San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Ricans Score Poorly in Knowledge of Constitution

Though Costa Rica is getting high marks on the world playing field for its quality of government, it’s not getting the same high praise at home.

A recent survey by the Arias Foundation found people lacked confidence in the Legislative Assembly, the president and political parties, giving them an average of 5 on a 10-point confidence scale.

Only 12 percent of those polled said they are familiar with the Constitution and only 20 percent believe they respect the laws of the Constitution (69 percent said they respected them only some of the time). The study was conducted among 1,250 people and claims a margin of error of 2.98 percent.

“This study only raised more questions than it answered,” said Luis Alberto Cordero, executive director of the Arias Foundation, which collaborated with a handful of other organizations to undertake the study. “We need to start asking why there is a lack of confidence and why people violate the law.”

Cordero pointed to education as one reason for the negative results.

“If people don’t know what these institutions do, of course they aren’t going to have confidence in them,” he said. “That is only natural…. It’s absolutely a problem of education.”

But the same week the Arias Foundation published its report, the World Bank released numbers indicating Costa Rica ranks in some of the highest percentiles for government accountability and effectiveness.

In this year’s World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators report, Costa Rica topped most other countries in Latin America for political stability, and control of corruption, among other factors.

The study found that Costa Rica ranked higher than 77 percent of countries surveyed for accountability, better than 66 percent for government effectiveness, above 70 percent for control of corruption and higher than 65 percent for political stability (which is only one percentage point behind the United Kingdom).

But Cordero didn’t take any pride in the numbers.

“This is not something that necessarily makes me happy,” he said. “This is a very integrated region and if something goes wrong in one country, it greatly affects us.”

He added, “It is evident from our study (The Culture of the Constitution in Costa Rica) that we have a lot of work to do here.”

–Chrissie Long


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