What proportion of electors in Catalonia (those with the right to vote in the referendum) speak Catalan, Spanish or another language as their mother tongue?

The statistics I've found on mother tongue (referred to as "llengua inicial". Catalonia also collects statistics on what it calls "llengua habitual" and "llengua d'identificació") refer to the entire population of Catalonia. My question differs in two important respects. First, voters are 18 or over, and second, they must be Spanish citizens. It seems obvious to me that most immigrants living in Catalonia are unlikely to be native Catalan-speakers.

If there are no good statistics on my exact question, then reasonable inferences can be made from available information.

  • 1
    Could you quote the statistic that you found, and their source?
    – James K
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 5:53
  • 1
    Likely to be controversial, since the definition of native language itself is imprecise: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_language#Defining_native_language
    – Miguel
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 6:16
  • 1
    99% of Scottish residents are native English speakers but still 45% voted for independence. The language issue is just an excuse for separation, not a real problem. Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 7:19
  • Do you ask for native speaking as in "used regularly and mainly as introductory language", or as in "reads, writes, and speaks since childhood"? the first one is ocntemplated in @JonathanReez's answer, but the second ones gives a 84.7% native/conversation level of catalan on the total population, athought usage is barely at 45% even at home, given many family members of current catalan families usually came from spain and still speak spanish as main language.
    – CptEric
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 6:35

1 Answer 1


According to the Catalan government statistics from 2013, the total number of people whose "initial" language is Catalan or both Catalan and Spanish is 2,092,000. In Spain, 14% of the people are between the ages of 0 and 14, therefore approximately 17% are under the age of 18. Multiplying the two numbers we get 1,738,000 native Catalan speakers who are eligible to vote. I presume nearly 100% of them are Spanish citizens, since it's extremely unlikely for someone to be born in a Catalan speaking family, live in Spain, and still not be a citizen by the age of 18.

Now to the total number of electors. In the 2012 elections in Catalonia (the closest year to the language statistics) there were 5,413,868 eligible voters. Therefore approximately 32% of the voting population consists of native Catalan speakers. Seeing that the number of Catalan natives dropped from 2008 to 2013, it's likely that the percentage is even smaller as of 2017.


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