We reproduce the press release in full below. We have drawn on the authoritative and long-term work by LAPOP intensively over the past months to help us understand the situation in Honduras. For example, it is their studies that showed that Hondurans had the lowest level of belief in the capacity of government institutions or democracy in the Americas. So we put a great deal of confidence in their results. At the same time, we look forward to the full report they will produce by the end of this year, which we expect will contextualize the results more than this brief press release does.
In the meantime, we want to point out some implications of the data they provide. While their lead in the press release is that support for the political system in Honduras increased, despite clear objections to the coup by a majority of respondents, we would caution that a country so deeply polarized, and marred by repression that has not ended with the transition from Roberto Micheletti's de facto regime to the administration of Lobo Sosa, can hardly be viewed with equanimity. Unthinking support for the Honduran constitution has been encouraged by polemical claims that it is an inviolate document, despite its history of almost constant revision through a process that puts control of the constitution almost entirely in the hands of the Congress.
So, while we understand why LAPOP highlights measures that suggest a higher level of support for Honduran government, we would actually suggest that some of that increased support may be something we should worry about, not just treat as a good sign. Again, we look forward to LAPOP's final report which we are certain will place these issues in more context.
Meanwhile, what can we learn from this first release of data? As did surveys we reported on in 2009, this one, completed in March, shows that Hondurans disapproved of the removal of President Zelaya (58.3%) and even more strongly, of his forced expatriation (72.7%). Hondurans solidly recognized the actions of the military as a coup d'etat ("more than" 61%).
Such high levels of reported opposition to what the respondents clearly recognize was a coup are especially striking, because the respondents to the poll also reportedly strongly objected to proposals for a constitutional assembly, with 75% of those responding to this poll reporting they had been opposed to the June 28 survey that was disrupted by the coup, and 70% reporting that they are opposed to convening a constituent assembly. (Our thanks to LAPOP for providing the wording of the questionnaire so we could confirm that the question about the June 28 survey was historical, and that the question about support for convening a constitutional assembly is in the present tense.)
Data based on retrospective reports of what opinion was at an earlier point need to be considered as likely to have been influenced by events that took place since then, so we should not consider polling in March 2010 as an indication of what people thought in June 2009. In fact, polling data over the months since June 28 show increasing self-reports of opposition to the June 28 Cuarta Urna survey.
A CID Gallup poll from shortly after the coup in 2009 also found a majority opposed to the Cuarta Urna, but in that case the proportion opposed was lower-- 63%, far outside the 2.5% range of error for the present LAPOP poll (which would suggest a range of 72.5% to 77.5%). This increase of at least 10% in expressed disapproval of the June 28 question strongly suggests that expressed opposition increased during the period when the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti controlled the country and its media, repeating representations of the Cuarta Urna designed to portray it as destructive.
But notice that the LAPOP numbers indicated that respondents who by a wide majority now say they disapproved of the June 28 Cuarta Urna campaign, and do not accept the constitutional reform goals of that campaign, still disapprove of a military coup d'etat including expatriation of a sitting president.
One correction to the press release that has to be made is with the characterization of the scheduled June 28 survey as
a poll scheduled that day to determine whether there should be a referendum on Zelaya’s plan to convene a constituent assembly to make changes to the national constitution to allow for presidential re-election.
Well, no. As we have pointed out many times: there was nothing in the written language of the question, or in the promotional materials seized by the Armed Forces, or in the statements of President Zelaya or other government members, that would justify the claim that the goal was to allow presidential re-election. That is a propaganda claim that has been so successful that it has become accepted by many English-language media and US government members. But it is wrong.
So while the poll reports that
75 percent are opposed to changing the constitution to permit presidential re-elections
that tells us less about how Hondurans felt about President Zelaya's policies than it does about the effectiveness of Honduran press distortions in spreading propaganda to the population sampled by the LAPOP poll.
There is much more to come in the report that LAPOP is producing. We truly appreciate their sharing these early results, and look forward to seeing the contextualization and more detailed data, which promise to illuminate how Hondurans currently feel about various government institutions, what their opinions are about the various media, and what they now feel about their own experiences during the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti. We concur with the authors of the press release that the positive assessment of Porfirio Lobo Sosa barely two months into his term should be seen as a honeymoon effect. As we have been reporting, Honduran media are already criticizing Lobo Sosa for every step he takes that departs from the advocacy for the power elite. It is critical to have this baseline to assess how public opinion develops over the coming months.
