San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica gov't minister dismisses Vanderbilt as 'some university in Tennessee'

It looks like Presidency Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides isn’t a fan of the Commodores. 

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Benavides and Communications Minister Carlos Roverssi were asked to comment on a report about slumping support in Costa Rica for the political system, according to Vanderbilt University’s 2012 Latin American Public Opinion Project.

According to LAPOP, Ticos in 2012 were the most dissatisfied with their system of government since the start of the hemisphere-wide survey that takes place every two years. 

Costa Rica ranked 10th out of the 26 Latin American countries surveyed for the 2012 report, down from 4th in 2006. 

Granted, the news was old (the report came out in April after all) but with elections fast approaching on Feb. 2, 2014, the daily La Nación tried to breathe new life into the story over the weekend by asking how the low morale would affect voter turnout.

Benavides responded that the survey was an “irresponsible, isolated” study from “some university in Tennessee” that he had never heard of, and dismissed the study’s findings.

“It seems to me that this is a game institutions play with specific figures to misrepresent the country’s image,” Benavides said.

For those who follow Latin American political science, however, LAPOP is hardly an “isolated” study. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States, Vanderbilt University has been collecting public opinion data in the region since 1978 when it started with just one country: Costa Rica.

The minister said that there were other studies that disputed this assessment, but he did not name them.

According to LAPOP’s website, 43,000 people were surveyed in 2010 in 26 countries. For the 2012 report, 1,500 Ticos offered their opinions.

LAPOP has received funding from USAID, the United Nations Development Program, and the Inter-American Development Bank since its launch.

The aggressive response from Benavides seemed out of place, but perhaps the administration is still stinging from the public opinion project’s assessment that dissatisfaction with Laura Chinchilla’s government played a role in the historically low ratings, along with the corrosive effects of corruption.

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