Felipe VI of Spain more popular than any politician, poll says

King Felipe and Queen Letizia flanked by their daughters, princesses Leonor and Infanta Sofia
King Felipe and Queen Letizia flanked by their daughters, princesses Leonor and Infanta Sofia - Europa Press via Getty Images

Spain’s King Felipe is more popular than any of the country’s politicians as he works to distance himself from his father’s scandalous past.

Felipe VI has risen to an approval rating of 6.6 out of 10, significantly higher than any of the party leaders, none of whom scored above five – or have done in recent years in similar such polls.

Only Felipe’s eldest daughter, Princess Leonor, rivalled him in the popularity stakes by matching his score. The 18-year-old heir to the throne has played a more prominent public role over the past year in between training stints in the army.

The adoration of Felipe comes as he works to repair the image of the monarchy.

King Juan Carlos, who scored a lowest rating of 2.9, went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 2020 after Spanish prosecutors investigated his involvement in alleged financial wrongdoings.

The scandals renewed a debate over whether Spain should have a monarchy.

Felipe has since removed Juan Carlos, whom the public has also not forgiven for his many affairs, from the royal house’s payroll to help rebuild the Spanish crown’s image.

The poll, carried out by IMOP Insights for the online newspaper El Confidencial, showed other senior monarchs were also more popular than politicians.

King Felipe’s mother, Queen Sofía, scored an approval rating of 6.0, the same as the king’s younger daughter, also called Sofía. Felipe’s queen consort, Letizia, scored 5.9.

Sense of integrity

Speaking at a celebratory lunch in Madrid’s royal palace on Wednesday, King Felipe said he had been guided by a sense of “integrity” during his decade on the throne.

“This means being faithful to our principles and values in all of our decisions [and] accepting the personal cost of what that can lead to,” the 56-year-old king said.

In 2020, Felipe stopped paying his father money from the royal household budget and said he would not accept any financial inheritance from Juan Carlos, after it emerged that the former king had named his son as heir to offshore accounts.

King Felipe also stripped his sister Cristina of the title of Duchess of Palma when she was put on trial for tax fraud, although she was eventually acquitted.

Polling consistently shows that around 40 per cent of Spaniards favour a republic and that there is less enthusiasm for the monarchy among younger people.

A survey by polling company Sigma Dos for the newspaper El Mundo this week showed that two-thirds of Spaniards think King Felipe represents the country well.

But a large majority think that Felipe’s efforts to clean up the monarchy’s image in Spain are still insufficient; 39 per cent recognised that the removal of privileges from Juan Carlos and Cristina had helped to regenerate the Crown but were not enough, while 33 per cent said these moves had not been effective at all.