I read the same American newspapers that you do, why do you ask such silly question ?
I don't read US papers (why would I?) But I can read Spanish, in 1978 just over 95 % of those voting approved the Spanish constitution (under which the October 1 referendum was illegal). That 95% of those voting was also over 60% of all eligible voters. That is a strong democratic commitment (better than just any election in the US I know of).
Now just under 40 years later using vague rhetoric about 'self-determination' and oppression from the central government (which they can give no real examples of) the local government is trying to claim independence even though no independent, anonymous poll has ever shown 50% support for the idea.
What's really happening is, the independistes (who've always been around - a noisy minority) were strengthened during the worst years of the economic crisis but in the last year or so the economy has begun to improve and the numbers in favor of independence started to shrink. They realized it's now or never for the independence putsch and they found a willing accomplice in Putin who sill support any cause that discredits democracy, the rule of law or the EU.
If Catalonia were to 'achieve' independence in spite of the lack of a majority being in favor then it would be forced out of the EU (independence leaders have lied to the public for years) and forced out of the Euro (within about three months they'd have to find another currency) and face massive capital loss as businesses that wanted access to the EU would relocate to Spain.
Rajoy has been given the green light by EU leaders to deal with the situation and so far he's shown restraint (within the Spanish context) an adult dealing with noisy entitled infants.
There is no legal or ethical or practical reason supporting independence unless the notoriously corrupt local government wants to use the event to rob the country blind (at least two major Catalan political leaders, including the father of the modern independence movement have been caught out of secret bank accounts)