FOR THE first time the region's history, only a tiny minority of Basque Country residents would be in favour of becoming an independent nation.
A recent social attitudes survey found 38% of the region's residents to be dead against independence, with only 19% still wanting the Basque Country to be a separate, sovereign land.
And only one in five felt 'more Basque than Spanish' and fewer than a quarter 'uniquely Basque', meaning those who do not identify with their region before their country or the wider world make up 56% - a clear majority.
After decades of separatist terror cell ETA having blighted the lives of Spaniards during their bloodthirsty war for independence – the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s being when they were most active, but with still a few small attacks occurring in the first decade of the 21st century – it came as a shock to researchers to see that such a small proportion of the Basque Country still supported the separatism drive.
Whilst most 'ordinary people' did not support ETA at all and deplored their actions, the vast majority of the region's residents wanted to be independent from Spain, or agreed with ETA's cause albeit not its approach.
According to the study, Sociómetro 60: 20 años de opinión pública vasca, covering more than two decades of Basque people's views and how they have changed, the current results show 'a more anti-independence attitude than ever' since the research started in 1998.
It is based upon a representative sample of the population taken and called upon for interviews, of which 2,310 were carried out between January 25 and February 2.
And it shows that 36% of the region's residents feel 'just as Spanish as they do Basque', whilst 4% feel 'more Spanish than Basque', 4% 'purely Spanish', and 11% did not know how they felt.
They were more inclined to identify with their town or village than with their region – 60% in total felt this way – whilst 40% said they felt closer to the wider region.
Overlaps occurred with some feeling patriotic about more than one area – 17% said they felt closer to the province of Bizkaia – which backs onto the Bay of Biscay, or Vizcaya in Spanish – and 10% to the province of Guipúzcoa.
Among them, 11% swore allegiance to Spain as a whole and 9% said they felt they belonged 'to the whole world' rather than just a region, town or country.
Concerning the Basque independence question, together with the 19% in favour and the 38% against, a further 30% said their support or otherwise for independence would depend upon given circumstances at the time of a referendum or declaration and the guarantees, or otherwise, agreed for residents.
Another 12% said they did not know which way to jump.
The survey appears to show that support for independence has gone down specifically following two major, related events – the Scottish secession referendum in September 2014, and the public opinion poll on independence in Catalunya two months later followed by its regional elections in September 2015.
Respondents were quizzed about how they viewed the work of their various authoritis – 72% were satisfied with their local council, 63% with their provincial council or Diputación, just 24% with the EU Parliament and only 18% were satisfied with Spain's central government.
For 'not satisfied at all', 22% expressed these feelings about their council and their Diputación, 24% about the regional government, and 69% were 'not satisfied at all' with the national government.
In 62% of cases, residents said they were satisfied democracy and political functioning in the Basque Country had improved since this was included in the Sociómetro for the first time in 2002, but only 29% felt democracy and political functioning had improved in Spain and 31% in the EU.
Basque residents are confident in 64% of cases that their personal situation has improved in the last three years, in 58% that the situation in the Basque Country has improved, but only 41% of respondents thought the situation in Spain had improved in that time.
However, they were generally less positive about their personal situation now than they were 20 years ago.
The only Basque political leader who was given a 'pass mark' by residents surveyed was the current regional president, or Lehendakari, Íñigo Urkullu, with 5.3 out of 10, compared with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) leader Andoni Ortuzar with 4.7, Hasier Arraiz of another nationalist outfit, EH Bildu, with 4.4, Idoia Mendia of the socialists with 3.9, Alfonso Alonso of the PP – who is also acting health minister for Spain – with 2.3 out of 10 and Gorka Maneiro of Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) with two out of 10.
Only 31% said they were party militants or staunch supporters and just 29% were interested in politics – another 39% said politics did not interest them at all and 32% said they were 'only mildly interested'.
A total of 43% said the Basque government was well-managed, with the same number considering it 'fair to mediocre', and 9% 'bad' or 'very bad', whilst 4% did not know what to answer.