KEY COMMUNICATION AND DEVELOPMENT WEBSITES
Urban Guatemala Articles in Focus
Guatemalans Show Little Trust for their Government, while Supporting Democracy
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the world, and wide inequities leave many residents at a severe socioeconomic disadvantage. This has an influence on citizens' opinions about governance as well as the role of media and democracy in a developing nation.
Increasingly, in discussions about development, governance issues have taken center stage as citizens and aid donors alike recognize the crucial role of accountability and responsiveness of government and other key national institutions for successful development efforts. The InterMedia survey in Guatemala asked people about their level of trust in government and other institutions, as well as their views on democracy and the role of media in society.
Urban Guatemalans expressed strong distrust and dissatisfaction with their national government. Roughly 30 percent said they either somewhat distrusted their government, but close to 40 percent expressed complete distrust (Chart 1A). Similar results were observed when respondents were asked to guage their satisfaction levels in the government; 75 percent expressed disatisfaction (Chart 1B). The results of the AudienceScapes/Intermedia survey corroborate other surveys, such as the Ibero Barometro, which showed that the President of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, has one of the lowest approval ratings in Latin America.
Parliament received a less than satisfactory grade, with close to half of respondents expressing complete or some distrust (chart 1C). Local and municipal governments fared only slightly better on the trustworthiness scale; with 56 percent expressing complete or partial trust (chart 1D).
Trust in Other Institutions
Beyond govenrment, the highest trust was placed in religious institutions- 81 percent of urban Guatemalans said that they either completely or somewhat trusted them.
Urban Guatemalans were also highly likely to trust public health and educational institutions (charts 2A and 2C). What's more, despite the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis, more than 50 percent respondents said they trusted banks and financial institutions (Chart 2D).
However, 60 percent of the respondents believed that the courts and judges were partial, and close to 70 percent of the respondents either completely or somewhat distrusted them.
The respondents also had low levels of trust in institutions protecting state and public security- only between 23 percent and 40 percent of respondents expressed trust in the police or the army.
Opinions on Democracy
Mistrust in government does not seem to have lessened urban Guatemalan’s faith in democracy. As can be seen in Charts 3A and 3B, close to two thirds of urbanites surveyed agreed that Guatemala is a democratic country, and that democracy is preferable to other types of government.
Public Opinion of the Media
The media in Guatemala is dominated by a few groups. The Mexican Angel Gonzalez Gonzalez owns most available TV stations and owns most of the important radio stations in Guatemala (click here for more information on the media outlets he owns). Angel Gonzalez Gonzales is also perceived to have a close relationship with the government. Indeed, about 70 percent of survey respondents said they consider that the media is influenced by the government and economic groups (Chart 4A and 4B). Nearly as many consider that there is a self censorship in the media (Chart 5).
Legal guarantees of free speech have been improved, but the security environment for journalists has declined significantly since 2007. Despite a controlled media environment, a surprisingly high number of respondents placed their trust in the media and also considered it to be relatively free (Charts 6A and 6B). Given the responses to the previous questions about the media, this may indicate a general lack of awareness about the nature of truly free, uncensored and democratic media.
Interest in News Topics
A significant proportion of respondents (93 percent) said they were very or somewhat interested in staying informed about national news, but their interest in news about neighboring countries was much lower (Charts 7A and 7B). Respondents were very interested in economic news. Interest in news about politics was rather low, although youth show highest level of interest (Charts 7C and 7D; youth levels not shown in charts).