WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya is vowing to return to his country, days after troops deposed him from presidential office, and Roberto Micheletti was appointed as interim leader. When Gallup last surveyed Hondurans in September 2008, 47% said the political situation in their country was not stable at all. This is 11 percentage points higher than the Latin American median (36%) in 2008. Another 40% of Hondurans said the political situation was either somewhat or very stable, which is lower than the 55% regional median.
Zelaya's arrest and withdrawal from the country came shortly after the Honduran Supreme Court ruled his intended referendum to extend his time in office was illegal, and just days after Zelaya sacked the chief of the Honduran army. Honduras' current political coup is not the first in its history: the military deposed leaders in 1963 and again in 1975, when the military subsequently ruled the country for six years.
Gallup also asked Hondurans a series of questions about their country's future. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed that their country was headed toward a military coup d'etat, 29% of respondents agreed, which is a high percentage by Latin American standards, where the regional median was 15% in 2008. Also, when asked whether they agreed or disagreed that their country was headed toward a better democracy, nearly one in two respondents disagreed, and only 29% agreed.
Interestingly, opinions on the country heading toward a civil war followed the same pattern as those for a military coup d'etat; however, fewer respondents stated an opinion on the these two possibilities.
Hondurans' attitudes were unique compared with those of other residents surveyed in Latin America in 2008. Honduras was one of few countries in the region where respondents were as likely to agree their country is headed toward either a better democracy or a military coup d'etat (differences in the percentages in Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago are within the margin of error). In most other nations, respondents were more likely to say their country is headed toward a better democracy than headed for a military coup.
What Has Influenced Honduran Political Instability
Altogether, the data suggest that Hondurans perceived political instability in 2008, and nearly half disagreed that the country is headed toward a better democracy. Interim leader Micheletti has recently blamed outside influences for the country's instability, saying the current coup saved Honduras from further influence by Venezuelan-style socialism or "Chavismo."
Gallup also asked Hondurans in 2008 whether they agreed or disagreed with various statements about parties that were potentially responsible for social and political tension. One in two respondents in 2008 agreed that the government is most responsible. Slightly smaller percentages -- 41% and 35%, respectively -- agreed that foreign governments and the political opposition were most responsible.
Before the coup, Hondurans were more likely to agree than disagree that all three factors likely contributed to their country's social and political tension. Their influence in the current coup is evident. Zelaya, upon assuming the presidency in January 2006, promised to improve poverty conditions in the country. Yet much of the nation has still not recovered from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. As for foreign countries, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has voiced his support of ousted leader Manuel Zelaya and even threatened military action to reinstate him. The United Nations General Assembly has also voted unanimously to condemn the coup and has called for Zelaya's immediate return to power. The coming days and weeks will be crucial in shaping out the future of Honduras' democracy. How Zelaya, Honduras' acting leadership, and the Honduran people interact over the coming days and weeks will likely determine if this situation will be diffused swiftly, decisively, or even at all.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in Honduras in September 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Jesus Rios and Johanna Godoy contributed to this article.