3rd Wave of the BRIE (May 2003)

3rd Wave of the BRIE (May 2003)

Here are the results of the Elcano Royal Institute Barometer?s third wave. The fieldwork for the survey was carried out between the 5 and 10 May, 2003, in personal interviews with a sample of 1209 Spaniards, selected as a representative cross section of public opinion, with a margin of error of +/? 2.89.

<1. Values

Spaniards are profoundly pacifist. Only interventions on humanitarian grounds are considered legitimate. Not even the threat of WMD can justify war.

    1. genocide (53%)
    2. weapons of mass destruction (43%)
    3. breach of the peace (35%)
    4. civil war (34%)
    5. dictatorship (32%)
    6. threat (30%)

Neither is it considered legitimate ?…that a country which regards itself as under threat attacks another albeit without the backing of international organisations?.

In the case of a country ruled by a dictator, Spaniards do not believe it is ?legitimate for other countries to impose democracy as rapidly as possible in the interests of the population?; instead, ?it should help to bring about a peaceful change of regime, even if it takes longer.?

<2. Values and realism

But Spaniards are also realists. In the first place, this realism comes out in the their appreciation of the situation in post-war Iraq.

Although the prevalent pacifism means that most people reject the war with Iraq, 55% of Spaniards believe the Iraqi population will be better off without Saddam.

As a result, most Spaniards approve of the idea that Spain plays an active role in the reconstruction effort. 72% of Spaniards favour participation of Spanish companies in rebuilding infrastructures there.

<3. The power of Spain

Although, again because of prevailing pacifist values, half the interviewees, 59%, consider that Spain?s image has deteriorated as a result of its role in the Iraqi crisis…

…it is accepted that Spain wields more power now than previously: on a scale of 1 to 10, the barometer moves up from 4.3 to 4.9, i.e., from a fail to a millimetre away from a pass.

Thus, it is important to underline that Spaniards are beginning to perceive that Spain carries slightly more clout on the international scene.

But in addition almost half Spaniards (42%) consider that Spain, ?should have more power?, i.e., they aspire to better things to come.

<4. Spain?s interests

Another proof of Spaniards? realism is that, despite an increase in the widespread feeling of rejection of the US (the positive barometer slips from 39% to 33% and the negative barometer climbs from 52% to 61%),…

?relations with the US are still placed at the top of the list of Spanish priorities on foreign policy:

  • Europe continues as the priority area, moving up from 73% to 79%.
  • The same levels of importance are attached to Latin America (36%) and the US (21%) as formerly.
  • The relative importance of relations with North Africa falls, from 15% to 9%.

In short, although feelings are generally more negative towards the US than formerly, Spaniards are very conscious of the fact that transatlantic relations are crucial to Spanish interests.

<5. Ideological polarisation

The previous issue, the transatlantic alliance, brings us to the following point brought out by this third wave of the BRIE.


  • Among people of left-wing views, the percentage of people who support a strong transatlantic alliance was 23% in November, whereas this time the figure fell to nearly 10%.
  • On the other hand, the percentage of people of right-wing tendencies favouring the alliance practically doubled, from 25% to 43%.

These findings are just some of a number of indications of a possible broader trend, to wit:

  • in the answers to most of the questions posed in the third wave of the BRIE, the political sympathies of the interviewee proved a more significant variable than the newspapers or other information sources he or she consulted regularly.
  • but, in addition, political sympathies were found to be more significant pointers this time round than in the first or second waves of the BRIE.

Therefore, as far as swings in public opinion are concerned, as from November 2002 we can detect an unprecedented political polarisation on key foreign policy issues.

<6. In short

The survey produced two noticeable results:

  1. Spaniards are, first and foremost pacifists

but they are also convinced realists,

?         as witnessed by the fact that they think Spanish power has increased…

?         …and that a large part of the population would like to see it continue to increase.

  1. The collapse of the consensus on foreign policy between the government and the opposition as a result of the Iraq war is reflected in the strong political polarisation between people of left- and right-wing views.