A series of polls by research company Unimer have been stirring up political discussion in Costa Rica. Although presidential elections are not until 2014, the polls published by the daily La Nación are testing the waters for the country’s political future.
Poll results were published in several of last week’s editions of La Nación. Each explored aspects of main political topics in the country, from public opinions on tax reform to political figures including former Costa Rican President José María Figueres and San José Mayor Johnny Araya.
One of the most highly discussed polls showed that 86 percent of Costa Ricans did not believe explanations Figueres gave about a $900,000 payment in 2004 from telecommunications company Alcatel (TT, Dec. 9). Figueres talked about the issue during a December interview with Telenoticias’ Ignacio Santos.
Two weeks after the interview, Figueres visited Costa Rica for the first time in 11 years. He met with National Liberation Party (PLN) leaders, including President Laura Chinchilla.
Unimer’s poll asked 1,200 Costa Ricans if they thought that Figueres’ collaboration with the current Liberation government would be beneficial or detrimental to the country. The results showed that 82 percent of Costa Ricans believed Figures’ possible return to politics here would be detrimental. Eighty-eight percent of respondents did not want Figueres to run for president in 2014.
“It is very unlikely that this tendency will be reversed in a short-term period,” Unimer Vice President Catalina García told ADN Radio on Jan. 30. “Past public-opinion polls have shown that these results will likely continue.”
In another poll, 43 percent of Costa Ricans said they would not vote for Figueres.
A second poll published the same day revealed that if the PLN had to choose its presidential candidate today, Mayor Araya would likely win.
“Although I think it’s still too early to launch a campaign, I am glad to see the results,” Araya said. “I know that they are related to the fact that people are noticing that things are getting done in San José, and they appreciate the hard work. When the moment is right I will decide if I want to be a candidate or not.”
The poll asked 331 PLN members which candidate they would choose if the elections were held today. Figueres placed second, with support from 16 percent of PLN respondents.
The poll’s third- and fourth-place finishers, Antonio Álvarez Desanti and Rodrigo Arias, respectively, have both expressed interest in a 2014 presidential bid. Of the PLN respondents, Desanti received 14 percent approval and Arias 9 percent.
From the Citizen Action Party (PAC), party founder Ottón Solís remains the most popular candidate of those polled, although following his defeat in the 2010 elections, Solís declared he would no longer seek the presidency.
If Solís sits out the 2014 race, it will be the first time in PAC history that another candidate would run. Solís was a presidential candidate in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
According to Unimer, 52 percent of voters who declare themselves supporters of PAC would prefer to see Solís run for president. Former legislator Epsy Campbell placed second, with 20 percent.
A different poll, conducted by CID Gallup for the daily La República, showed that 43 percent of Costa Ricans would choose Campbell over Solís.
Another Unimer poll asked Costa Ricans about their opinion of Costa Rica’s proposed tax reform plan. The results, published by La Nación, showed that three out of four Costa Ricans opposed the government’s fiscal plan.
Only 13 percent supported the tax reform proposal, which is currently under discussion in Congress. The results showed that most of the public opposes one of Chinchilla’s main policy objectives.
“It is common that raising taxes generates predominantly negative reactions from the public. This attitude can be found here in Costa Rica and in many other countries,” a statement from Casa Presidencial noted.
According to the poll, when participants were shown a list of options to resolve Costa Rica’s burgeoning fiscal deficit, 50 percent favored a decrease in public spending and 46 percent opted for better collection of existing taxes.