February 06, 2018
As we have noted in the past, the quarterly polls by the Spanish sociological institute CIS serve as a useful bellwether of voting intentions because of their large sample sizes, and a broader accompanying sociological survey. The latest CIS poll is out, and it puts liberal party Ciudadanos at under 21% and in third place for the first time, ahead of Podemos with 19%, This confirms the trend seen in the rest of the polls, though it doesn't go as far as the three polls published in the month of January that put Ciudadanos in first place. The latest CIS poll is notable also for forecasting the lowest vote share for the ruling PP since the 2016 elections, though the party is still in first place with over 26% and a lead of about 3% ahead of the PSOE which is just over 23%. As for seats, CIS estimates that the PP would get just 105 in the 350-strong parliament, followed by the PSOE with 89, Ciudadanos with 71, and Podemos and allies with 59. Smaller regional and nationalist parties would have the remaining 24 seats together but, on these numbers, PP and Ciudadanos would have the slimmest of absolute majorities together.
The consensus seems to be that Ciudadanos has benefitted from the Catalan separatist crisis of the last quarter of last year, and this is consistent with the dating of the start of Ciudadanos' latest rising trend. Unusually for Spain, the party has benefitted simultaneously in Catalonia (where it came first in the December snap regional election) and in the rest of the country. The Socialist party has been relatively flat since Pedro Sánchez became its leader last spring, which probably masks sizeable transfers of votes to it from Podemos, and away from it towards Ciudadanos. Ciudadanos is also taking a substantial amount of support away from the PP.
Ciudadanos' leader Albert Rivera consistently scores as the most respected political party leader, and the party is driving the public debate in Spain on a variety of topics. Apart from keeping the PP on its toes on Catalonia, Ciudadanos has also recently sparked a debate on the abolition of inheritance taxes. The PP is trying to compete with Ciudadanos by taking credit for the recent passing of a law improving the conditions for self-employed workers. The PP is also taking a tough stance against the drive by the opposition parties to get rid of permanent imprisonment for the most serious crimes. Ciudadanos, which also included the repeal of permanent imprisonment in their election platform, is now taking a more ambiguous position to court conservative voters.