In the latest edition of Latinobarómetro 2023, El Salvador has emerged as the country where its citizens are most satisfied with democracy in Latin America. The annual public opinion study conducted in 18 countries of the region to examine democratic and electoral processes revealed that 64% of Salvadorans expressed being “very or rather satisfied” with the functioning of democracy in their country.
On a scale from 0% to 100%, the polling firm asked Salvadorans: “Are you very satisfied, rather satisfied, not very satisfied, or not at all satisfied with the functioning of democracy in your country?” In response, 64% of Salvadorans reported being “very or rather satisfied” with democracy.
With this impressive percentage, El Salvador claimed the top spot in the democracy satisfaction ranking among 16 countries. It was followed by Uruguay with 59%, Costa Rica with 43% in third place, Argentina and Mexico tied at 37% in fourth place, the Dominican Republic with 36% in fifth place, and Brazil with 31% in sixth place.
“The satisfaction level with democracy in El Salvador, at 64%, is the highest among Latin American countries, more than doubling the regional average of 28% […]. At the bottom of the list are six countries with satisfaction levels below 20 percentage points (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela). Peru ranks last with only 8%, being the only country in single digits,” the report stated on page 37.
Latinobarómetro 2023 presented a comparative table detailing the percentages of satisfaction with democracy that Salvadorans have had from 1995 to 2023. In 1998, which corresponded to the fourth year of President Armando Calderón Sol’s term from the ARENA party, satisfaction was at 47%.
In 2004, as the five-year term of President Francisco Flores from the ARENA party concluded and President Elías Antonio Saca began his tenure, satisfaction with democracy reached 37%. In 2011, corresponding to the second year of the FMLN party’s presidency – and a fugitive of justice – Mauricio Funes, satisfaction dropped to 35%.
According to the Latinobarómetro, the worst records of Salvadorans’ dissatisfaction with democracy were during the third and fourth years of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén’s FMLN term – who is now a fugitive of justice – with 15% and 11%, respectively.
Currently, El Salvador is on the brink of holding a new democratic process with the upcoming general elections next year, where 13 political parties are legally registered. Among them, nine have called for internal elections to define their candidates for the positions of president, mayors, and legislators in the Legislative Assembly and the Central American Parliament.
According to the schedule set by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Salvadoran citizens and those in the diaspora will vote to elect the next president and legislators on February 4 of next year, and on March 3, they will vote for mayors and municipal councils.
For analyst Mauricio Rodríguez, the 64% satisfaction rate among Salvadorans with democracy is evidence that “El Salvador is heading in the right direction” under President Nayib Bukele. “The 64% satisfaction rate gives El Salvador regional certification, where people feel very satisfied with the way President Nayib Bukele leads the country, despite the opposition’s attempts to delegitimize the progress,” he expressed.
On the other end of the spectrum, in a ranking of 17 Latin American countries, Peru leads the way with 91% dissatisfaction with democracy, followed by Ecuador with 87%, Venezuela with 84%, Panama with 83%, and Colombia with 80%. El Salvador stands out with only 32% of the population expressing dissatisfaction with democracy, making it the least dissatisfied country in Latin America, according to the Latinobarómetro.
“The dissatisfied population comprises over 80% in five countries: Peru (91%), Ecuador (87%), Venezuela (84%), Panama (83%), and Colombia (80%). Five other countries have 70% or more dissatisfaction, four countries exceed 60%, followed by Costa Rica (56%), and only two countries achieve less than 40%: Uruguay (39%) and El Salvador (32%),” highlighted the regional measurement.
El Salvador’s impressive ranking in Latin America’s democracy satisfaction survey reflects its citizens’ perception of the country’s political progress. As the nation gears up for the upcoming elections, the level of satisfaction indicates a positive outlook for the future of democracy in the country.