, the table shows that even in Spanish legislative elections (in which it traditionally has lower support) it keeps receiving compact support within all economic groups, unqualified workers included. Similarly to what we saw for the 2006 Catalan legislative election in the previous post, then, PSC is clearly dominant among the working class (even more so in Spanish elections), but it is not the case that CiU is the preferred party of the high and upper-middle class, nor is it most voted among the old, rural middle-class. Suming up, compared to the 2006 Catalan election, in the 2008 Spanish legislative election PSC recieved more votes among all classes, and CiU received less votes among all classes, too. The plot below shows how much more and less vote each party received between both elections.
The PSC received on average 21.6 percentage points more in % vote within all socioeconomic groups, while CiU lost on average 3 percentage points in each class. Since the change in support received by each party between the Catalan and the Spanish election was quite homogeneous among social classes, we expect that the socioeconomic distribution of each party’s voters remains unchanged compared to the Catalan election. The table below shows exactly that (to be read column wise).
It is stricking how little some things changed between those two elections when you look into the social distribution of vote. Again, PSC and CiU present only slight differences in their social base even in Spanish elections (since they gained or lost votes very uniformly from all social groups). If any, the only common pattern between both elections is that the weight of high/upper-middle class voters in each party is higher in the Spanish 2008 election than in the Catalan election, reaching a noteworthy peak in the ex-communists, green ICV, where almost half of its votes come from the better off.
[There will be a third part of this series of posts. In it I will explore inter-party vote transfers between Catalan and Spanish elections in order to test the dual voting and differential abstention argument.]