Food and medicine shortages in Venezuela are growing increasingly severe, inflation levels are rising, and many citizens are struggling to meet their basic needs. Despite these circumstances, Venezuelans continue to engage in the country’s ongoing political struggles by participating in street protests and demonstrations. In this guest post, Dalia Research’s Anisa Holmes presents their surprising survey results on political risk in Venezuela, showing that political engagement has been on the decline: compared to last month, Venezuelans are less likely to protest, they show less support for the opposition, and they show greater ambivalence towards President Maduro.
Protesting on the decline
Results from the past two survey rounds show a decrease in support for the street protests against the government. Whereas a full 74% supported the street protests in July, just 57% support them now in August. Instead, equivocation towards the protest has grown by 13 percentage points with 27% now saying they neither support nor oppose the protests.
Besides having less support for the protest movements in general, people are less likely to join in the protests themselves. In July, 46% of Venezuelans said they were very likely to join a protest or demonstration in the next three months. Now, one month later, only 34% agreed to the same.
Support for the opposition declines
When it comes to the opposition, or the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), people’s faith and optimism are waning. More people are likely to say they’re “uncertain” of what effect the MUD would have on Venezuela if they came to power (from 13% in July to 19% in August). And those who say things would “get better” if the MUD were in power instead of the current Maduro regime has decreased from 72% to 63%.
Support for one of the main opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, has also faced similar decline. When asked who they would vote for “if presidential elections happened tomorrow”, Venezuelans still selected Lopez as their top pick from among a list of other leaders including Henrique Capriles, Henry Ramos Allup, and Nicolas Maduro. However his support has decreased from 53% to 42% over the past month.
Support for Maduro showing slight increases
While results from Dalia’s latest survey show overt signs that opposition forces are losing favor with Venezuelans, they also reveal subtle indications that the enmity Maduro and his governing style once faced is waning. For example, one major point of contention in Venezuela’s ongoing political saga has been Maduro’s choice to strip the parliament of their powers and hold off on running elections. In July, 59% of Venezuelans disagreed that “it would be good to have a strong leader who is not held back by a national parliament / congress and elections”. Yet, today, only 44% disagree with this type of strongman leadership that Maduro has been accused of. He has also seen modest gains as disapproval for the president has decreased by 6 percentage points from 87% to 81%.
It’s unclear exactly why Venezuelans’ are growing more ambivalent towards the government now. For one, the inauguration of Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, the ousting of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, and the return of Leopoldo Lopez to house arrest all in the past month could contribute to a feeling of ‘resistance fatigue’ among Venezuelans who perceive their protests as fruitless. Backlash to the high level of violence and deaths incurred could be another cause for the oppositions’ languishment. Or, perhaps Venezuelans’ priorities are drifting slightly away from political activism and as they grapple more with food shortages and rising inflation. Likewise the opposition’s lack of a clear trajectory may have cause Venezuelans to lose optimism, even as opposition leaders now court Europe for aid. Whatever the reason, the data shows discontent remains, just at a slightly lower level.