Support for the EU and the eurozone remains very high among Spaniards, with 60% of Spanish respondents to our poll in late June saying EU membership has had a positive impact on Spain, a much higher figure than the respective 40%, 43%, and 35% who said so in France, Germany, and Italy. Conversely, only 13% say EU membership has had a negative effect on Spain, which is a far smaller proportion than the 33% of Italian respondents who share this view.
Indeed, the gap between Spanish and Italian respondents is particularly noticeable, since they are both southern European countries that were hit hard by the sovereign debt crisis, the migrant crisis, and the coronavirus crisis. A possible reason for this difference is Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s, in which the European Union (and the prospect of membership) are believed to have played a role in helping Spain transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Nevertheless, compared to a poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in late March, there has been a decline in the past three months in the percentage who think the influence of EU membership on Spain has been positive, which fell from 65% in late March to 60% in late June. This decline is despite the fact that the percentage who view EU membership as a positive influence actually rose slightly in Italy (from 32% to 35%). Likewise, the percentage in Spain who thought EU membership on Spain has had a negative was 13% in both late March and late July, whereas in Italy it fell from 40% to 33% in the same period. Thus, despite the high rates of support for the EU in Spain, the past three months of the coronavirus pandemic have led to a slight decline in how positively Spaniards assess its impact.
When asked how they would vote if there was a referendum on their country’s membership of the EU in the near future, the overwhelming majority of Spanish respondents (70%) would still vote for Spain to stay in the EU. This figure is similar to the 68% of German respondents that would vote to stay in the EU, but higher than the 50% and 51% of French and Italian respondents who would vote this way. Likewise, only 16% of Spanish respondents would vote to leave the EU, which is less than half of the 34% of Italians who would vote to leave the EU.
Support for remaining in the EU was strongest among those who voted for the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) in the November 2019 election, with 87% of PP voters saying they would vote to stay in the EU. Similarly, 77% of those who voted for the ruling centre-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) would support Spain’s continued membership in the EU. Support for Spain’s EU membership was somewhat more limited at both the left-wing and right-wing extremes of the Spanish political spectrum, with 65% of Unidas Podemos (left-wing) and 64% of Vox (right-wing) voters supporting continued EU membership. However, despite this 64-65% being lower than the 77% of PSOE or the 87% of PP, it still constitutes two-thirds (and a clear majority) of Unidas Podemos and Vox voters.
One potential reason for the very high level of support for EU membership shown by centre-right PP voters in this poll could be the perception that the EU’s budgetary constraints on member states are a way to control spending by the current PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition government, especially given the difficult sacrifices Spain had to make in recent decades to control its debt. For example, despite the recent nomination of Spain’s own finance minister Nadia Calviño to be the next President of the Eurogroup—a crucial role as negotiations over the European economic recovery plan commence—the EU-level branch of PP has announced they will instead support Ireland’s finance minister. This decision was taken because Ireland’s finance minister is from Fine Gael, which is a member party of the European People’s Party (EPP), of which Spain’s PP is also a member. Nonetheless, members of the Sanchez-led government in Spain have criticised the PP’s leadership in Spain for not lending their support to Calviño.
Similar to the high levels of support for EU membership across all political parties, support for Spain’s continued membership of the eurozone remains very high, with 68% saying they would vote for Spain to stay in the eurozone. This proportion was significantly higher than the 53% and 52% of French and Italian respondents who would vote for their countries to stay in the eurozone. Even in Germany, only 61% would vote for Germany to stay in the eurozone, which is seven percentage points lower than in Spain. Unlike support for EU membership, which was highest among PP voters, support for eurozone membership was slightly higher among PSOE voters (80%) than PP voters (71%). However, it was once again the two parties at the extremes of the political spectrum that showed moderately lower rates of support for the eurozone (61% for Unidas Podemos and 63% for Vox)—with the caveat once again that the majority of those who voted for these two parties do support Spain’s eurozone membership.
Despite high levels of support in Spain for both the EU and the eurozone, neither is beyond criticism. For example, 74% of Spanish respondents think there should have been more economic support from the EU during the pandemic, a view shared by a similarly high proportion of Italian respondents, but only by a plurality of Germans.
Moreover, 71% of Spanish respondents think Germany has far too much control over the EU and its institutions, which is a higher figure than the 47% of French respondents who share this view.
Nevertheless, despite these grievances, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of Spanish voters—and the leadership of the political parties that represent them—wish to see Spain remain in both the European Union and eurozone, positioning Spain as one of the most pro-EU countries in Europe at the present time.