PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco’s record-high popularityrating has plummeted, three in four Costa Ricans are concernedabout the lack of public safety, fewer Costa Ricanadults are married compared to 16 years ago, and nearlyevery home in the country has a color TV and a refrigerator.These findings and others on a sweeping array of subjectsare the results of the most recent annual public opinionsurvey by the University of Costa Rica (UCR), releasedthis week.President Abel Pacheco wallows at his lowest level ofpopularity in 12 years, according to the poll, which is conductedannually. His popularity checked in at 67% in 1992 when hewas a congressman. It climbed steadily to more than 72% bythe year he was elected President, 2002, and has since plummetedto 26.9%.Jorge Poltronieri, researcher for the UCR School ofMathematics, called Pacheco’s popularity rating the mostimportant finding of the study, which spans political,social, economic and religious issues.“HE is being poorly advised,” Poltronieri said. “He doesn’tlisten to what the people say – people don’t agree withwhat he does. This attitude is not right in a government.”Other political figures besides Pacheco suffered a popularitydecline, including ex-President and 2006 presidential candidate Oscar Arias, who has lostpopularity since his peak in 1994. Thatyear, he enjoyed a 72.3% public approvalrating, compared to 51.6% this year.The poll has been conducted by theUCR School of Mathematics for the past16 years. This year’s poll, sponsored by theuniversity and the Social Security System(Caja) surveyed the opinions of 1,000 peopleand claims a margin of error of 3%.The poll revealed other interestingresults, such as nearly half (48.6%) ofCosta Ricans said they do not trust the justicesystem, up from 28.7% in 1988, andmore than half (53.3%) said the LegislativeAssembly is useless, up from 28.2% in1988.MORE than three-fourths (75.6%)agreed the country’s municipal governmentsare rotten with corruption, and78% said that in Costa Rica anything canbe worked out if you have enough money.Regarding the U.S.-Central AmericanFree-Trade Agreement (CAFTA), 41.3%said it will bring more poverty to the country,55.4% said it will bankrupt farmers,and 39.5% said it will damage the environment– even though 59% of the same peoplesurveyed said that overall, it wouldbenefit the country.According to the survey, people arenearly evenly divided on whether CAFTAwill negatively affect employment opportunitiesin the country, with 36.4% believingit will, and 34% believing it won’t.Also, 66.2% said it is no good that thetrade agreement has a higher rank than thecountry’s laws.Education was judged to be deficient,with 66.5% telling researchers the systemshould be completely overhauled.Although 38% said the government is notsolving the problem, another 28.8% said itis working in it.WHEN it comes to crime, the percentageof people who said they were muggedwas 18.5%, up 8% from 1988. Vehicularrobbery appears to have changed little thelast 16 years, though, and affected 5.7% ofthose polled this year.An even 60% said they believe thecourt system and the police share responsibilityfor failure in the fight againstcrime, down from 66.5% in 2002.Additionally, 40.3% said the police donot do their job well, while 29.7% saidthey are doing fine.Overall, 77.8% of those polled reporteda general feeling of a lack of safety andmore than half said the government doesnot care at all about protecting them.THE types of environmental deteriorationthat most concern Costa Ricans are thedisappearance of the ozone layer (36.2%),the destruction of forests (20.1%), litter(12.9%) and the poisoning of rivers (9.4%).And 46.1% said they believe the country isnot interested in protecting the environment.Costa Ricans have long been optimisticthat the country’s hospitals are in goodshape. Since 1998, those polled who saidthey believe their hospital equipment iscutting edge has hovered around 61%.Hopefully they are right, because 58.8% ofpeople said it is dangerous to cross thestreet anywhere between their houses andtheir places of work.People who say they believe AIDS victimsshould be isolated from the rest ofsociety have declined drastically in the past16 years, from 60.6% in 1988 to 18.2% in2004.NEARLY every home in Costa Ricahas a color TV and a refrigerator, accordingto the survey, and 44% have computers,up from 9.9% in 1989.Just over half of all homes have cars,up from 35% in 1989, and 55.3% havecell phones, compared to 38.3% twoyears ago.When it comes to immigration, 81%said someone should put the brakes onNicaraguan immigration, and 67.8% saidColombians bring violence to Costa Rica,up 17% from the year before.Complete survey results are availableonline (in Spanish) at www.odi.ucr.ac.cr.