The Divide Over Independence: Explaining Preferences for Secession in an Advanced Open Economy (with Didac Queralt)


The literature on secession argues that wealthy regions have both motives and opportunities to split from the state. Are individual preferences for secession also informed by economic considerations? Building on international political economy and studies on nationalism, we examine the explanatory leverage of individual-level economic considerations and social orientations in forging secession preferences. We rely on data from an original online survey conducted days before the snap regional election held in Catalonia in December 2017, which followed a (suspended) proclamation of independence. We show that trade ties with the state informs secession preference, only after identity considerations. Secession supporters are more educated and proimmigration, deviating from other antiglobalization movements in Europe. The effect of education, which otherwise challenges the factor trade model, is channeled by levels of awareness with the system of interregional transfers. The economic roots of secessionist (and unionist) demands offer an opportunity for transactional politics.