WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Within weeks of each other, large scale earthquakes hit arguably the most and least developed nations in Latin America and the Caribbean -- Chile and Haiti. In the aftermath of Saturday's destructive 8.8 magnitude earthquake, Chile's relative stability, economic strength, and experience with natural disasters bode well for recovery efforts there -- a sharp contrast to the chronic instability that plagues Haiti. When Gallup surveyed Chileans in July-September 2009, majorities expressed confidence in the country's national government (58%) and military (54%) -- more confidence than the median for Latin America and the Caribbean and far more confidence than residents in Haiti.
Emergency response contingencies are well-established in Chile, where natural disasters are common. Amid rescue and recovery efforts, Chile's outgoing president called on the military to assist with aid distribution and to support local police forces in restoring order to affected regions where looting and violence is occurring.
Though the Chilean earthquake struck less populated areas than did the Haitian quake, part of the difference in terms of destruction and loss of life is attributable to Chile's relative prosperity -- the richest country in the region in terms of GDP per capita (PPP) -- and solid infrastructure. For example, 76% of Chileans said they are satisfied with the roads and highways where they live -- the highest proportion among 24 Latin American and Caribbean populations surveyed.
However, comparisons with Haiti should not obscure that Chile's extreme income inequality makes some residents more vulnerable than others to natural disasters. The earthquake has left many Chileans without adequate shelter, which 12% already struggled to afford prior to the quake. Food shortages are also a troubling issue. Prior to the quake, slightly more than one in four Chileans (26%) said they had trouble buying food for their families at some point in the last year, slightly below the regional median of 32%.
Chile shares two advantages for recovery with almost all other Latin American and Caribbean populations -- belief in the value of hard work and close relationships with friends and extended family members. More than 8 in 10 Chileans (84%) said it is possible to get ahead in the country by working hard. A similar proportion (83%) said they have friends or relatives they can count on to help them if they are in trouble.
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Results from Chile are based on face-to-face interviews with 1000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted July 3- Sept. 8, 2009. Results from Haiti are based on face-to-face interviews with 500 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Dec. 8-13, 2008. For results based on this total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.6 percentage points in Chile and ±4.7 percentage points in Haiti.
Regional medians for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean include results from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All surveys were conducted between June 2006 and September 2009.
For results based on the total samples of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.3 percentage points in most countries to a high of ±5.1 percentage points in Puerto Rico. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.