"Has the US lost power, in the eyes of the citizens of the region, to the point that not even the expectation of a president in solidarity with the problems of the most dispossessed can evoke expectations? Or is it that the US never had more than the attention of the elites in the region and it is the youth of today that will be looking at the US in the future?" A recent poll conducted across Latin America points to some interesting answers to these questions.
The annual Latinobarómetro poll has released an early report of responses to three questions about the presidential elections in the US. The conclusions are drawn from data collected in 18 countries in Latin America between the dates of September 5 and October 5, 2008. The results are representative of the entire population 18 years old and over from the Rio Grande to Punta Arenas, about 500 million people, and have a margin of error of between 2.8 and 3%.
Read a short summary of the questions and responses below, and visit the report (in Spanish) to see more details about responses according to gender, age, education and income.
1. Awareness of the Election:
57% have little to no awareness, 40% say they have some and a lot. Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 have the most. The country with the most awareness is the Dominican Republic (66%), followed by Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and El Salvador. In other countries, less than half know something about the presidential race. The country with the least knowledge of the race is Paraguay (22%). The report states : “This first question demystifies the belief that the US is a focus of the population of the region, given that one out of two Latin Americans doesn’t know about the most emblematic election in the current history of the US. . . The growth in levels of education with the expansion of coverage in various countries in the region will place the US in a place of greater attention with future generations than in past generations.”
2. Candidate Preference: Respondents replied to the question: “Would it be better for Latin America if Barack Obama or John McCain won the presidency of the US, or is it the same either way?“
Except for the Dominican Republic, which preferred Obama by 52%, no other country had a majority preference for either candidate. In an average of the 18 countries of the region, 29% of respondents preferred Obama, 8% preferred McCain, 29% didn’t have a preference and 31% didn’t know. Among youth, preference for McCain rose to 10%. The report states “An explicit grade of distance, in which a third responds that they don’t have a preference, shows how the US has distanced itself from Latin America and vice versa. This means that the power of the US in the region seems to be less than supposed, if a new president is of little importance.”
3. How much attention will the new president of the US pay to Latin America?
34% said that the new president will pay the same amount of attention as now. 22% said he will pay more attention, 33% said he will pay less, and 33% didn’t know.
The report concludes that this historic election involving factors of race and gender hasn’t gained the attention of more than half of the population of the 18 countries polled. Six out of ten Latin Americans don’t know about the election. While there was no massive identification with Barack Obama, he is preferred by three times as many respondents as prefer McCain.
"The preference for the two candidates grows in correlation of the level of education of the respondent. This is a phenomenon of the elites; the richest and the more educated are those who have the greatest preferences. . . . Has the US lost power, in the eyes of the citizens of the region, to the point that not even the expectation of a president in solidarity with the problems of the most dispossessed can evoke expectations? Or is it that the US never had more than the attention of the elites in the region and it is the young of today that will be looking at the US in the future?”