Senior Honors Thesis Abstract

The Fall of 2014 will test the borders of Europe. On September 18th and November 9th the regions of Scotland (UK) and Catalonia (Spain), respectively, plan to hold referendums on their independence from their larger states. Such referendums are unheard of in the history of both regions and largely possible due to the democratic norms that exist in Europe today. These votes for secession in Scotland and/or Catalonia will put the Westphalian nation-state model to the test and create a precedent which could change the continent for decades to come. As such, these events call for our acute attention. My senior honors thesis will compare and contrast the referendums taking place in both regions.

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The region of Catalonia hopes to hold a vote on independence on November 9, 2014 despite Madrid’s opposition

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The region of Scotland will be holding a referendum on independence from the UK on September 18, 2014


I plan to draw this comparison using two different methods.

First, I will draw on my experience performing quantitative analysis of written news sources to compare the public debate taking place in both Scotland and Catalonia. This will involve tracing recurring themes in a  representative pool of written news sources from both regions. I will search key words which correspond to a set of grievances calling for independence. Comparing the recurrence of such themes in a representative pool of news sources in the months leading up to the referendum will evoke what grievances are driving the push for independence, and how they differ in the two regions.I plan to compare these events using two different methods.

Second, I plan to perform interviews of a small set of secessionist political elites from each region to test and reinforce the accuracy of my quantitative analysis. I will ask them questions related to what they believe are the main grievances behind the pushes for independence. I plan to travel to both regions to perform the interviews during the respective referendum dates. Interviews could also be carried out by phone or email if travel is impossible.

The comparison of votes will yield important incite on how the causation differs in both regions, and in turn, the mentalities which lead a region to seek independence from its large state.