Vox’s Ascension In Spain Is Mainly about Immigration

The recent election in Spain (April 28) ended with three significant changes: The Socialist party (PSOE) was able to receive 122 seats (out of 350) – the most in 11 years. It won’t be enough for Pedro Sánchez to form a government without the Catalans, but it places him in a slightly better position than he was before the elections. Second, the People’s Party (PP) suffered a defeat as it lost 72 seats. Moreover, the right-wing collation of PP, Ciudadanos, and now Vox has also shrunk from 48% of the seats to 37%.

However, the most dramatic outcome was that Vox entered Congress with 24 seats. The entrance of this party marks a significant shift in Spanish politics and shows that even Spain is not immune to far-right, anti-immigrant, and Eurosceptic movements that have been culminating throughout Europe. In general, ultra-right parties tend to thrive in times of economic hardships and Spain, despite its ongoing recovery and relatively impressive GDP growth rate in recent years (compared to the rest of Europe) it still has a high unemployment rate of over 14%. However, the high unemployment doesn’t seem to explain Vox’s rise here in Spain but rather immigration and mainly immigrants from Africa.

Source: Expansion, El País, and Author’s calculation

As one can see the unemployment rate in the various autonomous communities[1] doesn’t seem correlated with the percent of Vox seats gained in each community.

Source: Expansion, El País, and Author’s calculation

Even when I consider the proportion of foreigners in each community, this break down also doesn’t appear to explain the popularity of Vox in specific autonomous communities.

Source: Expansion, El País, and Author’s calculation

Only when I consider the proportion of foreigners from Africa in each community, one can see a strong relationship. This relationship suggests that one of the main issues that helped Vox gain popularity in certain areas over others is the rise of immigration out of Africa. This simple analysis doesn’t account for other factors that could explain Vox’s gained popularity, nor does it show what’s next. However, it does show how the anti-immigrant sentiment — mainly of immigrants from Africa — is fueling Vox’s ascension.


[1] Only those with over a 1 million citizens were included.