Cablegate: Cambodia Public Opinion: Favorable Toward U.S. And

DE RUEHPF #0403/01 1360752
P 150752Z MAY 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU/NOFORN) In a recent Cambodia public opinion poll, 87
percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the United
States. International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted
the public opinion survey in February 2008 and found public
opinion of the U.S. higher than for any other country
identified. An increasing number of respondents believe the
country is headed in the right direction -- 77 percent in
February 2008 up from 71 percent one year ago. Eighty-six
percent of Cambodians polled agreed with a trial of top Khmer
Rouge leaders. When asked which party respondents choose for
the upcoming National Assembly election, 59 percent stated
they choose the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), compared to
15 percent for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). The SRP lost
eight percentage points of support in this opinion poll
compared to IRI's last survey in August 2007. During this
poll, interviews were conducted with 2,000 respondents from
22 out of 24 Cambodian provinces. Some survey information
about attitudes toward foreign countries, party support in
the upcoming National Assembly election, confidence in
leaders, and other information was released to U.S. Mission
staff only and was not shared with the political parties or
with the public. This information is marked "NOFORN"
throughout this report. The full IRI report is with the
Cambodia Desk at the Department. IRI presented other,
unrestricted survey findings with the Council of Ministers
and major political party representatives, and will hold a
press conference the latter half of May to disseminated the
survey's public findings. We will share the public portion
with other Embassies and orally brief them on some of the
more sensitive findings. From IRI's presentation to Deputy
Prime Minister Sok An, there were indications that Prime
Minister Hun Sen reviews IRI opinion poll data.

Most Cambodians Hold A Favorable Opinion of the U.S.
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (SBU/NOFORN) IRI conducted its most recent public opinion
survey in January and February 2008, conducting 2,000 valid
interviews resulting in a survey outcome with a (plus or
minus) 2.8 percent margin of error. During the survey, 87
percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the U.S.:
54 percent responded they have a "very favorable" opinion of
the U.S., 33 percent "somewhat favorable", four percent
"somewhat unfavorable", eight percent "very unfavorable".
Compared to an August 2007 IRI survey when more than 90
percent of respondents held a positive opinion of the U.S.,
this year's percentage of favorable ratings are slightly
lower. However, in 2007 the survey question was worded
differently, asking Cambodians how confident they were in the

3. (SBU/NOFORN) In the 2008 survey, the age groupings
holding the most favorable views of the U.S. were ages 40 to
49 (58 percent "very favorable" and 33 percent "somewhat
favorable") and ages 30 to 39 (60 percent "very favorable",
30 percent "somewhat favorable"); the age groups with the
lowest percentage of favorable ratings were ages 60 and older
(42 percent "very favorable", 39 percent "somewhat
favorable") and ages 18 to 24 (50 percent "very favorable"
and 35 percent "somewhat favorable"). Ninety-two percent of
respondents who support the SRP held favorable opinions of
the U.S. compared to 85 percent of CPP supporters, 91 percent
of Human Rights Party (HRP), 89 percent Norodom Ranariddh
Party (NRP), and 87 percent FUNCINPEC. The U.S. received
higher favorability ratings than all other countries in the
poll: (in order of favorability) Japan, the U.K., France,
Australia, Thailand, Canada, South Korea, China, North Korea,
Malaysia, India, Laos, Russia, Vietnam, Burma, Saudi Arabia.
Of note, 77 percent of respondents gave favorable ratings for
Japan; 74 percent for the U.K.; 71 percent for France; 70
percent for Australia; 62 percent for China; 53 percent for
North Korea; 39 percent for Russia; 34 percent for Burma; and
20 percent for Saudi Arabia.

Cambodia is Headed in the Right Direction

4. (SBU) During the February 2008 survey, 77 percent of
those surveyed believe the country is headed in the right
direction, up from 60 percent in August 2006, 71 percent in
January 2007, and 75 percent in August 2007. The building of
roads and schools, along with other infrastructure, is the
top reason why respondents believe the country is headed in
the right direction. Twenty percent of those surveyed in

PHNOM PENH 00000403 002 OF 004

2008 believe the country is headed in the wrong direction,
down from 37 percent in August 2006, 29 percent in January
2007, and 22 percent in August 2007. Among reasons stated
why Cambodia is headed in the wrong direction were high
prices of goods, corruption, and poverty.

