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Venezuelans Report Highest Support for Democracy in the Region, According to Survey

Chávez Receives 55 Percent Approval Rating

Sixty-four percent of Venezuelans cite insecurity as the most severe problem affecting the country, but only 27 percent stated they have been ever victim of a crime.

“This report highlights the contrast between the perceptions that are usually presented in the mainstream media about our country and the daily experience of Venezuelans,” said Ambassador Álvarez.

Venezuelans are more likely than their counterparts from the region to support democracy according to the 2011 Latinobarometro report, an annual survey of public opinion in 18 countries in South and Central America.

The report, which is widely considered an accurate reflection of public opinion and trends in Latin America, found that Venezuela’s support for democracy has grown in the years that President Hugo Chávez has been in office. While support for democracy in 1996 and 1997 stood at 62 and 64 percent, respectively, it jumped to 84 percent for both 2009 and 2010.

“What Latinobarometro does is what the mainstream media doesn’t do – ask common Venezuelans what they think about their country and the changes they are experiencing,” said Bernardo Álvarez, ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. “Like in years past, this report shows that Venezuela broadly support democracy as their form of government and are satisfied with the democracy that they have.”

The report also shows that satisfaction with democracy in Venezuela is amongst the highest in the region. Additionally, the survey shows how that satisfaction increased under President Chávez’s government. In 1997 and 1998 satisfaction stood at 35 percent, rising to an average of 48 percent between 2000 and 2010 (in 2010 it reached 49 percent), third in the region behind only Uruguay (62 percent) and Costa Rica (53 percent) and above the regional average of 35 percent.

When asked to rank how democratic their government was, with 1 being “Not Democratic” and 10 being “Totally Democratic,” Venezuelans ranked their government 7.1. This ranking put Venezuela fourth in the region, tied with Chile and above the regional average of 6.5. Since 1998, Venezuela has held 16 elections, the most recent having taken place in September 2010. That election, for members of the National Assembly, saw the highest turnout for legislative elections in the country’s history.

Venezuelans also ranked highest in terms of their interest in politics, were least likely to argue that politics in their country is “complicated” and stood in fourth place when asked whether they believed their ideas had an impact on the government. Venezuelans were also second most-likely to express trust for their national congress and political parties.

Fifty-three percent of Venezuelans approved of President Chávez’s government from 2002-2010, putting it fourth in the region behind Argentina, Colombia and Chile and tied with Brazil. Fifty-five percent of Venezuela approved of President Chávez’s tenure.

Fifty-two percent of Venezuelans stated that the government’s policies improved their lives, third in the region behind only Uruguay and Chile. They also ranked their country highest in the region in terms of distribution of wealth, with 38 percent saying it was “Very Just” or “Just.” The regional average was 21 percent. When asked whether or not they were satisfied with their lives, 84 percent of Venezuelans answered affirmatively, second only to Costa Rica in the region.

From 1998 to 2008, poverty in Venezuela decreased from 49 percent to 27 percent. In the same period, inequality diminished, so much so that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ranked Venezuela highest for inequality reduction among 12 neighboring countries in the region.

Venezuelans were fourth most likely to have used the Internet, and ranked second in the region in terms of their use of the social network Facebook.

Crime, Insecurity and the Media

In an interesting analysis of the most severe problems facing the region, only 12 percent of Venezuelans cited unemployment, third lowest of the 18 countries, but 64 percent cited insecurity, far above its regional neighbors. Interestingly, only 27 percent of Venezuelans stated that they had ever been a victim of crime, fifth lowest in the region. That means that a 37 percent gap exists between the perception of insecurity and actual criminal incidents – the most pronounced gap in the region.

“Venezuela has long struggled to come to terms with crime and insecurity, two serious problems that the government is working hard to address appropriately but that are not unique to Venezuela. The 37 percent gap between the perception and reality seems to indicate how powerful the opposition-aligned media can be, particularly with sensitive issues that can generate fear among the population,” said Ambassador Álvarez.

“This report highlights the contrast between the perceptions that are usually presented in the mainstream media about our country and the daily experience of Venezuelans, who again show their increasing support for democracy under the government of President Chávez,” he added.

The entire report can be found here.

Press Office – Embassy of then Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S./December 9, 2010

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