San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Poll: Indifference, Discontent on the Rise

COSTA Ricans don’t like theirPresident. They don’t like their legislators.They think private businesses are robbingthem. They don’t trust the justice system.They say their municipalities are riddledwith corruption, and they are very worriedabout the Central American Free-TradeAgreement with the United States(CAFTA).Such are the conclusions of a poll conductedlast month by the math departmentof the University of Costa Rica (UCR).Results were released last week.“We (Costa Ricans) don’t believe inanything. I have never seen the countryface as severe a crisis as we are facingnow,” said Jorge Poltronieri, author of thestudy, which has been conducted everyyear since 1988.Nearly one-half (44%, rounded to thenearest percentage point) of poll respondentssaid President Abel Pacheco has leda terrible administration. Pacheco’sapproval rating is at a dismal 19%,although this number may have taken a hitbecause Pacheco was accused of inappropriatelyaccepting gifts shortly before thepoll was conducted (TT, June 3).In addition, 57% of respondents saidthe Legislative Assembly is “useless,” upfrom 28% in 1988.POLITICAL analyst Luis GuillermoSolís, head of UCR’s political science graduateprogram, said that although this is justone poll in many, it does follow a trend.“When you look in the larger contextof other indicators (polls), it’s consistentand reflects the national mood,” Solís said.“Sometimes the mood is better thanothers – even over the last four years wehave seen ups and downs. But the performancesof the government and economyare not helping,” he added.In what Poltronieri said is a “sad statementon society,” 59% of respondents saidpolitics and corruption are one and the same;a nearly equal amount said people whobecome involved in politics do so to steal.Corruption is also found in the SupremeCourt and among union leaders, accordingto 57% of respondents. While this year’s polldid not include a question about municipalcorruption, 77% ofthose polled in 2004said it is a seriousproblem.Meanwhile, theprivate sector isrobbing the state of“all it can,” accordingto 58% ofrespondents.Only 24% saidthe justice systemcan be trusted, downfrom 43% in 1988.THE poll’s objective is to analyze theevolution of Costa Rican thought, focusingon controversial issues to understandwhich conflicts eventually bring change,according to UCR officials.“It’s not just sounding out public opinion.It’s taking a long-term look at the resultsof important structural changes in the system,”said Henning Jensen, UCR vice-rector.This year’s poll revealed that CostaRica is lacking consensus on anything,according to Asdrúbal Méndez, director ofthe UCR math department.“We are experiencing a moment ofgreat uncertainty in Costa Rica. It is urgentthat the country find consensus again,” hesaid.THAT consensus has not come fromCAFTA. While 47% of poll respondentsbelieve the trade agreement will bring benefitsto Costa Rica (down from 59% in2004), nearly the same amount – 45% –say it will bring poverty.Respondents were split on a stream ofother questions focused on the trade agreement’spossible negative consequences,with 45% saying CAFTA would hurt theenvironment, 54% saying it would causebankruptcy among farmers, 48% saying itwould drive up the cost of medicine, and39% saying it would increase unemployment.In general, political indifference hasincreased and allegiance to a particularparty is fading. Respondents who said theywere “indifferent” to a political positionamounted to 45%, up from 31% in 1988.The left also appears to be growing, with8% describing themselves as “left” or“extreme left,” up from 2.6% in 1988.Respondents who claimed the SocialChristian Unity Party (PUSC) as their partydropped from 29% in 1988 to 15% this year;National Liberation Party (PLN) supportwas also cut in half from 41% in 1988 to21% now. People who said they have noparty more than doubled, from 20% to 48%.THIS political uncertainty carried overwhen respondents were asked which presidentialcandidate they will support in the2006 elections. Forty-two percent said “noone” and another 14% gave no response,while 19% support Liberation’s Arias, 9%support the Citizen Action Party’s OttónSolís, 4% support the LibertarianMovement’s Otto Guevara, 4% support theUnion for Change’s Antonio ÁlvarezDesanti, 3% support PUSC’s RicardoToledo and 2% support the Patriotic UnionParty’s José Miguel Corrales.“This poll quite definitely shows therewill be a second round (in the election), butthat could change as the campaign getsgoing,” analyst Solís said.One thousand Costa Ricans over age18 were interviewed for the poll. The sampleincluded 30% housewives and 10%students. The poll focused on high-densityareas, where people’s opinions are moreaffected by others, Poltronieri said. It has a3% margin of error.Other results from the poll:• The country’s “crisis” state is affectingemotional health, Poltronieri says.When respondents were asked if they hadexperienced sadness in the past month,41% said yes, up from 17% in 1988.Insomnia has doubled from 15% to 30%.• Feelings of insecurity have increased.Three quarters of Costa Ricans said they nolonger feel safe, while 68% said this in 1988.• Technology in the household isincreasing: 43% of Costa Rican householdshave computers, although only 12%use the Internet in their homes; 59% havecell phones; 78% have home phones; and95% have televisions.• Marriage is becoming less commonand families are becoming smaller. Thenumber of married Costa Ricans hasdropped from 60% in 1988 to 43% in 2005.The divorce rate has more than doubled in17 years from 3% to 7%. The number ofhouseholds with one or no childrenincreased from 31% to 44%, while thosewith three or more fell from 26% to 15%.• Practice of religion is decreasing.Non-practicing Catholics more than doubledfrom 13% in 1988 to 29% in 2005.Costa Ricans who don’t practice any religionalso increased from 4% to 10%. Trustin the church is also falling – 62% of thosepolled said the Catholic Church is hidingpriests’ abuse against minors.• Costa Ricans continue to demandmore control of immigration. While in2004, 81% of those polled said the stateshould stop Nicaraguan immigration, thisyear, 86% said the state should control theentrance of foreigners.

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