Strong Showings for CPP; Decreasing Support for SRP,
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (SBU/NOFORN) Responding to an open-ended question about
which party they would choose for the July 2008 National
Assembly election, 59 percent of those polled stated they
choose the CPP, a one-percent increase over the August 2007
poll results. During the February 2008 poll, 15 percent of
respondents said they choose the SRP, eight percentage points
less than during the August 2007 poll. Twelve percent of
respondents were undecided, an increase of six percentage
points over 2007. (NOTE: It appears that the SRP decline in
support from 2007 moved to the undecided group. END NOTE.)
IRI Country Director John Willis pointed out that support for
the CPP in this survey roughly matched CPP wins in the April
2007 commune council elections -- the CPP won 61 percent of
commune council positions. However, according to the survey,
the SRP has seen a decrease in support since the April 2007
commune council elections. During those elections, the SRP
won 25 percent of commune council positions compared to the
18 percent of 2008 survey respondents who either stated they
will choose the SRP in the National Assembly elections, or
who are undecided and will very likely vote for the SRP in
any election. Although IRI's official survey presentation
did not include this information, John Willis told Emboffs
that the SRP had a relatively high amount of support among
civil servant survey respondents. Seven percent of
respondents stated they will choose the Human Rights Party
(HRP) in the National Assembly elections, and three percent
of undecided respondents stated they would be very likely to
vote for the HRP in any election. Both FUNCINPEC and the
Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) appear to have lost support
since the 2007 commune council elections when FUNCINPEC won
five percent of positions and the NRP won eight percent.
During the February 2008 survey, three percent chose
FUNCINPEC and five percent NRP. Of undecided respondents,
one percent said they were very likely to vote for FUNCINPEC
in any election, and two percent said the NRP.

Does CPP Stand for the Confident, Positive Party?
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (SBU/NOFORN) When the statistics are broken down by
political party support, the survey shows that 91 percent of
CPP-supporting respondents believe that Cambodia is headed in
the right direction compared to 52 percent of SRP, 43 percent
of HRP, 62 percent of NRP, and 66 percent of FUNCINPEC
supporters. In response to the question, "How confident are
you in the following leaders?" 88 percent said confident
compared to 11 percent unconfident in Hun Sen. When asked
about Sam Rainsy, 58 percent said confident and 36 percent
said unconfident. For Prince Norodom Ranariddh, those
percentages were 50 and 45, respectively. For Kem Sokha, 38
percent confident and 23 percent unconfident. In response to
questions about how confident respondents are that a
particular party can solve national problems such as the high
price of goods, drug trafficking, health care, high crime,
corruption, degradation of the environment, and land taking,
for all problems, the CPP brought in a higher percentage of
"very confident" responses than the SRP, HRP, NRP and
FUNCINPEC. FUNCINPEC received the lowest confidence votes
across the board. When survey participants were asked
whether the CPP would let go of power if the CPP lost the
National Assembly election, 40 percent said they believed it
was likely and 37 percent said unlikely -- the remainder
responded that they didn't know.

What are the Issues?

7. (SBU/NOFORN) According to the poll results, many
Cambodians choose their party based on beliefs about who will
improve infrastructure -- 40 percent stated building roads
was their reason for voting, 36 percent said schools, 15
percent said health clinics, and 12 percent said bridges.
Lower down on the list were building pagodas and irrigation
canals. Twelve percent of all respondents stated they would
vote for their preferred party because the party "ended the
Pol Pot regime". Eleven percent cited living conditions, and
eight percent said corruption issues. The responses broke

PHNOM PENH 00000403 003 OF 004

down somewhat differently when the political party of
respondents was taken into account. CPP voters made up the
vast majority of those concerned with infrastructure. The
SRP and HRP supporters indicated they vote for their parties
because of corruption issues and living conditions.

8. (SBU) Respondents were asked several different questions
about why they would vote for a particular political party.
In one question the most popular responses out of a limited
set of possible responses were: has capable leaders, and has
solutions that affect your daily life. In a different
question with a different set of possible responses the most
popular responses were: fight corruption, build roads, and
create jobs.

