PRINCETON, NJ -- The beautiful Caribbean island of Hispaniola is shared by two increasingly disparate nations – Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Haiti, which occupies the western one-third of the island, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. At the request of the Haitian government, United Nations forces began mobilizing in December in an attempt to clean up the results of decades of drug-related gang violence, high unemployment, sweeping poverty, and corrupt dictatorships.
The Dominican Republic, on the eastern side of Hispaniola, is a rapidly developing democracy. It's hardly a rich country; one-quarter of Dominicans live below the poverty line and the nation is plagued with extremely high levels of income inequality. But it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, and this fact -- along with productive agriculture, telecommunications, and manufacturing sectors -- is bringing consistent GDP growth.
Gallup World Poll findings reveal stark differences between the two countries when it comes to providing basic living conditions for their citizens. About three in four Haitians (73%) say there have been times in the past year when they or their families have gone hungry. Globally, only Africans in Chad (76%), Malawi (76%), and Niger (74%) are as likely to say they experienced food deprivation. A majority of Haitians (57%) also say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to provide adequate shelter for themselves.
The proportion of Dominicans who say they've gone hungry in the past year is, at 36%, about half that of Haitians. About one in five Dominicans (21%) say there were times when they didn't have enough money for shelter.
One other comparison highlights the contrast between Hispaniola's two populations. Haitians are far more likely than Dominicans to say they've been assaulted in the past year. A full 30% of Haitians say they have been assaulted or mugged in the past 12 months, nearly three times the percentage of Dominicans who say the same (11%). In fact, among residents of more than 100 countries surveyed worldwide, only Burundians in central Africa (33%) are more likely than Haitians to say they've been attacked in the past year. On the other hand, Dominicans are no more likely than Haitians to say they feel safe walking alone in their communities at night -- 45% vs. 46%, respectively.
The sizable differences are the culmination of political and social trends that stretch back decades, even centuries. In Haiti, chronic political instability and corruption have combined with poverty, illiteracy, and racial discrimination to pose insurmountable barriers to modernization. Dominicans have also experienced a great deal of corruption and instability, but since 1970 the country has maintained the transition of power through peaceful elections. The continuity of the Dominican government made possible a set of economic reforms in 1990 that led to a decade of steady growth.
Part two of this series compares Haitians' and Dominicans' current levels of confidence in the institutions that affect their living conditions and the outlook for improvement.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted during October 2006 with a randomly selected sample of 505 Haitian residents and during May 2006 with a randomly selected sample of 1,000 Dominican residents, aged 15 and older. For results based on the Haitian sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±5 percentage points. For results based on the Dominican sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±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.