April 15, 2010
Media contact: Elizabeth Latt, (615) 322-NEWS
Hondurans’ support of political system increases, despite objection to way previous president was ousted
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A majority of Hondurans opposed the ouster and exile of President Manuel Zelaya last summer, even though they strongly objected to his attempt to change the nation’s constitution, a recent comprehensive survey of the nation’s population found.
The findings of the survey by the Latin American Public Opinion Project “suggest that there are important strengths in Honduran political culture, yet agreement is far from universal,” Mitchell A. Seligson, Vanderbilt University Centennial Professor of Political Science and LAPOP director, said.
In their report, survey analysts conclude, “The results … provide evidence for a population highly attuned to and supportive of the nation’s constitutional charter … and opposed [to] the former president’s attempt to change the constitution by what many considered illegal, or at best controversial means.
“On the other hand, Hondurans clearly oppose the manner by which the political establishment sought to stop Zelaya’s policies,” the analysts said.
The study was authored by Orlando J. Perez, chairman of Central Michigan University’s Department of Political Science and a member of the LAPOP’s scientific support group.
Less than two months after the inauguration of popularly elected President Porforio Lobo, the Hondurans’ support of the political system has improved, the survey found. Lobo also enjoys a considerable boost in his approval rating over that of the former president, although survey analysts said that “may well reflect the ‘honeymoon’ effect of a new administration.”
The survey is part of The AmericasBarometer 2010, a multi-nation study of public opinion in the Americas. The Honduran project was conducted between March 6 and 26 and is the result of surveys of nearly 1,600 Hondurans in nine different regions of the country. It is the latest survey in the Central American country by the LAPOP, based at Vanderbilt University and funded largely by the U.S. Agency for International Development with additional support from the United Nations Development Program, the Inter-American Development Bank and Princeton University. The survey’s margin of error is approximately plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Zelaya’s ouster came June 28, 2009, when he was taken into custody by the military on orders of the Supreme Court. The action resulted in the cancellation of a poll scheduled that day to determine whether there should be a referendum on Zelaya’s plan to convene a constituent assembly to make changes to the national constitution to allow for presidential re-election.
After Zelaya was exiled, the Honduran Congress voted him out of office and installed the president of Congress as the interim head of government. In November Lobo was chosen president in popular elections that had been scheduled before last summer’s change in power.
“The victory of Porfirio ‘Pepe’ Lobo in the November 2009 presidential elections, along with the departure of Zelaya from Honduras and a general amnesty to those involved on either side of the crisis, seemed to have significantly increased support for the political system, as compared to 2008 when Zelaya was in power,” the report said. That is the year that the last previous AmericasBarometer was undertaken.
Seligson founded the LAPOP in the 1970s to conduct scientific surveys of Latin American citizens about their opinions and behaviors related to building and strengthening democracies. It functions as a consortium of academic partners throughout the hemisphere. The AmericasBarometer survey has expanded so that in 2010 it includes 26 nations in Central America, the Caribbean, South America and North America.
Findings of The AmericasBarometer 2010 survey of Honduras, which will be presented in greater detail in the months ahead on www.LapopSurveys.org, include:
- 75 percent opposed the poll that President Zelaya proposed to conduct on a referendum for a constituent assembly.
- 70 percent opposed formation of a constituent assembly.
- 75 percent are opposed to changing the constitution to permit presidential re-elections.
- Two-thirds said Zelaya violated the constitution while just over half said the military had not.
- More than 61 percent said the actions taken by the military on June 28 constitute a coup d’etat.
- Majorities opposed the ouster of Zelaya (58.3 percent) and his exile (72.7 percent).
- Support of the political system increased by 14 points (on a 0-100 scale) from an average of 46.4 in 2008 to 60.4 in 2010.
- Presidential approval has increased significantly. In 2008 President Zelaya’s approval rating stood at 47.5 on a scale of 0-100. In March 2010, Lobo received 66.2 on the same scale.