Sok An and Staff, CPP, NRP, and FUNCINPEC React
--------------------------------------------- --

9. (SBU/NOFORN) IRI has thus far presented unrestricted
survey results in separate meetings with Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An and
his staff, and CPP, NRP and FUNCINPEC representatives. A
USAID officer who attended the meeting with Sok An reported
that Sok An recalled part of a conversation with the Prime
Minister about previous poll results indicating that Hun Sen
is reviewing IRI poll data. Sok An also made general
comments related to survey questions about policy solutions
to corruption, poverty and land-taking. When IRI showed
presentation slides of poll results regarding democratic
concepts such as free media, transparency, and selecting
leaders, Sok An asked questions about how these work in the
U.S., specifically: What are the rules in the U.S. regarding
candidates' use of TV air time during election season?
"Doesn't the U.S. have a problem with some stations being
pro-Democrat, such as CNN, and others pro-Republican, such as
FOX?" What is the rule in the U.S. regarding disclosing the
source of donations to political parties? And, what country
in the world puts term limits on the Prime Minister?

10. (SBU) In separate meetings with CPP, NRP and FUNCINPEC,
party members generally had few questions. CPP Cabinet Chief
and Central Committee Member Senator Tep Ngorn stated that
the CPP is concerned about corruption. During the meeting
with NRP members, NRP Secretary General and parliamentarian
You Hokry expressed apprehension related to some of the
restricted results shared only with parties being released to
the general public.

Dream Team Wake-Up Call?

11. (SBU/NOFORN) Similar to the 2007 public opinion survey,
IRI asked respondents in February 2008 who they would vote
for if Sam Rainsy formed a coalition with Kem Sokha and
Prince Norodom Ranariddh. In February, 40 percent stated
they would vote for the coalition, showing a 13 percent
"coalition bonus" over the total percentage points if one
just added the percentage support for each of the three
candidates. In the 2007 poll, 49 percent of respondents
stated they would vote for the coalition, and 46 percent
stated they thought this coalition would win the election.
Asked about a coalition between Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, 37
percent of respondents in the 2008 survey stated they would
vote for the coalition, compared to a total of 22 percent if
one simply adds the percentage of support for each of the two
candidates on their own. (Comment: The realistic time for
coalition-building was in the fall of 2007; the last
opportunity for parties to form pre-election coalitions
passed on May 12, with the deadline for parties to register
with the National Election Committee. End Comment.)

Khmer Rouge Tribunal On Solid Ground with Cambodians
--------------------------------------------- -------

12. (SBU/NOFORN) Eighty-six percent of Cambodians polled
agreed with a trial of top Khmer Rouge leaders (69 percent
"very much agree" and 17 percent "somewhat agree") compared
to five percent responding that they disagreed with a trial
(two percent "somewhat disagree" and three percent "very much
disagree"). In response to a question about whether those
surveyed are aware of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT) that is
putting top Khmer Rouge leaders on trial, 71 percent said
they were aware; 29 percent said they were not. The age
groups most aware of the KRT were those age 60 and older and
age 50 to 59 (79 percent of each group said they were aware)
with the younger age groups being less aware: 66 percent of
age groups 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 stating they were aware of

PHNOM PENH 00000403 004 OF 004

the KRT.

Survey Respondent Demographics

13. (SBU) Half of the 2,000 survey respondents were female;
96 percent were Khmer. The survey was conducted in all
provinces except Mondulkiri and Oddar Meanchey, remote
provinces with small populations. Respondents from rural
areas made up 85 percent of respondents, and urban the
remaining 15 percent. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed
reported a monthly family income of USD 21 to 50 per month,
another 31 percent earned USD 51 to 100. Five percent
reported income of USD 10 or less, and four percent reported
income of more than USD 300. The breakdown of age
distribution was as follows: 14 percent age 18 to 24, 14
percent 25 to 29, 23 percent 30 to 39, 22 percent 40 to 49,
16 percent 50 to 59, and 12 percent 60 and older. Twenty-one
percent of respondents had received no formal education, 49
percent had a primary-level education, 30 percent
secondary-level or higher.


14. (SBU/NOFORN) We are not surprised by the overall
favorable Cambodia public opinion toward the U.S. given the
positive statements we have heard from everyday Cambodians
throughout the country. We take particular heart in
Cambodians' favorable opinions compared to public opinion in
many other countries -- a 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Survey
showed that only two out of 47 countries surveyed matched
Cambodia's high percentage of favorable ratings of the U.S.

15. (SBU/NOFORN) We note that the recent IRI survey was
conducted before the recent surge in prices worldwide that
has also harshly affected Cambodia and its substantial
proportion of impoverished citizens. IRI is not able to
mount another survey before the July 27 National Assembly
elections that could show observers how inflation has
affected public opinion. The ruling CPP party might stand to
lose ground due to perceptions that the government is not
doing enough to curb high prices.

© Scoop Media

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