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What do Spaniards think of their royal family?

With the international outpouring of grief over the death of Elizabeth II, what do Spaniards think of their own royal family?

What do Spaniards think of their royal family?
Spain's King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, Crown Princess of Asturias Leonor and Princess Sofia: Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP

In London on September 19th, Spain’s King Felipe VI and his father, former King Juan Carlos I, were seen together publicly for the first time since the latter moved to the United Arab Emirates in disgrace in 2020 following a string of financial scandals that damaged his reputation.

Although reports in the Spanish media initially suggested that King Felipe could try to avoid any public images with his father, they have since been snapped together at the funeral service on Monday afternoon.

Once revered for his role in easing Spain’s transition to democracy following decades of dictatorship, financial scandal forced Juan Carlos to abdicate in 2014, after nearly 40 years on the throne, and then to leave the country.

READ MORE: Spain’s ex king and son side by side at Elizabeth II’s funeral

Now, with the recent death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the outpouring of national grief and seemingly endless royal pomp have brought the role and influence of monarchy back into public consciousness. News crews from around the world have descended on London, and though most have been respectful and supportive during the days of mourning, the transition from Queen to King has attracted its fair share of critics not only in the UK but around the world.

With every Spanish media outlet seemingly running 24/7 coverage of events in London since the Queen’s death, we know the Spanish public (or Spanish journalists and TV producers) are interested in monarchy. It makes good TV, at least.

And now, with the Spanish royal family having its own mini-soap opera series in the background of events in London, one has to wonder if that royal fascination only applies to foreign countries or extends to the Spanish royal family too?

So, what do Spaniards think about their royal family? Are they for or against the idea of monarchy? Who are the most (and least) popular royals? Is it a political issue?

Monarchy or republic?

According to Spanish social research firm GAD3, data from 2021 shows that 55.3 percent of Spaniards polled prefer a parliamentary monarchy compared with 36.9 percent who would prefer a republic. 

Just 4.4 percent of respondents were indifferent.

READ MORE: Spanish King seen with disgraced father for first time in two years

The numbers

Figures from El Confidencial show that 56 percent of Spaniards polled positively view King Felipe, and that almost half (49.5 percent) approve of his reign since taking over from his father.

27.1 percent of those polled disapproved of the Spanish King, and of respondents asked how their opinion of Felipe VI had changed over time, between 2019 and 2021 46.9 percent said their opinion was unchanged; 28.2 percent said it had improved; and 24.9 percent it had worsened. 

Asked how they rated Felipe’s performance as King since his reign began, 49.5 percent said they approved, 27.1 percent disapproved, and 22.2 percent were indifferent. 

Though the personal approval ratings are relatively positive for Felipe VI, public opinion on the state of the monarchy more broadly isn’t as healthy. Of respondents polled by IMOP, 70.9 percent of Spaniards believed that the monarchy is in a weaker position now that it was seven years ago.

Queen Letizia, the former journalist and news anchor who married the King when he was Prince of Asturias, scored a 54 percent approval rating – the second lowest of the royal household but an improvement on her 2019 score of 48 percent.

The former Queen, Sofía, who was on the throne between 1975 and 2014 as the wife of King Juan Carlos I,  enjoys the same 64 percent approval rating as her son and has managed to remain relatively untarnished by the scandals of her husband.

Of the princesses, Eleanor scored 62 percent and her sister Sofia 59 percent.

Finally, in no great surprise to anyone, the disgraced former King Juan Carlos scored a 35 percent approval rating.

The demographics

The data for sentiment towards the monarchy along political demographics largely reflects the statistics in other constitutional democracies. 

In general terms, the more left-wing respondents were, the more supportive of republicanism they were. This was also true for age – the younger the respondent the less likely they are to be monarchists.

Right-wing voters over 45 are the group most likely support the monarchy.

Felipe VI scored 75 percent approval rating among respondents over 65 years old, but but just 54 percent among respondents between the ages of 25 and 34.

In terms of education, it seems the more educated someone is the less likely they are to approve of the monarchy. Respondents with just a primary education gave the King a 74 percent rating, secondary 63 percent, and university educated respondents just 60 percent. 

The politics

The demographics of monarchists and republicans largely bears out in Spain’s politics.

According to a GAD3 study for Spanish media outlet ABC, public opinion on the monarchy reflects the political polarisation in the country, and partisan alignment is a strong indicator of support for or against it.

The only political party where voters are torn on the monarchy vs. republic debate is PSOE. When polled, 44 percent of PSOE voters (from the 2019 general election) said they preferred a monarchy to a republic, but 47 percent said they wanted a republic.

Though PSOE’s base is split down the middle on the issue of monarchy, for voters of Spain’s other political parties public opinion is much more monolithic.

95 percent of PP – Spain’s centre right party – support a monarchy, matched only by far-right Vox with 94 percent.

Centrist Ciudadanos voters preferred monarchy by 76 percent to 16, and just 14 percent of far-left Unidas Podemos voters prefer monarchy, with 84 percent wanting a republic. 

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ROYAL FAMILY

Spain’s disgraced king and son side by side at Elizabeth II’s funeral

Spain's disgraced former king Juan Carlos I and his successor attended the funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, in a sign of public rapprochement.

Spain's disgraced king and son side by side at Elizabeth II's funeral

Juan Carlos abdicated mired in scandal in 2014 and went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 2020 against a background of investigations into his fortune.

But the former king and his estranged wife Queen Sofia and King Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia sat side by side at Westminster Abbey for the queen’s state funeral.

The father and son were last seen together in public in January 2020 for the funeral of a sister of Juan Carlos, an aunt of the king.

The two couples arrived separately at the abbey but were seated together in a section, close to the coffin, reserved for royal families.

Felipe wore military uniform while Juan Carlos dressed in a dark suit.

The former king was invited by the British government, prompting officials in Madrid to insist that Spain’s official representative was Felipe.

“The head of state is clearly King Felipe VI” while the former monarch “is in London in response to an invitation in a personal capacity”, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told reporters.

Juan Carlos and the late queen were distant cousins — their shared great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria — and Felipe called the monarch “Aunt Lilibet”.

Juan Carlos was for decades revered for his role in steering Spain to democracy following dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

But damaging scandals over his finances and private life forced him to abdicate after nearly 40 years on the throne.

Since he ascended to the throne, Felipe has distanced himself from Juan Carlos in a bid to try and restore the monarchy’s image.

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