Social Studies

Learning from Political Splits in Spain

Contentious politics are prevalent around the globe today, but what happens when a nation’s political dialogue becomes so heated that groups threaten to secede? What role does news media play in this process?

Catalonia is a region of Spain with unique linguistic, historic and identity traits. Catalonia also has regional media targeted primarily to Catalans–some exclusively in the Catalan language. Clara Juárez-Miró’s research suggests that national and regional media have used discourses that have contributed to a disconnect between communities.

Clara’s research focuses on the role of media in the construction of Spanish and Catalan identities in light of the Catalan secessionist movement. Under the supervision of Dr. Giovanna Dell’Orto at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Clara hopes her research will advance the knowledge on the role of media in secessionist movements in Western societies.

I became interested in nationalism and populism because I realized that two trends are colliding and influencing the way societies understand their realities…On the one hand there is the globalization trend, seen in processes such as the internationalization of debt, global production processes, technology democratization, media coverage, and the creation of supranational entities, but on the other hand, we have been seeing a rise of public support for political speech that advocates for strengthening border control.

Clara is from Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Because she is able to analyze media in both Spanish and Catalan, she is able to find links between the media and public opinion. Her preliminary results show that national and regional media have been constructing and reinforcing different ideas of what Spain and Catalonia are. Also, Clara has observed changes in public opinion that shift in the same direction as these discourses, which she interprets as a possible influence from media to public opinion. The consequence of these trends has been a peak in nationalistic discourses, which impact people who are stranded, who are held victims of violence, or who suffer discrimination.

Clara is also conducting an experiment under the supervision of Dr. Marco Yzer to test whether political messages that elicit anger are more persuasive than those that don’t—a study that has raised a lot of questions on the role of other emotions in populist speech and the effect of party identification.

Photo Credit: Sasha Popovic, Flickr CC