Upstart party Podemos emerging as third political power, says new poll

The rise of the group is coinciding with an increasing lack of confidence in Spain's political class

Pablo Iglesias, leader of new party Podemos.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of new party Podemos.Samuel Sánchez

New party Podemos has taken a further step toward becoming the third power on the Spanish political scene, according to the latest opinion poll from the Center for Sociological Research (CIS). The group – which was the surprise success of the recent European elections, winning five seats thanks to 1.2 million votes – received support from 15.3% of those polled. That’s compared to 30% of voter support for the governing Popular Party, and 21.2% for the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE).

The CIS poll was carried out at the beginning of July, and as such came before Pedro Sánchez was elected as the new leader of the PSOE, with veteran politician Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba opting to bow out from frontline politics. But the result still confirms the crisis being suffered by Spain’s two-party system, in which the PP and PSOE, which have swapped power in one form or another since Spain returned to democracy at the end of the 1970s, continues to lost support.

The poll reveals that the PP and the PSOE are still the two options with which the electorate can best identify, in terms of ideological affinity. What’s more, in terms of direct voter intention, 12.8% of those questioned in the CIS survey said they would support the PP, 10.6% said the PSOE, and 11.9% would opt for Podemos, putting the new party in second place.

Carolina Bescansa, the head of political analysis for Podemos, and a lecturer at the Complutense University in Madrid, was quick to offer her interpretation of the figures on Monday. “One trend is the fall of the two-party system, while another is the growth of Podemos,” she told viewers of Las Mañanas de Cuatro, on Spanish TV network Cuatro. “There is an empowerment of the people going on, which is having an influence on the relationship of power.”

But this data needs to be analyzed together with other information, which is also reflected in the CIS poll. Citizens are not only losing confidence in the two-party system, but are also doing so while concerns about unemployment and corruption are on the rise – those are the two top worries of citizens, according to the survey. What’s more, while the third concern is related to economic issues, the fourth – as cited by 26.4% of respondents – is related to the need for an improvement to “politicians in general, parties and politics.”

The CIS study also revealed that 67% of respondents think that the job being done by the current PP government is either “bad or very bad,” while 70% use those same terms to describe the policies of the PSOE in opposition. In a similar vein, Mariano Rajoy inspires “little or no” confidence in more than 85% of citizens, with Rubalcaba scoring 90% in the same category.

The rise of Podemos, then, is happening within the context of a crisis in confidence in the main political institutions in Spain. According to Bescansa, the data is anticipating a genuine shift. “Times of stability have changed, and that social majority is on the cusp of becoming political change,” she said on Monday.


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