voter intentions

Why Spanish youngsters don’t want revolution, but they do need change

New poll shows many under-35s support leftist ideas and would give Socialists victory at the polls Eighty percent of youths reject the current structure and management methods of political parties

They don’t want to give the system a good kicking, but rather see it completely turned around. They don’t want a revolution, nor do they want to imitate the youngsters who took to the streets in Paris in 1968. But they do want change, and it needs to be radical – albeit with the preservation of the foundations provided by Spain’s institutions. Spain’s young people are not extremists nor antiestablishment, but they reject the Spain of today, the official Spain. So much so that they are invoking something that they didn’t even experience first-hand: the spirit of the Spain’s transition to democracy, in the wake of the death of former dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

That's according to the results of a new study by Metroscopia for EL PAÍS called “Young Spaniards 2014: a collective portrait,” which shows that if it were up to younger voters alone, the Socialist Party would win the European elections of May 25 and the Spanish general elections of 2015.

Young people in Spain reject the way political parties are running things in their country, but they would rather see these organizations transformed than abolished altogether. Most under-35s feel loyalty both for Spain and for the particular region they are from, although they also embrace Europe.

Youths may be the driving force that pushes the Spanish left out of the slump it has found itself in since 2011

Politically they tend to lean to the left, with a majority expressing sympathies for the Socialist Party and growing support for the United Left (IU) and the center party Unión Progreso y Democracia (UpyD), which was founded by a former Socialist.

This suggests that youths may be the driving force that pushes the Spanish left out of the slump it has found itself in since 2011, when it performed dismally at local, regional and national elections. Experts blamed voter anger at the Socialist government’s budget cuts and other austerity policies, which many felt was a betrayal of leftist values.

The opinion poll, which targeted the 18-34 age bracket, also shows no appreciable indication of antiestablishment attitudes among Spain’s younger voters, who feel that there can be no democracy without political parties and elections. This result debunks popular theories about growing social unrest threatening the democratic system.

Thirty percent confessed they would rather have been born in the United States, Germany, Britain or France

Asked to define themselves politically, 14 percent described themselves as “liberal,” 13 percent as “centrist,” 12 percent as “socialdemocrats,” 16 percent as “socialists” and 10 percent as “conservatives.” Only one percent said they were far-right radicals, with an identical percentage for far-left activists.

But even though they trust politics, 80 percent of youths also reject the current structure and management methods of the parties, and feel that this is stopping them from attracting the country’s top talent.

Slightly less than 28.8 percent of respondents will vote for the Socialists at the European elections later this month, compared with 22.6 percent for the center-right Popular Party (PP) and 14.2 percent for IU. Around 8.6 percent said they will vote for UPyD.

Although society appears to favor a republic over a monarchy, there is still great support for the king

But this does not reflect real voter intention, because older voters need to be factored in, and surveys show that the final result will likely be a PP victory by a few tenths of a percentage point.

The survey also asked youths what they thought about allowing regions to become independent states – a clear reference to the sovereignty drive by Catalan nationalists – and the result was that only 13 percent of them agree with this option. A majority, 34 percent, would like to keep the state structure the way it is now, while 16 percent would rather recentralize Spain and eliminate regional self-rule. Another 16 percent would like the regions to receive greater powers but stop short of independence.

Asked if they had a choice of being born again in Spain or elsewhere, 66 percent said they would choose to come into the world as a Spaniard once more, while 30 percent confessed they would rather be born in the United States, Germany, Britain or France, in that order.

On social issues, a full 72 percent of respondents feel there is no need to reform existing abortion legislation, despite the PP government’s insistence of popular demand for a change.

Although Spanish society appears to favor a republic over a monarchy, there continues to be widespread support for King Juan Carlos, on the basis that he helped avert the antidemocratic coup of 1981, and that the monarchy can provide the nation with positive services, such as helping secure foreign investment.

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