Guyanese are gloomy about the economy while confidence in politics, political parties, and satisfaction with the way democracy works have declined since 2012, according to a survey last year for the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP).
Results also show positive trends as it relates to corruption and crime victimization as less persons report being asked to pay a bribe or being the victim of at least one of any type of crime in the preceding 12 months before the survey was done. The results also indicate that Guyanese are more satisfied with their lives.
Guyanese, however, also have the lowest level of trust in the police in the Americas. Some of these findings were reported by Stabroek News last November.
LAPOP, run by US university Vanderbilt, conducts the AmericasBarometer survey every two years which is a scientifically rigorous comparative study that covers 26 countries including Guyana, all of the mainland independent countries in North, Central, and South America, as well as a significant number of countries in the Caribbean.
The survey measures values, behaviours, and socio-economic conditions in the Americas using national probability samples of voting-age adults. The latest survey was done during the months of June and July last year and sampled 1558 individuals from across the nation to give a representative sample of the country.
Several significant findings were presented to the public at the Georgetown Club yesterday and Dr Mitchell Seligson, the founder and senior adviser to LAPOP, said that some are ”very provocative especially at this stage in Guyana’s history.”
When questioned on whether it could influence the outcome of the upcoming May 11 general elections, Director of LAPOP Dr. Elizabeth Zechmeister cautioned that the poll is not an election poll. She noted that the data was from the middle of last year. “This is not an election poll. It doesn’t speak to the current electoral environment,” she stated.
Dr. Zechmeister described the finding on optimism on the economy as a stark finding. “Between 2012 and 2014, we see a significant decline in economic optimism in the country,” she said. On a scale from 0 to 100, optimism declined from 47.2 in 2012 to 29 in 2014. Prior to that, optimism on the economy had risen steadily.
The results also showed that acceptance of domestic violence is relatively high. According to the survey, 10.2% of Guyanese approve of a man hitting his wife if she is unfaithful while 25.4% do not approve but understand. 64.4% neither approve nor understand. The 35.6% of persons who accepts a husband hitting his wife if she is unfaithful places Guyana close to the top among countries in the region who accept domestic violence.
Guyana also ranks low in the region on acceptance of gay individuals being permitted to run for public office. On a 0 to 100 scale with a higher score indicating greater acceptance, the value for Guyana is 20.1 which is among the very low segment and just above Guatemala, Belize, Jamaica and Haiti at the bottom.
Political system support
Since 2012, there was also a decline in political system support and decreased satisfaction with the way democracy works. In terms of system support, persons were asked to what extent they believed the courts in Guyana guaranteed a fair trial, to what extent they respected the political institutions of Guyana, to what extent they thought that citizens’ basic rights are well protected by the political system of Guyana, to what extent the respondents felt proud of living under the political system of Guyana, and to what extent they thought that one should support the political system in Guyana.
From 2006, the values increased, but from 2012, the values decreased from 59 from that year to 46.9 for 2014 on a scale of 0 to 100 with a higher value indicating more support.
Guyanese satisfaction with democracy also declined from 46.4 in 2012 to 39.9 in 2014. Afro-Guyanese were less satisfied with the way democracy works with an average of 28.5 satisfaction while Indo-Guyanese’s satisfaction was 48.1. It was suggested that the rise then fall as it relates to these areas, was due to the ending of an initial honeymoon period after the 2011 elections.
Further, according to the survey, 31.5% believe that the economy is the most serious problem facing the country while 27% believe that security is the most serious problem and 25.6% identified politics as the most serious problem.
Trust in the executive, political parties and the parliament also declined significantly between 2012 and 2014. The survey also found that young people have more trust in political parties than older persons.
The number of Guyanese who believe that government is interested in what people think has also dropped from an average of 38.2 in 2012 to 30.7 in 2014. Those living in the interior and Indo-Guyanese are more likely to say that the government is interested in people like them while Afro-Guyanese are less likely to feel that way with the average for Afro-Guyanese being 19.7 while for Indo-Guyanese the average is 37.7.
The survey also indicated that confidence in judicial institutions and the police declined sharply between 2012 and 2014. In Guyana, police are trusted the least with political parties ranked only slightly higher. Guyana has the lowest level of trust in the police in the region and this trust has decreased over time. Between 2012 and 2014, trust in the police in Guyana decreased by 10 points on a 0 to 100 scale from 45.8 in 2012 to 35.4 in 2014. “The drop has been most steep for those who identified as Afro-Guyanese,” Dr. Zechmeister said.
However, according to the survey, solicitation of bribes by the police has not increased in recent years in Guyana.
According to Dr. Zechmeister, it is worrying to see the decline in the level of trust of the institutions particularly the police. “Something is driving it that is probably not good,” she said. “That is troublesome.”