Where is the political-emotional climate evolving in Chile?

Where is the political-emotional climate evolving in Chile?
Where is the political-emotional climate evolving in Chile?

One of the most interesting information that surveys give us regarding the possible evolution of a country consists of the description of its predominant political-emotional climate. And we are interested in this climate because we assume that the predominance of certain political-emotional configurations implies certain possibilities of future political development, since some positions, characters and political parties will represent that dominant climate better than others and therefore will tend to win elections and/or enjoy greater popularity and citizen support.

In the case of current Chile, it is very clear that a climate of unrest prevails among the population regarding the progress of the country, which materializes in important demands for social order, specified mainly in the control of crime and immigration.

A much more difficult exercise that we can risk doing when looking at the results of the main national surveys is to try to identify emerging changes in the trends of the political-emotional climate, to try to anticipate possible upcoming social situations.

Doing this predictive exercise today in Chile not only implies assuming the very high risk of trying to predict the future, but it does not seem too productive in light of the results of the latest surveys: All of them seem to report an essentially stable situation, with very few trends or signs of change.

In this way, for many months (and even years), surveys have shown a consistent and regular feeling of dissatisfaction among people with the general and economic evolution of the country, which has tended to deteriorate, although to a lesser extent, the evaluation that they make from their own personal situations.

The demands for the control of crime, drug trafficking, immigration and corruption have also been established as priorities for quite some time, displacing the social demands (education, , social security and housing) of the citizens since times of the pandemic. first places of citizen concern. An interesting political translation of this prioritization that citizens make of their demands is the prestige that the president of El Salvador Nayib Bukele has acquired, transformed today into the most respected Latin American president among the Chilean population.

Nor, examining the more clearly political evaluations made by the population, do we find too many changes. For many months, the current government and President Gabriel Boric have had a low citizen evaluation, but despite this, the president still maintains between 25 to 30% support consistently over time. On the other hand, for many months Evelyn Matthei and José Antonio Kast have also remained, with slight ups and downs, at the top of the options for the next presidential elections.

Also consistent with the population’s demands for public order, the evaluation of police and the Armed Forces have recovered from the low levels they reached immediately after the social outbreak and do not show major signs of change.

Examining in great detail the results of the surveys carried out between March and April, the only more or less consistent trends of change that can be detected reside in the increase in importance of the employment situation in Chile as a citizen concern, which is also reflects in the relative worsening of the expectations for finding employment that the population declares they perceive. These changing trends could indicate a change in priorities in the population’s demands towards more economic needs, but the trend is too recent to know if it will deepen over time.

In short, current surveys do not offer us many clues regarding the future evolution of Chile’s political-emotional climate. We seem to be in a situation of stability rather than transformation.

However, we must consider that the causal relationship does not always run from political-emotional climates to political events, but rather political events and emotional climates seem to have a rather dialectical relationship. An example of this is found in the way in which the main demands of the population interacted with the Social Outbreak of October 2019.

If we analyze the relevance that before October 18 the main social demands that this same movement raised as demands (improvement in pensions, health, education and inequality, among others), we can observe that some of them They were quite important for the population (especially the problem of retirement and health), ranking just after crime control, for example. Consequently, we could affirm that the Social Outbreak was preceded by a political-emotional climate that gave great importance to some social demands.

However, if we observe the evolution after the outbreak of these same social demands, it is possible to observe that they only occupy the first places of citizen priorities (displacing crime). after of the Social Outburst, several of them increasing their percentage frequency very significantly in the months immediately following said event.

As can be seen in the following figure obtained from the Pulso Ciudadano survey, concern about retirement increases by more than 20 prioritization points between a month before the outbreak and December 2019, while concern about inequality also increases by almost 20 points until November, while concern about health continues with an upward march until March 2020 (actually until June or July 2020, although this is not reflected in this figure), ranking at that time as the country’s main problem .

Percentage of the population that marks each social demand as the country’s main problem. Citizen Pulse (Activa Research).

We can observe something similar when reviewing the results report that this same survey presents for October 2019. This report reports that part of the field work for the survey was carried out just before the social outbreak, while another part was carried out in the days immediately following October 18. Comparing the results obtained in both subsamples (as if it were a natural experiment) we can see that concern about pensions rose almost 20% between a few days before and after the outbreak. For its part, concern about health rose almost 10% and the same thing happened with concern about inequality.

Consequently, political events influence the predominant emotional climate in a population, perhaps to the same extent as said climate influences political events. Therefore, the potential for change in the Chilean situation may not lie so much in the gradual evolution of its emotional climate, but rather in the occurrence of shocking events with political connotations that could serve as an impetus for changes in trends in the emotional climate.

In the recent history of Chile, there is evidence that waves of protest and electoral results have the capacity to modify the societal political-emotional climate. I also suggest following with great attention other types of events with political connotations that could change or reinforce the currently predominant climate.

In the sense of the change in emotional climate, the economic recovery that should occur starting this year could mark a different trend, while very shocking police events (such as the recent murder of 3 police officers in Cañete) could do just the opposite: deepen or strengthen current trends towards channeling unrest as a demand for public order, with the political consequences that this could have for the future of our country.

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