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Hondurans' support of political system increases, despite objection to way previous president was ousted

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.

Media contact: Elizabeth Latt, (615) 322-NEWS
elizabeth.p.latt@vanderbilt.edu

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