Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Costa Rican president's popularity reaches new high

(Photo: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times

President Oscar Arias is more popular now than at any other point during his term, according to the polling firm Unimer.

Some 50% of respondents said Arias is doing a “good” or “very good” job, while 14% called his performance “bad” or “very bad.”

The figures, first reported yesterday by the daily La Nación, are based on 1,200 interviews conducted throughout the country March 8-15.

Of the last five presidents, Arias has the highest midterm approval rating. The runner-up is Rafael Angel Calderón (1990-94), with 38% approval.

Arias, who took office in May 2006, saw his popularity reach a low point in September 2007, when he had 42% approval and 20% disapproval. He drew fire then for pushing the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which was passed by referendum in October.

Approval ratings for Arias' cabinet have also increased from a low point in September. Some 36% of respondents said the cabinet was doing a “good” or “very good” job, while 22% percent said it was doing a “bad” or “very bad” job.

Still, most Costa Ricans said the government is not helping everyone equally. Some 67% said the government favors certain sectors, up from 59% in August.

People also have become more worried about safety and drugs. Some 20% of respondents said crime and violence were the country's biggest problems, up from 11% in August. Some 12% said Costa Rica's thorniest challenge was drug addiction, up from 6% in August.

Nearly a quarter of respondents were most worried about the high cost of living. Some 28% said they had trouble satisfying their basic needs. That figure has not changed since August.

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