The latest survey by pollster CEP confirmed that Chilean’s social attitudes have turned upside down. Not too long ago, progressive ideas were popular, but now authoritarianism is seen as a viable alternative. This development is uneven and concerning.
A survey by pollster CEP revealed a dramatic picture, in which the pendulum has swung from a progressive society determined to fight social inequality to one in which a far-right party is seen as the best representative of the country and authoritarianism is preferred to democracy.
A progressive turn gave rise to the October 2019 uprising, a Constitutional Convention dominated by independent and new leftist representatives, who were tasked with creating a Magna Carta to replace the current one imposed during the dictatorship.
But this turn ended on Sept. 4, when the draft constitution was rejected by 62 percent of Chileans. In response, the political parties created a technocratic commission to write the basics of a draft that would be improved by a popularly elected Constitutional Council. Elections to that council in May gave the far-right Republicanos party a supermajority.
- Support for Boric
Despite scandals, support for Boric increased by 5 percentage points compared to December 2022. His predecessor Sebastián Piñera’s approval was 25% at this stage of his administration and Piñera predecessor Michelle Bachelet’s 22%. Boric’s approval coincides with the result he obtained in the first election round.
- Oligarchs control an influential media
Crime as the most important social issue has lost six percentage points and immigration has lost four percentage points compared to six months ago. The importance of pensions has fallen by three points, while health has risen by nine.
While crime has not decreased significantly, media coverage has. At the time of the previous survey, all broadcast and print outlets were pushing highly disturbing narratives and images. Two of the most influential television stations are owned by two of the largest business groups, and the newspapers are owned by right-wing entrepreneurs.
- More authoritarian
The most worrying finding as Chile approaches the 50th anniversary of the coup is that the dictatorship is now being celebrated. Respondents prefer a strong government (although strong was not defined) and order over individual and collective freedoms. On the one hand, crime is a constant in public opinion, but social behavior has also changed during the pandemic. The paradox here contradicts part of the right-wing narrative of freedom that seems to dominate in the national collective subconscious.
Even more worrisome, 17 percent outright prefer authoritarianism to democracy and 25 percent don’t care either way. That is, over two-fifths would validate another bombing of government palace La Moneda. The issue seemed to have been settled, with authoritarianism having sunk into taboo, but apparently, it’s not.
- The far right
Republicanos gained the Constitutional Council supermajority not just because of open authoritarianism, but also because its leader, José Antonio Kast, said “we do well when the country does badly.” If staring into a bleak future – as many Chileans do, according to the poll – voters will opt for hope-inspiring alternatives. Neither the ruling nor the opposition coalition can offer that.
It is certainly astonishing that 10 percent of respondents see Chile reflected in such a young party, compared to 3 percent and 4 percent for the Socialist Party and right-wing UDI, but Kast also faces a lot of rejection. His main opponent is Evelyn Matthei, the mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district and a staunch right-winger with sympathies for the dictatorship. (Her father headed operations during the Falklands War and, as defense minister, was instrumental in denying Pinochet the ability to subvert the results of the 1989 vote that ended his rule.)
The ruling party, meanwhile, does not merit further mention.
- The centrist dissolution
This has to be one of the greatest national fallacies. In recent elections, the so-called center has suffered astonishing defeats. So much so that certain centrist parties like the Amarillos, the Christian Democrats, the PPD and the PR have practically disappeared in the May elections.
- Yesterday Boric, tomorrow Kast
Only 19 percent of respondents identified as left-wing, 19% as right-wing – but 36 percent as centrists. A deep analysis of what the population thinks centrist means is needed.
Apparently, these voters swing freely from left to right, take part in social protests, then vote for Boric and then for Kast. Immediately after, they turn into staunch opponents. Something’s not quite right.
Germán Silva Cuadra is an expert in corporate communications and a regular commentator on Chilean politics. His latest book is ‘No te reconozco Chile. Cómo entender al país que noqueó a la elite.’ Germán tweets under @gsilvacuadra.