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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Poll Gives Ortega Favorable Ratings,

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM ECON AID NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: POLL GIVES ORTEGA FAVORABLE RATINGS,
OPTIMISM UNUSUALLY HIGH


1. (SBU) Summary: A CID-Gallup poll released on February 21
shows President Daniel Ortega enjoying a honeymoon, with high
favorability ratings and optimism toward his presidency --
not only from his traditional base of support, but also among
the general public. The poll also concludes that half the
public holds a positive view of First Lady Rosario Murillo,
whom a majority considers to be the most influential person
in the Ortega government. While the poll indicates a
majority believe the country is on the right path and is
confident that Ortega will leave the country in better shape
than his predecessor Enrique Bolanos, the findings also
suggest that the high expectations for the Ortega presidency
will be difficult to manage given the challenges the country
is facing. Further, Nicaraguans customarily give their
presidents favorable ratings at the start of their terms, but
their popularity tends to wane within the first year if their
performance is not up to expectations. End Summary


A Honeymoon Sweet
- - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) According to a CID-Gallup study conducted February
6-11, President Daniel Ortega of the FSLN party has marked
his first month in office with a 61 percent approval rating,
a level nearly on par with popular former President Violeta
Chamorro who beat Ortega as the opposition candidate in the
1990 elections. The poll reflects an overall optimism and
euphoria toward the new Nicaraguan government(GON) and 57
percent of the population surveyed believe the future of the
country under Ortega's leadership will improve. With
expectations at an all-time high, not only among his
traditional base but also among the general public, the
challenge for Ortega will be maintaining the level of
optimism and delivering on the promises he has made,
particularly in the area of employment.

3. (SBU) Noting that a sense of "euphoria" among the public
was to be expected following a successful election,
CID-Gallup pollster Fred Denton nevertheless termed the level
of overwhelming optimism "unusual" considering the actual
situation of the country. Denton told DCM that, while not
apparent in the survey data, he felt that much of this excess
optimism was attributable to a "relief factor" by those who
had feared the worst from the outset from an Ortega
Government. The analysis of the survey results cautioned
that Ortega's honeymoon bliss echoed that of President
Bolanos, who also enjoyed a period of high popularity early
in his presidency, but left office with mission
unaccomplished marks. The CID-Gallup sample was based on
1,239 adults (aged 16 and older) questioned in house-to-house
interviews, and has a margin of error of 2.8.

Great Expectations: Jobs, Education, Health
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) The main problem facing Nicaraguans is
unemployment, asserted a majority of those polled, also one
of the main shortcomings of the Bolanos administration and
what ultimately led to his loss in popularity. When asked
if given the chance to ask President Ortega for one thing
personally and for their families, at least 53 percent of
respondents cited work, better jobs with better pay, as tops
on their wish list, along with a home, plot of land, or a
loan to buy a house. Better quality of education, more
schools, better healthcare and medicines also ranked among
the high expectations. More people expect that Ortega will
fulfill his campaign promises than not. While 52 percent
agree strongly or moderately that he will follow through on
his campaign promises, only 15 percent have no faith at all
in his ability to deliver.

Uncertainties Remain
- - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) Although a significant 45 percent of the population
consulted believe that Ortega "has changed" and will follow a
democratic path, a solid 43 percent are uncertain about the
type of government he will create, while 12 percent of the
sample consider him a communist who will "repeat the
mistakes" of his past. Nevertheless, amid the doubts, an
overwhelming 64 percent are convinced that his government,
whatever shape it takes, will be an improvement over the one

President Bolanos left behind.
This assessment was, noted Denton, shared not only by
traditional Sandinistas, but also by other political groups.

Centralizing Power and Broadening Nicaraguan Alliances
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (SBU) The survey also revealed a sense of ambivalence
among the Nicaraguan public about democracy, coupled with a
disturbingly high comfort level with Ortega's move to
centralize power. Only five percent of those polled named
democracy and political stability as being among their top
priorities under an Ortega rule, in contrast to the 46
percent who valued jobs as most important. One of the more
striking findings is that 33 percent strongly approved of
Ortega's move to centralize power of the executive-- to
include the direct control over the military and police,
joined by 27 percent who somewhat approve. In contrast, just
17 percent recorded strong disapproval of the centralization
of executive power. President Ortega's move to establish
alliances with Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and Iran was backed
by 59 percent of the sample. (Denton acknowledged, however,
that CID-Gallup should have broken Iran out separately from
the ALBA group to get a better sense of Nicaraguan feeling
toward such a distant and "foreign" relationship.) An
overwhelming 84 percent held a favorable view of the ALBA
agreement.

7. (SBU) When asked about relations with the United States,
33 percent predicted that relations would improve but an
equal number believed they would not change. There was
variation based on party affiliation. More respondents who
identified with the FSLN predicted better relations (47
percent), while the PLC and ALN were less optimistic, at 28
percent and 17 percent, respectively. Only eight percent of
FSLN-affiliated respondents opined that relations with the
United States would worsen under an Ortega government, while
29 percent of those identifying with the PLC and 24 percent
of those identifying with the ALN held that relations would
worsen.

First Lady of Influence
- - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (SBU) First Lady Rosario Murillo, who also serves as the
government's Director of Communications and Citizenry, was
considered the most influential person in Nicaragua by a
majority of respondents. Named the most influential person
by 47 percent of those polled, her influence on Ortega's
decisionmaking was believed to be even higher. While half
saw her influence over her husband as very good or somewhat
good, a third regarded it as more or less good, and under a
quarter viewed it as either bad or very bad. After Murillo,
the second most influential person named was Bayardo Arce, a
former Sandinista militant now serving as President Ortega's
advisor, followed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and
Cardinal Obando y Bravo.

Montealegre Viewed Leader of Opposition, but Confidence in
ALN as Party Less Promising
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (SBU) When asked who was the most influential leader of
the opposition, forty-four percent of the sample named
Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) leader/former presidential
candidate Eduardo Montealegre. Ex-president Arnoldo Aleman,
who is under house arrest for corruption and money laundering
and ranking leader of the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC),
was next in line -- named by 24 percent of the respondents.
Although the ALN as a party was seen as strong in terms of
consolidation of power by 64 percent of the population, it
has lost ground in terms of its overall popularity, losing
nine points in five months, while the PLC lost eight points
over the same period. The study also revealed that at the
time of the survey, the situation of the FSLN was more
favorable than that of the other parties, and with its recent
six-point increase, was in its strongest position since 2001.
A total of 37 percent of the population now identifies with
this political party, the poll concluded. (Which corresponds
closely to the 38 percent of votes which Ortega and the FSLN
garnered in the November 2006 elections.)

10. (SBU) Denton told us he was quite sure that the

"euphoric bubble" would start to deflate in the months ahead,
and he expects that CID-Gallup's next survey in August will
provide a more accurate "reality check" and baseline of
public perceptions regarding the new Ortega administration.

BRENNAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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