Spanish politics have experienced significant transformations in the past several decades. Political elites have strived to negotiate differences in traditionally divisive issues and moderate partisan differences. This process resulted in an institutionalization of rules of the game conducive to democratic stability. The current political culture is likely to remain an important feature of Spain for some time to come. Nevertheless, there are some features of Spanish politics that reflect the past.
While religion has never completely disappeared from Spanish politics, religiosity has remained an important issue. Spaniards are generally religious, though their level of faith is significantly lower than that of most other Europeans. In contrast to the Second Republic, Spanish political elites have not acted to silence religion in the public square. Religious leaders have consistently exhibited restraint, preventing conflicts from escalating into overt conflict.
Social change has also played a significant role in the development of contemporary Spanish politics. A powerful wave of migration has greatly affected the socio-economic structure of the Spanish population. Extensive urbanization has also facilitated unmediated political participation. These trends have led to the progressive disappearance of parochial village subcultures. In addition, extensive exposure to the communications media has eliminated patron-client relationships in most rural areas.
One of the most important factors in the consolidation of the democratic regime is the cordial relationship between competing parties. This trend is reflected in the relatively low level of social partisanship. Nonetheless, the impact of national leader image on vote shares has been disproportionately high.
During the Second Republic, socialist PSOE had a strong presence. It was the largest leftist party in Spain and a major force in the parliamentary opposition. However, it contained a variety of factions that were either ambivalent or agnostic on the ultimate objective of the party. Some were supportive of a more revolutionary version of socialism, while others supported a more pragmatic bargaining approach. Moreover, it was not uncommon for the PSOE to be divided over tactics.
After the death of Franco, a strong nationalist movement began to emerge. Among other things, the demand for a right to secede from the state became an issue. On occasion, this situation has led to overt conflict. Nevertheless, the political system has consolidated itself, with strong attitudinal support for the current regime.
The Catholic Church has influenced Spanish politics in the past. The Church’s political intervention has contributed to overt conflicts on occasions, but it has not caused widespread violence. Moreover, there is a general consensus against Church involvement in politics. Despite the influence of the Church, religion has not emerged as a major factor in contemporary Spanish politics.
Politics in Spain today are conducted under a Constitution adopted in 1978. The constitution established Spain as a sovereign country, as well as a social democracy. Since the 1980s, Spain has been a member of the European Union. Currently, there are five regions: Andalucfa, Catalunya, Valencia, Galicia, and Baleares. Although there is no single region that has a majority of voters who identify with any particular party, the basic political orientations are quite similar in most regions.