Survey finds Costa Ricans satisfied or at least stoic

A new survey paints Costa Ricans as distrustful of others, generally satisfied with their life but confronting criminality. The survey also shows that most Costa Ricans think they can make ends meet with their family income.

They do not believe the government functions for their best interest, yet they are strong supporters of democracy and reject authoritarian leaders. About a quarter of Costa Ricans said that the distribution of wealth in the country was just.

The results by Corporación Latinobarómetro came from 19,000 interviews in 18 countries. The surveys reflect the views of 400 million inhabitants, the company said. The non-profit firm does a similar study each year. There were no dramatic changes in Costa Rican public opinion from prior years, but the confidence in government and progress seemed to decline.

Only 18 percent of the Costa Ricans think that the country is progressing. That is against 35 percent of Latin Americans. In Panama, to the question “Would you say this country is progressing, standing still or going backwards?” some 64 percent said progressing.

In 24 of 18 countries, the opinion held of progress was lower compared to 2010. In Costa Rica, that belief dropped 13 points.

However, Costa Ricans were the Latin leader in believing that they are satisfied with life. The question was “Would you say that you are very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not very satisfied or not satisfied at all with your life.” In all Latin countries, more than half said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied. The survey said that 88 percent of Costa Ricans opted for the first two categories. But so did 87 percent of the Panamanians and 83 percent of the Colombians.

Some news reports said that this meant Costa Ricans were the happiest, playing on the promotional theme advanced by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. But being satisfied and being happy are not the same.

Respondents in El Salvador and Bolivia were the least satisfied with just 51 percent saying they were satisfied or somewhat satisfied.

About a quarter of Costa Ricans said that the distribution of wealth in the country was very just or just. The figure for 2011 was 24 percent, down two points from 2010. Some 42 percent of Ecuadorians said the distribution of wealth in that country was very just or just, reflecting the current political situation. That was up 10 points from 2010. Meanwhile, responses in Honduras fell 8 points from 20 to 12 percent. That also reflected political conditions there.

Overall only 20 percent of Latin American respondents and 19 percent of Central American respondents said the distribution of wealth was very just or just. Curiously, only 6 percent of respondents in Chile, a wealth country, said that about the distribution of wealth.

Just 10 percent of Latin Americans and 14 percent of Central Americans agreed that their family income was not sufficient to cover their needs. Some 23 percent in the Dominican Republic said this, but just 7 percent in Costa Rica.

Just 65 percent of Costa Ricans agreed that democracy is preferable to any other form of government. But 77 percent of Venezuelans agreed with this. Nicaragua at 50 percent, Brazil at 45, Honduras at 43, México at 40 and Guatemala at 36 percent were the only countries where the majority did not choose democracy.

Still only 44 percent of Costa Ricans said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with democracy. Only in Uruguay (72 percent), Argentina (58 percent) and Panamá (54 percent) did a majority of respondents express satisfaction with democracy. That opinion was shared by 36 percent of Central Americans and 39 percent of all Latins.

Costa Rica led every country when citizens were asked if they would support a military government. Fully 90 percent said no. Just 14 percent said that in some circumstances an authoritarian government would be preferable. Guatemala, which just elected a tough-talking former general as president, was at the bottom of the list with just 40 percent rejecting a military government.

Still only 59 percent of Costa Ricans agreed with the statement that without a national congress there could not be democracy. That was even lower than Nicaragua with 63 percent. Some 59 percent of Latin Americans agreed with this statement and 60 percent of those in Central America.

The majority in every country except Uruguay disagreed with the statement that their government was for the well being of all the people. Costa Rica was a mere 19 percent, 13th in a list of 18 countries. That was a 13-point decline since 2010.

When asked to name the country’s most pressing problem, 45 percent in Costa Rica said criminality. That was second only to the 61 percent in Venezuela. Only 3 percent of respondents in Nicaragua cited this as a problem. Other possible choices were poverty, inflation, corruption, unemployment and the economy.

To explore the criminality situation, surveyors asked if the respondent or someone close has been robbed, subject to aggression or had been the victim of a felony in the last 12 months. Some 38 percent of the Costa Rican respondents said yes. That was fourth on the list after 42 percent in México, 40 percent in Perú and 39 in Argentina. Panamá was at the bottom of the list with only 19 percent saying this. In Central America 30 percent said yes, while 33 percent among Latins said yes.

Only 18 percent of Costa Ricans said they could trust the majority of the people. That was in contrast to 35 percent in the Dominican Republic and 33 percent in Honduras. Only 15 percent of the Nicaraguans said they could trust the majority of people.

On all the national institutions, the majority of respondents only expressed confidence in the church. Some 65 percent of Central Americans did and 64 percent of Latin Americans did.

Of national leaders, Laura Chinchilla Miranda received a 5.3 on a 10-point scale, but that was higher than Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega at 4.4 and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, also at 4.4. Fully 76 percent of the respondents did not know who Laura Chinchilla was. Some 18 percent had not heard of Barack Obama, who scored a 6.3 to lead the list.

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