The results of the last national survey show that the levels of confidence in state institutions among Colombian citizens is at an all-time low, according to a recent poll.
The latest survey prepared by the Ipsos Public Affairs Research revealed a serious institutional crisis unfolding in Colombia.
With the exception of the Church and the National Army, practically all other institutions – the Congress, the Justice system, the Treasury, the media and political parties – are deemed untrustworthy by the respondents.
Level of trust in Colombia’s institutions
In spite of being the most trusted institution, only half of all respondents declare confidence in the Colombian Armed Forces, which indicates a dropping tendency when compared to 56% from April of last year. Among potential reasons behind such negative trend are the illegal wiretapping, corruption scandals, and proliferating sense of lack of security expressed by Colombians. Out of all security forces, the National Police received the lowest confidence rating.
Justice system & Legislative powers hit bottom
Other institutions with the lowest social approval include the justice system, high courts and the Congress. According to the survey, 77% of Colombians believes the Justice system is not working towards the progress of the state. Another 73% express the lack of confidence in high courts and their role in the country.
Similarly low are the levels of trust in tribunals. The Supreme Court is viewed negatively by 60% of Colombians, while the Constitutional Court, which until a few years ago used to be one of the most respected institutions in the country, has a negative image among 57% of the respondents.
Worse even are the rating of the legislative powers. The work of the Senate of Colombia is assessed unfavorably by 75% of those surveyed. Only 20% think differently. Little consolation provides the fact that over the last year the Senate has gained 2%-worth of support.
According to Javier Restrepo, the director of the Ipsos, the negative image of the Congress has had damaging influence on the image of the politicians inside it. This could explain the dramatic drop in support for the ex-president and congressman Alvaro Uribe. Only between April and November of this year, Uribe saw his approval rating shrink by 16%, dropping lowest since August 2003.
However low, Uribe is still the most popular senator out of all those included in the survey. Behind him in the popularity ranks are Juan Manuel Galan with 40% support; Carlos Fernando Galan with 37 %; Horacio Serpa with 36%; Claudia Lopez, 29%, and Jorge Robledo, with 28%.
Political parties, monitoring bodies & the media follow suit
The lack of confidence in institutions expands on political parties, which failed to achieve more than 30% support. The best ranked is the Liberal Party with 29% approval, followed by Uribe’s Democratic Center and the Green Party backed by 28%. The last in the pecking order is the Radical Change, which can count with favorable opinion of only 23% of respondents.
It is hardly surprising that the number of people declaring lack of political affiliation rose from 32% in May 2014 to 38% in the last inquiry.
The monitoring bodies fail the test with equally miserable result. As any as 60% of the respondents are skeptical about the work by the Comptroller, compared to just 32% who support the institution. Remarkable is the fact that in spite of accusations of embezzlement of the Comptroller general Sandra Morelli and her subsequent escape from the country from earlier this year, the entity received similar rating as in 2013.
The media and their ratings according to the survey also deserve a mention. The last year represents a clear loss of confidence by the respondents, from 48% to 40% of those who approve of the work the media have been doing. They are the lowest numbers registered since November 2011.
Apart from the confidence inquiry, Ipsos asked the respondents if they have a favorable or unfavorable image of the media. 53% opted for the negative image, 9 points more than last year, while positive opinion was expressed by 40%, 10 points less than in the last survey.
Clear is the polarization caused by the electoral campaign, as well as divisions on matters such the peace process or security management, among other issues, which have impacted the society at large.
Javier Restrepo from Ipsos admitted that even though the lack of confidence from the citizens and undermined credibility of the institutions is nothing new, the levels exposed by this year’s edition of the survey are alarming, and call for the State officials to take firm steps to reverse the tendency.
Curiously enough, the government was among the few institutions which managed to recover the confidence of the respondents. Whereas last year’s number indicated support of 23%, the new edition saw an increase to 31%. This is explainable by the crisis from November 2012, which saw the country plunge in chaos caused by an agricultural strike.
Apart from the clear sings of an imminent institutional crisis, the survey reveals some positive developments.
In the last year, the perception that things are going the right direction in Colombia has increased from 40 to 45%. Similarly encouraging responses were generated by questions about the economic situation. The percentage of those thinking that the economy has improved grew from 34 to 41%. Reversely, those who think things have gotten worse are 7% less than last year.
When asked about the problems that affect the citizens the most, 35% replied “unemployment”, followed by 32% singling out the lack of security, 15% declaring corruption and 14% opting for high living costs. Surprisingly, only 11% mentioned the violence or lack of peace as the most worrisome factor in Colombia.
However, when grouping together different sub-categories, it becomes clear that security does represent the biggest problem in the eyes of the Colombian society.
Santos doing slightly better
The only public figure who hasn’t recorded a fall in popularity is the president of the Republic, Juan Manuel Santos, thought favorably of by 40% of participants.
A separate chapter in the survey was devoted to president Santos and the first 100 days of his second tenure. Although at first glance the results are not encouraging for Santos, when compared with the records from September 2013, the time of profound crisis for the government, his image has enhanced considerably. While in the Fall of last year only 26% of the respondents assessed his presidency favorably, the last inquiry shows an increase to 38% in approval.
Despite this upturn, the majority of participants (67 percent) believes that Santos is not fulfilling what he promised at the beginning of his second term. His image is viewed unfavorably by 56% and another 55% believe that during his first 100 days things are equally bad or worse than before.
However, more than half of Colombians approves the current administration’s housing and foreign policies. Worse are Santos’ results in education, economy, security and employment. The topic of peace, the flagship of his presidency, receives a meagre 36% support.
Peace process – yes, but with conditions
When it comes to peace negotiations with FARC, it is rather clear that majority of Colombians remains critical of transitional justice measures, potential political participation or abolished prison sentences. With that being said, the optimism about the peace process among the respondents has been restored, if only to small degree.
In the middle of the presidential campaign in April 2014, only 33% of Colombians were optimistic about peace talks in Havana, the lowest support recored since the beginning in September 2012. Over the first 100 days of Santos’ second term, the number has built up by 9 points and now indicates 42%.
However, the perception of the peace talks with the guerrilla among Colombians is rather paradoxical. While 55% of the respondents declares support for the process, 81% of them are convinced that the guerrilla members should end in jail, and 70% opposes the idea of their participation in politics.
These results prove that the current government faces a difficult task to convince Colombians to opt in favor of the peace process ahead of a potential popular referendum about the agreements in Havana.