Spain was an early European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, becoming the first western European country to record over half a million COVID-19 cases in September 2020. This figure now stands at over 3.7 million cases. However, with cases in decline and half of the Spanish population having received a coronavirus vaccine, there appears to be cause for optimism in Spain.
Indeed, the latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that 72% of Spaniards believe the worst of the pandemic is behind them, up from 45% in November 2020 and 24% in August 2020. Just 19% of respondents believe the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, a substantial decrease from 37% in November and 60% in August, showing there has been an uptick in optimism about the pandemic approaching its end.
Mirroring results we found in August of last year, Spaniards who voted for right-wing parties Vox (29%) and the People’s Party (23%) in the 2019 General Election are the most likely to think the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, as are 25-to-34-year-olds (26%) in comparison to other age groups.
Further confirming this more positive outlook for the future, while 47% of respondents in November disagreed that the coronavirus crisis would likely be over this time next year, 49% now agree that the pandemic will likely be over this time next year. The introduction of coronavirus vaccines is likely a main factor in this change of opinion since November—though a quarter (23%) of Spaniards continue to disagree that the pandemic is likely to be over this time next year, and 22% neither agree nor disagree.
In this optimistic atmosphere, the Spanish public is also feeling far safer going about their daily lives than they were in November: 82% say they would feel safe shopping for clothes and such items (up 41%), 52% say they would feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub inside (up 28%), and 51% say they would feel safe greeting a friend with a handshake (up 29%).
Slight majorities still report that they would feel unsafe going to the gym (51%), using public transport (53%), or traveling to another country (57%), but these figures have also decreased by between 17 and 24 points since November.
Once again, the increased feelings of safety our research reveals are likely in large part attributable to the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Spain. Despite a slow start, vaccine administration has ramped up in the country, which may account for why two-thirds (65%) of respondents say they are satisfied with Spain’s vaccination programme so far, while the remaining third (35%) is not satisfied.
Interestingly, though 18-to-24-year-olds are the least likely to have received a coronavirus vaccine yet, this age group sees the greatest proportion (70%) of respondents saying they are satisfied with Spain’s vaccination programme. 35-to-44-year-olds, meanwhile, are the least satisfied, at 60%.
Satisfaction with Spain’s vaccination programme varies significantly with respondents’ 2019 General Election vote, pointing to an element of partisan bias in responses. As such, a large majority of voters of the political parties currently governing, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (80%) and Podemos (75%), say they are satisfied with the vaccination programme, compared to 57% of the People’s Party voters and 46% of Vox voters.
Although most Spaniards express satisfaction with their country’s vaccine rollout, views on how their Government has managed the pandemic overall are much less favourable. 65% of respondents believe the Spanish Government has not handled the coronavirus crisis well, a figure that is considerably greater when compared to the proportions of Germans (50%) and Italians (46%) who also think their governments have not handled the crisis well. Meanwhile, 28% of Spaniards say the Spanish Government has handled the pandemic well.
Unlike in previous questions, opinions on this matter have not changed since November 2020, when 66% also thought the Government had not handled the crisis well. Consequently, it seems that the vaccination rollout has not changed Spaniards’ minds on their Government’s response to the pandemic.
This frustration with the Government’s management of the coronavirus crisis may have had an adverse impact on the Spanish public’s views of their Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). Our research finds that 51% of Spaniards disapprove of Pedro Sánchez’s overall performance since he became Prime Minister of Spain, whereas 27% approve and 19% neither approve nor disapprove.
Disapproval of the current Prime Minister is widespread across all age groups but one: just 28% of 18-to-24-year-olds disapprove of Pedro Sánchez’s performance as Prime Minister, while most of the age group approves (36%) or neither approves nor disapproves (32%) of his performance.
Pedro Sánchez enjoys the approval of half of Spaniards who voted for his PSOE (52%) or his Government’s coalition partner, Podemos (50%), while a considerable fifth of PSOE (21%) and Podemos (22%) voters disapprove. Meanwhile, disapproval among voters of the People’s Party (78%) and Vox (88%) is immense.
In this context of significant disapproval, 53% believe the current Government of Spain is incompetent, a substantially greater proportion than those who believe the Government is competent (20%). In addition, a further quarter (24%) think the current Government is neither competent nor incompetent.
As society and the economy continue to inch towards normality in Spain, our research appears to identify three distinct moods among the Spanish public: optimism about the end of the pandemic, satisfaction with their country’s vaccination programme, and disapproval of their current Government. While the perceptions that the worst of the pandemic is over and that the vaccination programme is going well are undoubtedly welcome developments for Spaniards, the discontent with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez could spell trouble for him and his coalition Government going forward, particularly given the fervent opposition from right-leaning voters.