FIGURE 1: TRUST IN POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, 2008
that combines five questions probing respondents’ confidence in the
national government, the judiciary,
the Supreme Court, the National Congress, and political parties. The index
(see figure 1) ranges from 0 (no trust)
to 100 (a great deal of trust). 3
A well-functioning polity requires
a healthy degree of citizen confidence
in government and related bodies.
In the absence of such trust, national
institutions become vulnerable to
antidemocratic threats. Figure 1 shows
that similar concerns exist in several
other Latin American nations, with
Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica, and Colombia hovering around the mid-point of
the scale. But the table shows the average score of trust in institutions in
Peru is the third worst of the region.
This is not, unfortunately, an anomaly.
Peruvian scores also ranked very low
in the region in 2006.4
Criticisms of a country’s political
institutions do not necessarily spell
doom for democracy, but low support for the very idea of democracy
could have deleterious consequences.
While the great majority of Latin
American citizens endorse the statement “democracy is preferable to any
other form of government,” Peruvian
support for this statement is notably
less impressive (see figure 2). The table shows that approximately 67 percent of Peruvians endorse democracy
as their preferred form of government,
one of the region’s lowest numbers.
In Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, and Nicaragua, support for
democracy is above 80 percent.
Another way to measure political
discontent is by asking people their
degree of satisfaction with the way
democracy works in their country.
AmericasBarometer reveals that
about 65 percent of Peruvians feel
“dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”
This is the third-highest level of dissatisfaction reported in the region,
exceeded by the percentages reported
in Haiti ( 66 percent) and Paraguay
( 80 percent).
The “confidence gap” between
Why the Disconnect Between
Economics and Politics?
closer look at the
offers one explanation for why Peruvians have become
alienated from their
political institutions. Despite the nation’s significant growth in economic
output, economic indicators that are
closer to people’s daily lives show less
Take real income, for instance. Average real wages in the cities have
risen modestly in the last decade, by
8. 3 percent between 1996 and 2007
(according to data released by Peru’s
Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática). But this figure hides the
important fact that wages have largely
remained stagnant since 2000. The
most recent of ECLAC’s annual Social
Panorama of Latin America studies
shows that incomes in Peru grew on
average a paltry rate of 1. 2 percent in
impressive economic growth and
citizen satisfaction raises important
questions that should concern Peru’s
governing establishment. Countries
that have exhibited more modest eco-
nomic growth in recent years report
higher levels of political satisfaction
than Peru. It is important to note
that Peruvians have not always been
so critical of their institutions. The
AmericasBarometer data is fairly recent, so to identify trends we need to
use the Latinobarómetro data. 5 These
surveys show that Peruvians had a
fair degree of satisfaction with the
way democracy worked in 1996. With
28 percent of respondents declaring satisfaction, Peru ranked sixth
among 17 Latin American countries
that year. A comparison of the Latinobarómetro data for 1996 and 2008
shows that only Costa Rica and El
Salvador exhibited a similar decline.
But Peru’s 12-point reduction far outreached Costa Rica (7-point drop) and
El Salvador (3-point drop).