Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Binding Or Not, Catalans Express Themselves In Referendum Vote

A man wearing a Catalan Nationalist flag T-shirt casts his ballot in a symbolic independence vote in Barcelona on Sunday.
Albert Gea
A man wearing a Catalan Nationalist flag T-shirt casts his ballot in a symbolic independence vote in Barcelona on Sunday.

Update at 11:45 p.m. E.T. with preliminary election results.

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans cast ballots Sunday in a non-binding referendum on whether to split with Spain — a move opposed by Madrid, which fears that even an informal vote could stoke desires for independence.

With 88 percent of the votes counted, a strong majority of voters were in favor of independence; however, only two million people voted, out of 5.4 million eligible to vote.

The referendum, referred to as a "consultation of citizens" comes after the Spanish government threw legal roadblocks in the way of a formal vote on the question.

The BBC reports of those voting: "Patiently they queue to register before heading for one of the nine precious cardboard ballot boxes, at tables around the school, supervised by happy volunteers."

Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million that borders France, has its own language and a distinct cultural heritage despite having long been part of Spain. Many in the region, the capital of which is Barcelona, resent that they contribute more to the Spanish economy than they get in return.

Angels Costa, a 52-year-old shopkeeper in Barcelona was quoted by Reuters as saying: "If they don't understand us, they should respect us and each of us go on their separate way."

Reuters says:

"Pro-independence organizations have campaigned vigorously for a big turnout from the wealthy region's 7.5 million people, and more than 40,000 volunteers were helping set up informal voting stations on Sunday.

"Pro-secession politicians hope a high level of support will prompt central government to sit down with them and negotiate more tax and political autonomy, or even convince Madrid to accept a full-blown independence referendum in the future."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.