Poll in Nicaragua: FSLN Weaker, but Could Beat Divided Opposition

Screenshot from the program Esta Noche.

Luis Haug: 70% disapprove of the government’s actions in confronting COVID-19, which they identify as the country’s current principal problem.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Seven of every ten Nicaraguans feel that Daniel Ortega’s government isn’t confronting the pandemic in the right way. The same proportion also feels that the country is going in the wrong direction. If the elections were held today, only 23% say they would vote for the Sandinista Party; nevertheless, that party would win the election due to the lack of a unified opposition and a candidate.  [Elections are not scheduled until November, 2021.]

The above data are some of the principal results of the most recent poll conducted by the regional CID-Gallup company between May 15 and June 8 of this year. Luis Haug, the firm’s general manager, summarized and analyzed the poll’s results during an interview with journalist Carlos F. Chamorro on the television news program Esta Noche, transmitted on YouTube and Facebook Live.

“What we see is that Nicaraguans view the presidential couple as directly related to the country’s difficulties, principally the economic ones that they’re having in the homes,” Haug commented. He also spoke of an increasingly unfavorable opinion of the governing party and the presidential couple.

Support for the FSLN is also “on the wane”, even among their own militancy. “Yes, the Sandinista members approve of the work that’s being done, but whereas before it was seen as ‘very favorable’, today it tends to be merely ‘favorable’,” Haug explained.

Pandemic and disagreement

Two years after the outbreak of widespread citizen protests in April 2018, those polled identified the COVID-19 pandemic as the principal problem that Nicaraguans currently are facing, and their principal point of disagreement with the government.

Seventy percent feel that the Ortega government hasn’t adopted appropriate measures for facing the pandemic.  Thirty one percent feel that it’s the country’s top problem.

“There’s great fear among those interviewed, with respect to the actions that President Ortega is taking,” Haug affirmed.

Nicaraguans, he added, “say that they’re not receiving enough information, that there’s no clear government action with respect to how to counter the pandemic that they’re experiencing; they don’t see actions in the hospitals to counteract the numbers of sick that they’re receiving; and all of this, little by little, implies mounting fear.”

The poll also reveals that just under two-thirds of Nicaraguans (64%) say they know personally or know of someone who has been infected by the novel Coronavirus, including very ill or deceased patients. In addition, 23% of those polled indicated that they knew “a lot” of people who’ve been infected.

“That’s generating more tension within families,” Haug alerts.  He emphasized the fact that it’s the highest percentage in the region; as such, the poll offers yet another indicator that the COVID-19 pandemic in Nicaragua “is an evil that can’t be hidden.”

The CID-Gallup poll wasn’t conducted face-to-face, due to the risks of the pandemic, but via calls to cellphones, with a sampling of 1,800 people selected at random through a computer, based on the final four digits of each cellphone number.  They claim the margin of error is approximately 2.5% and it’s about 95% accurate, meaning that “the results wouldn’t vary more than three points,” Haug explained.

Support for Ortega continues trending downward

On the opposite side of the 70% who disapprove of the government’s gestures, some 25% of those polled affirmed that the government is taking appropriate measures to face COVID-19.

With respect to this, Haug commented that – as in previous readings – Nicaraguans remain polarized between those who support the governing Sandinista Front and those who don’t.

He recognized that there’s a group that “tend to support” the government, but he noted that – even within this same group – “the level of support for the administration is diminishing in strength.”

“Doubts are now being generated about the actions, and we also see this in people’s perception of the direction the country is heading in,” commented Haug, noting that three out of four people interviewed say that the country is moving in the wrong direction, and that they don’t believe that Ortega can change it.

“There’s an ever-greater increase in those who are pessimistic about the future of Nicaragua,” added Haug.

The general manager of CID-Gallup recalled that the government has a baseline of support: one in three people tend to accept their administration of the country.  However, he warned, “on a general level, the population’s pessimism is already quite strong.”

The analyst explained that the variable describing people’s perception of the country’s direction is used internationally to weigh citizens’ trust in what’s going to happen to them, and in how their leaders are guiding them. “At this time, there’s a very strong discontent that is provoking uncertainty in the population,” Haug said of Nicaragua.

In the survey, Ortega as a person had the most unfavorable ratings among more than twenty prominent figures on the list for evaluation.  The second worst, according to this measure, was his wife, vice president and spokesperson Rosario Murillo.

According to the poll, more than half of Nicaraguans rate Ortega’s job as president “poor” or “very poor”.  One in three rates it as “good” or “very good”.

Ortega the principal cause of the country’s problems

Nicaraguans surveyed identified the following as the country’s principal problems: the pandemic (31%); lack of jobs (21%); high cost of living (11%).  In addition, 14% saw the Ortega government in itself as the principal problem, while 8% resented most the lack of free speech, and 4% feared for their children and the government repression.

Haug pointed out that Nicaraguans “mention the government as a national problem”, something that previously appeared only sporadically and in lesser numbers.

“What we see is that the citizens are directly associating the presidential couple with the difficulties.” In this way, he added, the lack of economic resources and the high cost of living are seen as tied in with having Ortega in charge of the country.

FSLN in the minority, but they could win an election

When asked about their preferred political party, 24% chose the FSLN; 3% the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC); and 2% Citizens for Liberty.  In addition, 5% named the National Blue and White Unity, and 1% the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. The latter two aren’t political parties, but organizations that arose out of the April Rebellion.

On the other side, 64% of those polled don’t have any political party. Haug feels that these citizens aren’t indecisive but are Nicaraguans who have already decided that they don’t sympathize with any political party.

The poll director stated: “it’s relevant to note that there’s currently no opposition party with a significant number of supporters. This indicates that the candidate will be more important than the party flag they represent in the next presidential elections.”

The CID-Gallup poll asked the question: “If you had to vote today, what party would you vote for?” Those polled responded: FSLN; 23%; National Blue and White Unity, 10%; Civic Alliance, 5%; PLC 3%; Citizens for Liberty, 2%; None, 41% and Decline to answer, 13%.

Haug highlighted that there’s a need among the population to find and reach consensus on a leader, more than on the political group they’re participating with. “While Party selection may not be relevant, yes, unity is necessary,” he declared.

“The first thing there must be is unity and joint participation. Later, those leaders will be the ones left with the job of selecting their candidates,” said Haug. In his view, the FSLN isn’t the largest political group, but it is the largest minority party, although the opposition enjoys twice as much sympathy.

Haug’s verdict was: “if the opposition doesn’t reach an agreement and continues to be fractured, the Sandinista party will triumph.  Especially since there’s going to be an important group saying: ‘[I’m voting for] nobody’ and staying home.”

In this pre-electoral year, however, distrust in the electoral system continues to dominate the panorama. Six of every ten saw the Electoral Council as “little capable” or “incapable” of conducting the election.  In addition, 78% think that without electoral observation and clear rules, the Electoral Council won’t respect their vote, because it’s in the hands of functionaries of the governing party.