WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Even before the ongoing massive protests in Venezuela, the majority of residents feared for their country's political stability -- for the first time in recent history. A majority (53%) in late 2013 said their country was not stable at all, more than double the 26% who said so in 2012. Another 35% said the political situation was somewhat stable, and fewer than one in 10 Venezuelans (9%) said the political situation was very stable.
With thousands of Venezuelans continuing to demonstrate against new President Nicolas Maduro's administration, the established political order of Venezuela faces an existential crisis of leadership, not even a year into his term. Long ruled by the late Hugo Chavez and his allies known as "chavistas," including his hand-picked successor, Maduro, the government is under the firm control of chavistas at all levels: the legislature, the court system, and the National Electoral Council. This one-party rule has not convinced many Venezuelans that the political situation is stable; in fact, it has likely done the opposite.
New President Maduro Had Little Political Support Before Protests
Elected by a slim and contested margin last April, Maduro had little support at the time of the September-October 2013 Gallup survey, with slightly more than one-third of Venezuelans approving of his job performance. By contrast, Chavez had a 58% job approval rating in 2012, the last poll before his death.
Confidence in National Government Drops to Record Low
In tandem with Maduro's fading political fortunes, all of the institutions he or his party control have lost credibility with Venezuelans. Confidence in the national government fell to a record low 39%. The majority of Venezuelans (56%) said they have no confidence in the national government.
The perception that corruption is worsening may have additionally contributed to the erosion of Venezuelans' trust in their government. Although government corruption has always been widespread from the public's perspective, a record three in four Venezuelans said corruption is widespread in Maduro's government, a steep climb from the 63% who said so in 2012.
Another sign of the same malaise is that few Venezuelans (31%) said they have confidence in the country's judicial system, which as far back as 2004 the human rights advocacy organization Human Rights Watch said had been politically overtaken by then-President Chavez and his party.
At a time when human rights allegations are rising as tensions mount between protesters and authorities, this low confidence in the judicial system may mean sizable numbers of Venezuelans do not believe they can rely on their court system to enforce the country's laws fairly. Recent arrests have included known opponents to the Maduro administration such as opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez whose detention many regard as politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the military, typically an institution held in high esteem by Venezuelans, has also lost public confidence. A record high 62% say they do not have confidence in their armed forces. With the country's military deployed in an attempt to quell the protests, it is likely Venezuelans will see the armed forces in an even more negative light.
In the run-up to a series of ground-swelling protests that have shaken the Venezuelan political order, many adults in this once easy-going, resource-rich country have lost faith in the country's political stability. Maduro, the new president and favorite of the late Chavez, failed to win the confidence of his citizenry before the protests, and he has likely earned more detractors since.
Feeding into this sense of crisis is the lack of "neutral" institutions that Venezuelans can turn to for guidance and fair adjudication: residents see the courts, national government -- including the national legislature -- and military negatively, and on any account are firmly under the control of the Maduro-led chavista party. Given the perceived sickness in all of the major organs of the body politic, many Venezuelans may feel as if they have no choice but to march on the streets, demanding justice and wise governance.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with about 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in Sept. 26-Oct. 25, 2013, in Venezuela. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.