Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Make Constitutional Reform More Popular

At Quotha on Friday, Adrienne Pine posted some of the results of a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner that, third in a row, shows that the Honduran people do not support the coup and have a better opinion of Zelaya than of Micheletti.

Boz has now presented more of the data from this poll (which you can download here) and offered commentary on it. One of his conclusions:
The crisis has also increased support for a constitutional reform. If the conflict among the political factions in Honduras has shown the public anything, it's that their constitution has some flaws.
Let's follow through on this theme.

By a margin of 81% to 15%, the poll respondents said Honduras is heading in the wrong direction. They disapprove of the removal of the President from office on June 28 by a margin of 60% to 38%. Only 14% say the best way to deal with the dispute in June was to remove President Zelaya; 70% agree that the legal processes should have been pursued. Considering options to solve the current crisis, by a margin of 82% to 17%, they do not approve of sending President Zelaya into exile outside the country.

Respondents were more than twice as likely to feel Zelaya did a good job as President: 67% of respondents rated the job performance of President Zelaya as excellent or good, as opposed to 31% rating his job performance bad or poor.

Opinion on Micheletti's job performance, in contrast, is considerably more polarized: 47% rank him excellent or good; 50% bad or poor. Despite this, by a margin of 72% to 27%, respondents do not approve of Micheletti staying on as President as a proposed solution to the current crisis. That means that half of those who approve of his job performance think he has to step aside to solve the current crisis.

If we are to be concerned about polarization of the country, we could say that Micheletti clearly has increased that problem, producing a deadlock in opinion today where President Zelaya's government had a less than one-third disapproval.

Asked about possible solutions to the current crisis, most responses today echo the increased polarization caused by the coup and its aftermath; proceeding with the legal case against President Zelaya is the only option to have a slight majority: 51% to 47% disapproving. Alternative proposals for President Zelaya to resume his office "with full powers", or "with limited powers", poll at 46/52 and 49/50 approval/disapproval. Statistically, while we do not have a stated margin of error, I would treat all of these as virtually the same: the country is deadlocked about what to do about President Zelaya.

And here is the amazing stuff:

Asking about options to resolve the current crisis, one option offered was
22 Hold an assembly to reform the Constitution
This received the highest majority of all the options offered: an 11 point majority in favor of this, 54% to 43%. Even when you look at the levels of strong approval and strong disapproval of this option (factoring out the weak support or resistance to this solution) this option holds up: 43% of respondents strongly approved of it; while only 33% strongly disapproved of it.

Remember, this is as a solution to the current crisis. Now. Not some time in the future.

Nor is this support for constitutional reform made with major reservations about retaining the current model of a one-term president:
Q. 14 Do you think the Honduran Constitution should be amended to allow for the re-election of presidents?
The responses:

Yes: 55%
No: 43%
Don't Know or Refused to Answer: 2%

Again, remember that presidential re-election was not what the June 28 poll asked about; it was what the anti-Zelaya press tried to make the issue. Looks like that backfired as well: even with a drum beat of opposition to presidential re-election, as unconstitutional, unpatriotic, and downright chavista, the people think maybe it is worth a second look.

And oh, by the way, Chavez? Don't like him (rating him 17 on the 100 point scale, 83% cool to 10% warm). Don't even like Venezuela much (16/100, 78% cool to 9% warm.) So no need to claim this group of respondents is somehow biased pro-Chavez. Their response has to do with Honduran politics, where Congress is seen with more jaundiced eyes than the Presidency. Even in the 2005 election, which reached a historic low in voter turnout, the percentage of the eligible voters registering their choice for President (55%) was higher than that completing a valid Congressional ballot (46%), based on data on voter turnout from IDEA.

With this as a background, are suggestions of a people's referendum on the need for a constituyente really so laughable?

Yes, I know the next steps: try to delegitimate the polling. This is an avowedly progressive polling organization. They refer to President Zelaya as "Mel". Based on self-reporting, more of these respondents voted in the last election than did so in reality (60% say they voted in that presidential election, compared to the expected 55%.) But the demographic information looks good, the distribution across the country is fine.

And eventually, doesn't the continued production of the same trends-- and no polling being disclosed with contrary results (and who among us is so naive as to think the Micheletti regime's lobbyists haven't been out there trying to massage some data into supporting their claims?)-- require the admission that the coup d'etat has failed in the long term because it has produced a majority calling for constitutional reform, the very thing it was trying to block?

Now, how do you make that happen with a government that is constructed to keep congress members in office indefinitely and where established political parties proceed in the kind of spoils system that was typical of Tammany Hall?

Oh, and one final piece from that poll: the US does not fare well in public opinion in Honduras, and these results I suspect mirror opinion in many Latin American countries. Asked to rank their feelings about various people and countries on a 100 point scale, the US received a mean score of 39 out of 100; but more significant, 51% of the respondents were "cool" towards the US, far more than the 24% who were ranked as "warm" toward the country. Barack Obama fared slightly better, receiving a mean score of 49 out of 100; but the warm/cool split was evenly balanced, 39% to 38%. It seems unlikely that many of these respondents would have voted for the Nobel Peace Prize for the US President.

Dithering and giving the impression of supporting the de facto regime has its costs.


Anonymous said...

I actually think the GQR poll probably oversampled Micheletti supporters. The Venezuela and Chavez numbers are not plausible to me, given that Venezuela had been helping bring down oil prices. There just isn't any reason that I can see for people to feel negatively. I also think that a comparison with the COIMER&OP poll is worthwhile. That poll had a larger sample size, was taken at a slightly less fraught time, and seems internally consistent. Without going into detail on why, I think that a comparison suggests that GQR probably oversampled the well-to-do.


RAJ said...

Quite possibly.

The point is: this set of respondents cannot be said to be over-representing progressive Honduran opinion. And they still think the constituente is the best route to resolve the current crisis, and are in favor of removing presidential term limits.