The Spanish Exception

Why Spain Has Resisted Right-Wing Populism

Toledo, Spain, January 2010. Sergio Perez / REUTERS

Although much of the West has been shaken by right-wing populist rebellions—from the stunning victory of President Donald Trump in the United States to the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union—one country seems curiously immune from it all: Spain. No electorally viable movement in Spain espouses a nativist, xenophobic, or anti-globalization platform. Indeed, far-right or populist parties in Spain have been unable to get more than one percent of the vote in most recent elections; the Spanish Parliament is one of very few in Europe in which these parties have no representation. Similarly, euroskepticism—the desire to lessen ties with the EU—is weak among Spaniards. A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that, among all Europeans, Spaniards were the least supportive of reclaiming more power for national governments from the European Parliament in Brussels.

Spain’s apparent imperviousness to these trends is intriguing because

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